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

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
volkswagen once this beetles gone its not coming back

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]

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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.

  • FreedMike One of the things that we here in North America often forget about Europe is that it's a COMPLETELY different world to drive in. Imagine driving in the downtown area of the city you live in 24/7, and never leaving it, and you have a decent simulation of what it's like to drive in a place like Paris, or London, or Rome - or Manhattan, for that matter. As far as the "dystopia" is concerned, I don't really see it that way. This isn't made for people living in the 'burbs - it's for urban dwellers. And for that application, this car would be about perfect. The big question is how successful the effort to provide large-scale EV charging in urban areas will be.
  • Matzel I am hoping that Vee-Dub will improve the UX and offer additional color options for the 2024 Mk8.5 refresh for Canada. Until then, I'll be quite happy with my '21 GTI performance pack. It still puts a smile on my face going through the twisty bits.
  • Stanley Steamer There have been other concepts with BYOT, that I have always thought was a great idea. Replacing bespoke parts is expensive. If I can plug in a standard 17" monitor to serve as my instrument panel, as well as speakers, radio, generic motors, batteries, I'm for it. Cheaper repair, replacement, or upgrade costs. Heck I'd even like to put in my own comfy seats. My house didn't come with a built in LaZboy. The irony is that omitting these bespoke items at the point of sale allows me to create a more bespoke car as a whole. It's hard to imagine what an empty rolling monocoque chassis would look like capable of having powertrains and accessories easily bolted on in my garage, but something like the Bollinger suv comes to mind.
  • Iam65689044 Sometimes I'm glad the French don't sell in America. This is one of those times.
  • SCE to AUX I was going to scoff, but the idea has some merit.The hard part would be keeping the weight and cost down. Even on the EPA cycle, this thing could probably get over 210 miles with that battery.But the cost - it's too tempting to bulk up the product for profits. What might start as a $22k car quickly becomes $30k.Resource-deprived people can't buy it then, anyway, and where will Kyle get the electricity to charge it in 2029 Los Angeles?