By on January 20, 2017

2017 Volkswagen Beetle

Rumors of the Volkswagen Beetle’s demise are either greatly exaggerated, or right on point. The Model languishes on the low end of the sales scale, hamstrung by a retro design that shuns updates and the public’s dwindling enthusiasm for compact cars.

Still, there exists fans of the model, even inside the scandal-shaken and SUV-fixated company. No one loves the Beetle more than VW design head Klaus Bischoff, who claims the model is his favorite in all Volkswagendom (um, have you seen the Atlas, Klaus?). So great is his love for the Beetle that Bischoff is urging VW to spare the model the axe and stimulate interest through a new method of propulsion.

A report suggests that top brass might be listening.

“We are fighting hard [for it] and considering a new electric bug,” Bischoff told VW Vortex at the North American International Auto Show. “Let’s see what we can do on that one.”

The design chief made it clear that VW has not, at this point, signed a death warrant for the venerable Beetle. Rumors of the model’s post-2018 disappearance so far seem to be just that. Still, the model’s long-term existence is anything but certain.

Volkswagen sold 15,667 Beetles in the U.S. last year, the third-lowest number since the model’s resurrection in the late 1990s, and a fraction of the 55,971 sales seen in 2003. Only two years saw fewer sales — 2009, during the depths of the recession, and 2011, during the changeover to the restyled 2012 model.

Could an alternative drivetrain lead to an upswing in sales for the endangered model? There’s no doubt that an electric Beetle (eBug?) would tick every box on the quirky checklist, potentially drawing in new fans, but cash-strapped VW might not see it as worth the expense. If VW does go that route, it could either cram the existing model with batteries, like its eGolf, or move the model onto the company’s dedicated MEB electric car platform.

[Image: Volkswagen Group]

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21 Comments on “As the Volkswagen Beetle Nervously Awaits a Pink Slip, There’s an Effort Afoot to Save It...”


  • avatar
    threeer

    Had one for a week as a rental a few years back (current gen Beetle). I actually rather enjoyed it. I would have liked it more had it been a manual transmission variant, but I liked it much more than the New Beetle I drove years and years ago. Some decry the decision to make it look more, um, non-feminine, but I like the look. And the interior (especially the dash) has improved. Of course, for the cost there are plenty of other alternatives, but I think it would be a sad day if the Beetle were to disappear completely.

  • avatar
    stuki

    The ‘vert is worth saving all on it’s own. It’s a pretty unique offering these days, being a reasonably spacious convertible with a windshield frame that does not rake back so far that it pretty much forms a roof over the front seat row.

    Just trademark the moniker Electrovert for the e-version. Sounds hitechy enough to appeal to a new generation of buyers, who aren’t old enough to have been too stoned to remember hanging out in Vietnamese rice patties, protesting against having to grow up.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Hey, how about just taking a Porsche 911, reducing the horsepower by about 75%, raising the roof by a lot, and shipping it without any climate control?

    That would be a more honest offering, I feel.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I wish they would build the original Beetle again for S&G. Heerrbbiiieeee!

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Not a bad little performer with the 1.8T. Worth saving, I’d say.

    (Plus, my S.O. wants one…and I don’t like to see her disappointed.)

  • avatar
    quaquaqua

    My sister thankfully waited to get her Beetle convertible until the 1.8T was available. So it’s not a total loss. But man, these things have really disappointing ride quality compared to the Golf. It feels just like the 1999 Beetle. Of course, she’s also had numerous problems with the power windows, but the top hasn’t leaked yet, so that’s something.

    I’m still shocked how few people are interested in convertibles. On a pretty day, there’s no nicer feeling.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Could an alternative drivetrain lead to an upswing in sales for the endangered model?”

    I don’t see how. 15k sales wouldn’t be bad for a EV (in today’s market), but the substantially higher price and limited market for an eBug wouldn’t improve sales from what they are today.

  • avatar
    slap

    Let it die, and come out with a “new” Beetle in about 10 years.

    • 0 avatar
      SoCalMikester

      exactly. thats what disney does with DVDs. gm should do this with the avalanche, and ford should do it with the excursion. by then, pent up demand should drive sales nicely and profitably for several years.

  • avatar

    “Could an alternative drivetrain lead to an upswing in sales for the endangered model? ”

    I was hoping for an SRT4-like more-at-the-wheels-than-advertised-at-the-crank HP output with a bullet-resistant transaxle and limited slip diff .

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Since VW has dropped the 3-door Golf and GTI as well as the EOS convertible here in the states they might as well keep the Beetle around for a while. Just add an electric version. I’m sure it would sell as many as a Chevy Bolt or 500E.

  • avatar
    quickson

    I was hoping they’d put the engine back on the correct half of the car. And make it so you can fix any problem with duct tape, plywood, and aquarium filter parts. And you’ll have to because the problems will be numerous.

    Or made the Baja version more than an appearance package.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    An electric one would be something I would consider, since other than the Teslas, electric cars are not exactly pleasing to the eye. And the latest version of the bug is, to me at least, a very good looking little car.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    Since the Beetle looks completely different from the rest of the lineup, my thought (and one I shared with the regional rep when I worked at a dealer) is deeply decontent the Beetle and sell it as a competitor to the Nissan Versa Note, Chevrolet Spark/Sonic, and Hyundai Accent. But then make it easily modified/upgraded, so that the people who are into that can do that.

  • avatar
    namstrap

    The Up! in Europe was originally going to be the new People’s Car, with a rear mounted liquid cooled boxer engine. To re-design, and re-tool, it would move the car from entry level to something much higher, so the existing parts bins won, and it became the car it is. I wonder if it would sell here. I don’t see why not, especially in it’s electric form, the E-Up!

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    The original Beetle had other versions besides the sedan and convertible. There was the fastback and the squareback in America, and several versions in Brazil. I even had a friend who turned his Beetle into a stakebed truck!

    Come on, Wolfsburg, you put out variations to keep sales going years after the base car was obsolete. Have you forgotten how? And forget the alternate propulsion. Electric cars don’t sell.

    If anything, turn the engine longitudinal and run a drive shaft to the rear wheels and make it RWD/AWD, even if you have to lengthen the wheelbase. In fact, lengthen the wheelbase and put four doors on it too.

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      Those fast, notch and squarebacks weren’t Beetles. They were types III and IV.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        They had the same air-cooled rear engine, RWD layout. That’s what I mean by different models. If you want to be a stickler for the beetle body style, there’s the stretched wheelbase four door option that would be fairly easy to do with a FWD, and maybe a limo or even a wagon. You don’t have to go over to the squared off body styles of the type III and IV which were intended to look different from the aging Beetle, but with the same floorpan.

  • avatar
    WallMeerkat

    Renault has shown with the Twingo (sister car to the Smart ForFour) that it can be done with a modern car – so take it back to it’s origins – plant a small engine in the rear powering the rear wheels!

    Do a “MINI”, or even a “500”, and create a trendy subbrand with retro-look chrome bumper and whitewall tyred versions, big engined hotrod versions, beach buggy, crossover SUV etc.

  • avatar
    zoomzoomfan

    I’ve had two brand new red Beetles as rentals and I really liked driving both of them. They felt very solid, were very quiet, and plenty powerful even with the base motor and automatic transmission the rental models come with. One was a 2012 and one was a 2015 but both were new (I think I was the first renter of each). For someone that doesn’t need four doors but wants a small/efficient-ish small car, they seem like a good choice. At least they’re different.

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