The Volkswagen Beetle manages to hold on for a little while longer yet.
Earlier this month, Autocar reported that the New Beetle (the one that began production in 2012) won’t be getting a replacement or a refresh and that this will be the last generation of Beetle we ever see.
Speaking at Geneva, Volkswagen’s head of R&D Frank Welsch told the British car mag that "two or three generations is enough” for the current Beetle, and that it was "made with history in mind but you can't do it five times and have a new new new Beetle."
And with that, Beetle enthusiasts around the world felt their hopes become dashed. But while the Beetle won’t be getting replaced, it also won’t get the ax anytime soon.
According to USA Today, “the German automaker has no plans to discontinue the car in the U.S.”
Although it’s not being discontinued, the writing is almost certainly on the wall. The car barely sold more than 15,000 units in the last two years, which is a far cry from its peak of just over 43,000 sold cars in 2013.
But even in its prime, the New New Beetle never sold as well as the first New Beetle that went into production for the 1998 model year. That version of the Beetle sold more than the current version did by a wide margin, and peaked at 83,434 cars sold in 1999.
Since then it’s been a long, slow decline for the Beetle as nostalgia for the car wanes to the point of irrelevance. Those who remember the car as being the symbol for freedom in the ‘60s and ‘70s are well past their driving years, and while sales are strong enough globally to warrant a limited production run it’s only a matter of time before the Beetle is gone for good.
Welsch said that the role of “heritage car” will be taken over by the new electric Microbus that VW is creating, currently known as the ID Buzz.
"With MEB [the VW Group's electric car platform], you can do a bus and be an authentic vehicle with the original shape, and steering wheel mounted like the original. You can't do that with an engine in the front. The shape you see on the concept is realistic," said Welsch.
"People asked when production starts on the car, so we decided to go that way. Better to have that than having five generations of a new Beetle.”
The ID Buzz, which will likely be renamed something more marketable, is set to hit the roads sometime in 2021 or 2022.