In Denmark it’s known as a Pregnant Roller-skate, Mexicans call it Vocho/Vochito or Hippie’s car… Many nicknames referring to (directly or indirectly) People’s Car aka Volkswagen Beetle.
The 81-year-old chapter of Volkswagen was finally closed on 10th July 2019. Some time ago to pay tribute to its Beetles, an animated video was floated around social media.
In this post, we will be going through Beetle’s (and Volkswagen) history and summing up by some lesser-known facts about this car.
If a car can be around us for 81 years (in different faces) it’s worth it to pay this little tribute. It’s one of the cars (maybe the only car) who has been through WWI & WWII.
Flipping the Old Pages:
Its inception began in the 1920s when a French newspaper published a Czech design that was made in German factories built by Italians and put into production by the British government post World War II.
Though Hitler didn’t know how to drive his interest in cars made him come up with the idea of people’s cars. He started looking for someone who could help him make an inexpensive car that the common German worker could afford.
But the German carmakers were reluctant to go for this low-cost model and declined to work on Hitler’s idea. So, Hitler went on to form a whole new company, run by his government and laid the foundation stone on 26th May 1938. Thousand of spectators were present and the New York Times covered the inaugural moment with headline thousands of shiny little beetles.
The car was the product of Ferdinand Porsche and his consultants (Erwin Komenda & Bela Barenvi) who published a design identical to that French Paper and is considered the true father of the people’s car.
After WWII, Volkswagen’s and Beetle’s future was uncertain and no one wanted the car. Ford himself considered it useless.
Things being different in Britain, it was still popular as Adolf Hitler’s first car. In 1949 Volkswagen managed to enter the US which was a turnaround moment for the German carmaker. The little shiny car went viral there because of its size, unusual shape, engineering, and price.
Beetle’s success felt like a comeback to the Germans. The then General Director Heinrich Nordhoff said “In 10 short years the Volkswagen had risen from total obscurity to become a household name on every continent. Because it does not pretend to be anything but what it is – an honest car”.
Their ad campaigns were definitely outside the box. Not only they were built on honesty, they made their weakness as strengths with slogans like- It makes your house look bigger; It’s ugly, but it gets you there; Maybe we got so big because we thought small. Beetles were a representation of idealism and peace.
In 1970s Beetle became the first car to outsell the Model T in a total production number. But by then with Nordhoff’s death in 1968 followed by a global recession, the 1973 oil crises, the Bug/Beetle’s popularity began to decline. They had to shut down their sales in the US in 1979.
While bad experience from one country, Beetles enjoyed some time in Mexico and gained popularity. The beetle is said to have the longest production with the same original design staying into production until 2003 in Mexico. In 2003 the production was discontinued. The company kept rolling out few models like convertible Beetles to try their luck in the game … for the last time.
And finally, last year Volkswagen pulled out of its shiny little Beetles globally. Such a small car stayed for such a long time, 81 years!
9 crazy facts about Beetle:-
- Bela Barenyi (Ferdinand Porsche consultant) was an 18-year-old Hungarian student who submitted chassis design for the car, which is recognized as designing the basic Volkswagen Beetle.
- Millionth Beetle was rolled out in 1955 and it’s carefully preserved at Wolfsburg Autostadt Museum. The special thing about this one is that it’s really shiny this time. Its body is made out of gold with diamonds carved in bumpers with pink interiors. (Image)
- Not only on the roads, but our shiny bug is also famous in Hollywood. During Fight Club rehearsal, Brad Pitt and Edward Norton found they both hated the new Beetle and in one scene where they had to hit cars with baseball bats, both insisted one had to be a Beetle!
- The car was also featured in movies like The Shining, Quantum of Solace and Disney’s Herbie.
- In The Shining by Stephen Kings, the main character has a red Beetle, King drove a red Beetle whilst writing it to get himself in the mindset but in the film adaption a yellow one is used instead.
- Co-founder of Domino’s Pizza, Jim Monaghan sold his 50% share of the company for Beetle.
- After WWII, when the Volkswagen factory was supposed to be handed over to the British but no one wanted to take this responsibility for the company by saying that it’s not attractive to the average buyer and that it’s not a market fit vehicle.
- Beetle with license plate LMW-28IF of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album was sold at an auction for $23000 in 1986. It’s now comfortably resting at the company’s headquarters’ in Wolfsburg, Germany.
- In the original Transformers cartoon series, Bumblebee transformed from Beetle. The car was changed to a Camaro in is movie scenes.