Volkswagen will stop making the Beetle car next year, ending nearly seven decades of production in North America, the company has announced.
The company’s American unit said it would halt output at its plant in Mexico after making two special edition models of the third-generation bulbous bug in July 2019.
The compact Beetle was introduced in Germany in 1938 during the Nazi era and came to the US 11 years later, where it became a symbol of utilitarian transportation often used by hippies.
The car attained further popularity with the 1968 Disney movie The Love Bug, the story of a racing Volkswagen with a mind of its own.
Andy Warhol did prints featuring the car and a Beetle was also the most prominent car in the background of Abbey Road, the final Beatles album to be recorded.
The car sold for about 30 years in the US before it was taken off the market in 1979. Production continued in Mexico and Latin America.
Volkswagen revived it in 1998 as a more modern “New Beetle”, attracting mainly female buyers. The company revamped it for the 2012 model year in an effort to make it appeal to men, giving it a flatter roof, less bulbous shape, a bigger trunk and a navigation system. US sales rose fivefold to nearly 29,000 in the first year, but tailed off after that.
The special editions will come in coupe and convertible body styles and there will be unique beige and blue colours in addition to the normal hues. There will also be standard extra chrome, new wheels and three-colour ambient lighting inside.
Volkswagen has no immediate plans to revive the Beetle again, but the company wouldn’t rule it out. “I would say ‘never say never’,” the CEO of VW of America, Hinrich Woebcken, said in a statement.
VW continues to deal with fallout from the “dieselgate” scandal that broke in September 2015.
The company, having already paid out costly government settlements, is fighting billions of dollars in additional claims lodged by shareholders who saw their stock plummet in value after authorities cracked down on VW over the installation of so-called “defeat devices” into 11m cars worldwide to fool regulatory emissions tests.