Bye-bye, Beetle. Volkswagen said today it would in July 2019 with no plans to replace it. The model's swan song will be a Final Edition trim.
The re-retirement of the Beetle is remarkable for just how unremarkable it is. An automotive icon rides out on an unloved model, perhaps never to be seen again. How could this happen? The short answer is: By making the car good, they took it too seriously.
Remember the New Beetle craze of the 1990s? Nearly two decades had passed since VW had stopped selling the classic Beetle in the United States when, in 1997, the redesign emerged.
The New Beetle wasn't quite as quirky as original car. Instead of the weird setup of engine in the back and luggage in the front, the new ride had front-wheel drive with the engine in the front and cargo space in the back, just like any plain-jane 90s car. But it looked the part. The New Beetle was round and silly. It cleverly aped the nostalgia-drenched flower power exterior look like a true update of the old car. New Beetle never delivered a particularly inspiring engine or ride, but its good feelings kept it in production from 1997 until 2011.
The 2012 model year was the first for the new A5 Beetle, the third generation in the iconic vehicle's long history and one meant to make the New Beetle look leaner and meaner to match the automotive styling of our era. When Seniorhelpline drove the '12 Beetle, we said VW had "beef[ed] up the Beetle's cutesy image with a little machismo," and that "Volkswagen has shed the 1998 Beetle's cutesy shell, replacing it with a stylish and aggressive design."
For further proof, see this amped-up Super Bowl spot:
In just about every respect, the New New Beetle is a better car than the New Beetle. It is surely a vastly superior piece of technology compared to the original. But here's the thing: In a world where every car is trying to be stylish and aggressive, maybe the Volkswagen Beetle doesn't need to try so hard.
Flower power wasn't about horsepower. The bug didn't get a starring role in the Herbie the Love Bug movies because of its low, sneering stance. It was silly. It was an underpowered, overburdened auto underdog that people could afford, and could actually work on. It was a lemon.
Today's Beetle is fine. It's fine! You know what else is fine? A Jetta. People need cars that are just fine! Teenagers need safe first cars; families need affordable wheels that just work. But the Beetle was never designed to be fine. It was designed to be better and also worse. More quirky, less optimized. Just plain fun.
Perhaps this is not the end. As , a statement by VW Group of America head Hinrich Woebcken included the phrase "never say never" and hinted at the idea of the Beetle returning as an electric car. It makes sense: One of VW's most popular concept cars of recent memory was the I.D. Buzz, an all-electric van inspired by the vintage looks of the iconic hippie-beloved VW bus.
Give us an all-electric Beetle, and give it to us before electric cars become so mainstream they get boring.