Say Goodbye, Herbie ...
Volkswagen AG (VLKAY) will end production of the Beetle next year, ending a near 80-year run for the iconic compact car that symbolized both a generation of American youths and the global ambitions of a resurgent post-War Germany, as it cuts costs and trims the size of its 300-strong global product offering.
The Beetle, as it has been commonly referred -- perhaps not accidentally in-line with the rise of the similarly-named British pop group -- since the early 1960s, was first developed in the early 1930s as a "car for all people" that ultimately evolved into the four-seated passenger car that was, until 2015, the world's best selling car in history until it was overtaken by Toyota Motor Co.'s (TM) Carolla. Its popularity in the United States, however, peaked in 1968, when Volkswagen sold 430,000 units of the car amid the broader popularity of the Walt Disney Co. (DIS) hit movie, "Herbie: The Love Bug."
"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 VW's U.S. CEO Hinrich Woebcken. "As we move to being a full-line, family-focused automaker in the US and ramp up our electrification strategy, there are no immediate plans to replace it. But, I would also say, never say never"
Evolution of the Volkswagen Beetle, 1951-1990. pic.twitter.com/fbmgqni1PD— History In Pictures (@HistoryInPix) September 11, 2018
VW shares were marked 0.8% higher by mid morning in Frankfurt and changing hands at €141.92 each, a move that still leaves the world's second-largest carmaker, which has remained sensitive to developments in the ongoing trade dispute between the U.S. and Europe, down 15% for the year.
Volkswagen's U.S. sales of the Beetle, which is produced in Puebla, Mexico, are down 2.2% this year, with just over 11,000 units moved during the eight months ending in August, as customers continue to snap-up the group's Jetta and Tiguan models.
The original Beetle, which was then called a VW "Type 1", debuted in American car showrooms in January 1949, and sales grew steadily to the near 500,000 level as the first 'Baby Boom' generation of young Americans increasingly identified ownership of the car with personal freedom and an anti-establishment hit against domestic automakers.
VW stopped selling the Beetle in 1979, but revived it, with a re-designed overseen by then-CEO Ferdinand Piech, with the "New Beetle" launch in 1998.