The last Beetle, currently on display at a museum in Wolfsburg, Germany, rolled off the production line at VW’s plant in Puebla, Mexico, five years ago today. On July 30, 2003, production of Volkswagen’s “classic” Beetle was officially squished [only bug-related pun, promise].
The decision to discontinue the VW classic came after several years of struggling to keep up with shifting trends. Banned in the US since 1977 after its rear-mounted engine failed to meet U.S. Department of Transportation safety standards, the ban delivered a fairly large blow to the Bug. Bouncing back, production and improvements of the Beetle continued and it eventually became a huge hit in Brazil while simultaneously maintaining its popularity in European markets.
Despite its popularity, however, the classic, inexpensive, Beetle was not living up to the new, upscale image VW was trying to cultivate. Already considering plans to scrap the production of the classic and move forward radically different design plans, the final nail in the classic Bug’s coffin came not from Germany, but from Mexico. After new laws passed by the Mexican government, the Beetle failed to meet emissions standards and was subsequently banned from use [Wait, Mexico has safety standards? And a government?]. Thus, on July 30, 2003, Volkswagen Classic Beetle No. 21,529,464 made it’s final journey off the assembly line, marking the end of an era.
The Classic’s successor, the new Beetle, was introduced in 1998 and is legal for use/distribution in the US. While the ”new” Beetle retains basically the same shape as its predecessor, its configurations are based on those of the VW Golf.