Volkswagen has announced it will be ceasing production of its famous Beetle in July next year, marking the end of the road for an iconic car design.
The German company said it would close the doors on the plant in Pueblo, Mexico, where the last of the original bugs were made in 2003.
Since then, revamped designs have been the brand’s primary focus – it even considered launching an electric version – but after another year of falling sales, VW has decided instead to end global production.
“The loss of the Beetle after three generations, over nearly seven decades, will evoke a host of emotions from the Beetle’s many devoted fans,” said Hinrich Woebcken, chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America.
The compact family car was originally designed in the 1930s in Germany by legendary engineer Ferdinand Porsche, at the behest of Adolf Hitler who wanted an affordable “people’s vehicle” for the Nazi era.
Although the outbreak of war went some way to stall production, demand for the Beetle began to take off in the late 1940s, and by 1955 a million of the cars were driving on German roads.
The car first went to America 11 years later, where it soon became a symbol of utilitarian transportation, synonymous with the hippie movement and counter-culture throughout the 1960s.
The artist Andy Warhol made some of his famous screenprints featuring the car and it was also prominent in the background of the Beatles’ Abbey Road cover, the last album the band recorded. The beetle starred in a series of successful Disney films – starting with 1968′s The Love Bug – as a vehicle called Herbie, which comes to life.
In the late 1990s, a redesign saw a surge in sales, particularly to female consumers, selling more than 80,000 in 1999.
Despite the car’s cultural credentials, sales have fallen in recent years, particularly in the key US market, as consumers turn increasingly to larger cars and sports vehicles.
Volkswagen sold 11,151 Beetles during the first eight months of 2018, down 2.2% from the same period a year earlier.
As well as falling sales, the car manufacturer has been hit by the fallout from the diesel emissions scandal, which did nothing to improve sales.
Before the factory closes, it will be producing special edition Beetle models in both coupe and convertible styles.
Woebcken didn’t completely rule out that the model could one day be resurrected: “Never say never.”