Volkswagen: Once This Beetle's Gone, It's Not Coming Back

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

After going from the people’s car to the hippie’s car and, finally, to the car of semi-urban professional couples with no kids, Volkswagen’s retro Beetle has entered the home stretch. Despite a movement within Volkswagen HQ to keep the iconic shape around for a new generation, the German automaker now claims there’s no future for the Beetle.

Yes, once the current model disappears, it won’t crawl back out of the grave as an electric car or any other such thing. Get your tie-dyed shirt ready for the funeral.

Speaking to Autocar at the Geneva Motor Show, Volkswagen R&D chief Frank Welsch said there’s no room in the brand’s future lineup for an electric, rear-drive Beetle. That space goes to the compact I.D. and its siblings, including the retro, Microbus-inspired I.D. Buzz. Clearly, there’s still room for latter-day hippies at VW, but Wolfsburg’s not letting them run the show.

The Beetle, which returned to Europe and North America at the tail end of the 20th century as the “New Beetle” (before becoming too old for the moniker), gained a new lease on life with its careful 2012 redesign. Still, as sales numbers fall, rumors abound about its discontinuation. No further details emerged from Geneva on that front, though Welsch did imply that the company is growing tired of the model.

Explaining that “two or three generations is enough now” for the Beetle, Welsch said the car was “made with history in mind but you can’t do it five times and have a new new new Beetle.”

The upcoming convertible version of the European-market T-Roc is capable of filling the space left by the Beetle Cabriolet, Welsch said. He added that after unveiling so many microbus-inspired concept vehicles, the brand’s MEB electric architecture means it can now make a production version with the right proportions.

“Better to have that than having five generations of a new Beetle,” he said. “We had all these Microbus concepts in the past but all were front-engined. The physicality of bringing it on MQB or PQ-something to life does not work.”

How long will the Beetle stay alive? Well, the T-Roc cabriolet goes into production in 2020, with the I.D. Buzz appearing by 2022. Something tells us it won’t last nearly long enough to share a showroom with its successor.

[Image: Volkswagen]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • RHD RHD on Mar 07, 2018

    The original Beetle was a unique vehicle - cheap, simple, economical, funky, when everything else was too large, too thirsty and too expensive. The Civic took over economical, Kia took over cheap, and there are too many other choices now. All the Beetle has going for it is nostalgia. The other unique qualities are no longer present. There is room for a unique, funky, cool car. Right now, it's made by Tesla. Tomorrow, it will be something different, made by someone else, but probably not VW.

  • Vehic1 Vehic1 on Mar 08, 2018

    TW5: "VW's in hot water in the US"? Let's see - Jan. and Feb. 2018 sales numbers rank in the top 5 (Jan. and Feb.) for VW, in the last 40 years (since the days of the old Beetle) - so they're on the right track. Models tied to retro styling, like the Beetle, Mini, and Fiat 500 - are never going to remain new and exciting, for very long after they're re-introduced. They could always bring it back in some form, down the road - as they did before, as the Camaro, Mustang, and Challenger, etc., were brought retro-back.

  • Richard Poore Sure, as the article itself notes (hence my ire) California has mandated that all new vehicles sold in state be EV by 2035. They require EV or hybrid by 2026. Since the author admits to this mandate it seems that the article title is clickbait... was really hoping that there was some sort of changes in the CA position since the state is sorely behind on where they need to be with charging stations for this sort of requirement.
  • VoGhost When will Audi eliminate the fake, oversized grills that impede aerodynamics?
  • Kelley It's about time! I was so discouraged to see those poor Chevy Bolts stuck at the charging station receiving level 2 speeds after 80%, it was ridiculous. It would be nice if EA would had more level 2 chargers, also, at the same locations for people to top off above 80% on the fast chargers.
  • Tane94 Carmela Harris is supportive of EV adoption, so government incentives will be continuing under her watch.