By on March 7, 2018

2017 Volkswagen #PinkBeetle, Image: Volkswagen

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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26 Comments on “Volkswagen: Once This Beetle’s Gone, It’s Not Coming Back...”


  • avatar

    The “New” Beetle is just too damned big. It should have been built off the Polo platform and not the Golf platform. It looks like a bloated caricature of itself.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    And nobody mourned.

    Design-wise I liked this latest Beetle. However when viewed in profile and equipped with the steel wheels and hubcaps it always looked more like a Porsche 356 tribute than a Beetle.

    • 0 avatar
      omer333

      Yeah, I kinda thought the newer Turbo models looked more like a Porsche than newer Porsches do.

    • 0 avatar
      hpycamper

      I will mourn. Especially for the convert.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      As I’ve mentioned in previous VW threads, friends’ have a convertible, and it’s kind of a guilty pleasure for me. Some thoughts:
      – I too see a 356 resemblance, though I’ve been embarrassed to admit it.
      – I’ve ridden in it but not driven it. Built in Puebla or not, it does seem to have a Germanic, semi-premium quality that I like. I’ve never owned a VW, but I can see why some people like them or at least have a love-hate relationship with them.
      – The 1.8T seems peppy. My friends and I grew up in a slow-car era, so 0-60 in the low 8’s seems plenty quick to us.
      – The only “argh, VW” thing that’s gone wrong was a faulty passenger window regulator, which happened about two months into their ownership experience. Fixed under warranty and not a problem since then. (Like an Elwood Engel Continental or later Mercedes hardtops, the frameless windows do that trick of lowering themselves a fraction of an inch when you open the door.)
      – No issues with DI/carbon build-up, at least not yet.
      – The icing on the cake is that theirs is a ’14 that had not sold during an end-of-model-year sale. It sat on the lot until the ’16s were on the horizon, so my friends got it at a huge discount.

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    So what will Tanner and Scott drive for RedBull GRC? Those Beetles have been super-dominant.

  • avatar
    zoomzoomfan

    I’ve rented two Beetles, both brand new red base models. One on my honeymoon in Florida 2012 and one on an anniversary trip to St. Louis in 2015. I really enjoyed the drive of both of them. Very smooth, well-built cars. Felt bigger than they were. More solid than the previous New Beetle, at least to me. I’d rock a black one with those cool steel wheels if I was single and had no kids (and wasn’t afraid of being judged for driving a Beetle). That last sticking point has probably held sales down all by itself.

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    New Beetle=fail. Why? 1.Too big 2.Not rear engined 3.No flat four 4.Unreliable 5.Didn’t look right. Instead of a tribute, VW should have updated the Bugs built in Mexico, and sold as a boutique car.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Always liked these, so I’ll pour one out.

  • avatar
    cicero1

    does that mean they are stopping 911 production?

  • avatar
    civicjohn

    Please, take this car behind the barn and put a bullet in the head.

    I had the pleasure of riding in the latest version over the holidays, my son’s GF has one, and just sitting in the front passenger seat made me question the whole relationship (the girl and the car).

  • avatar
    TW5

    An icon of middle class empowerment and mobility was turned into a Kate Spade handbag for middle-age Baby Boomers. The new Beetle has no future because it never had much of a present.

    When they reintroduced the Beetle it had a clumsy, contrived pointlessness about it. For instance, the 2-point-slow seemed appropriately agricultural, and it didn’t detract from the vehicle. The ride, on the other hand, was buckboard harsh and incredibly loud. Why would the manufacturer equip and excellent modern 5-speed, upgraded stereo components, and lots of electronic security features, and then give the new Beetle intolerable ride harshness?

    All Volkswagen needed to do was build a small car that wasn’t a penalty box, and people gladly would have paid. Instead, they built and unreliable vehicle with the ride quality of a wood-wheeled wagon on the Oregon Trail. It was almost as if VW wanted it to fail.

    Despite all of it’s flaws, and the ill-conceived redesign of the New Beetle, canceling is the wrong move. VW is in hot water in the US. The Beetle is their only bridge back to their noble past.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Can we wear fake tie-dye shirts to mourn the passing of the Fake Beetle?

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    If we could get Patchouli to cease production we could kill two birds with one stone.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    The reason that The New Beetle never succeeded was that the only ones who went “gaga “over the original Beetle were the Americans. I lived in Europe in the sixties and seventies; over there the Beetle was respected as a fine economy car but it wasn’t revered. There’s a difference there. When it returned as The New Beetle, few Europeans cared and Americans had moved on to SUV’s and pickups. The second generation New Beetle was a marked improvement over the first, but it still failed in setting many hearts afire.

    • 0 avatar
      zamoti

      I don’t think that the New Beetle’s reliability problems helped anything. By the time the 2nd generation came around, many knew what a mess the 1st gen were and likely were not in to try their luck twice.
      I also think that in order to channel the spirit of the original it probably should have been smaller and simpler. The original was an economy car, the remake was, well, I’m not sure what. A Golf is more practical as a wagon or hatchback for similar money. The Beetle was a stylish throwback but I just don’t think it had an identity or purpose beyond that.

    • 0 avatar
      Mn12Fanatic

      All good points. I actually see way more Fiat 500’s than new Beetles on the road. How is that possible?

  • avatar
    65corvair

    Four door cars are on the way out, two door even more out. It’s in a segment that no one wants. There are better cars out there. Retro is also done.

    • 0 avatar
      hpycamper

      I’ll take a nice 2 door retro design over many current designs. Ugly seems to be en vogue now. The Beetle looks better than every vehicle currently offered by Toyota and Lexus.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    Once the novelty of owning or seeing a new beetle on the road wore off, I think pretty much everyone moved on. I think you can blame its demise on that, all it had to offer really was novelty. Without ultra low price, extreme economy, practicality….there is really just no reason for it to be after the novelty is gone.

    I would like to see it return as a lower, lighter, smaller, rear engine, low priced sports car with droptop available. MX-5 alternative. That would be cool.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I do like the second generation of these – less cutesy than the first. I’ll mourn the passing of anything that at least looks interesting, but like MINI, it is a small niche market for neuvo retro cars. Usually the first batch of buyers are the most interested in the car, and then sales seem to tail off after that.

  • avatar
    RHD

    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.

  • avatar
    vehic1

    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.

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