After teasing the car buying public with concept cars of the iconic Beetle for the better part of the 1990’s, North American car buyers made it clear to Volkswagen they wanted their beloved Beetle back. And in 1997, VW gave us the New Beetle. While it certainly evoked the look of the original, this time around the Beetle was front engined, water cooled, and front wheel drive to suit its Golf underpinnings.
The New Beetle was a runaway success. The Baby Boomers who drove them in the 1960’s and ’70’s and feeling nostalgic flocked to the showroom. Young buyers were instantly drawn to the unique styling the New Beetle’s vanilla competition lacked. Such was the success of the New Beetle other automakers jumped on the retro bandwagon. Anyone remember the Plymouth PT Cruiser, Chevy HHR and the reborn Ford Thunderbird?
Predictably, the excitement eventually wore off. Everyone who was clamoring for a New Beetle had already run out and bought one. The addition of a convertible provided a much needed shot in the arm, but that too soon faded. The occasional special edition here and there was just not enough to keep buyers coming back and getting the car much media attention. After a long fifteen year run-unheard of these days, with practically no development, the New Beetle was replaced.
In 2012, now just called the Beetle, assured the faithful that VW had not abandoned the car, as many had speculated. A redesign also gave VW an opportunity to address a polarizing feature of the New Beetle. With its super cute, super curvy lines, many dismissed the New Beetle as a chick car, which is enough for some male buyers to not even consider it. A car with a flower vase did not help either. While still maintaining the Beetle look, this new car was lower, wider, and more serious. Being less cartoonish and the flower vase long gone, this Beetle certainly Yet, it seems the new look did little to attract new buyers. And six years later, the car has seen little change.
So, in a recent article from Autoblog, it was revealed from a VW exec at the Geneva auto show that there will not be a third generation Beetle. VW is shifting focus to crossovers and EV’s. Apparently, the idea was floated for an EV Beetle, which could have allowed designers to get even closer to the original Beetle’s appearance, but that notion was scrapped. For their ‘nostalgia’ car, Vee-Dub fans will eventually see an EV production version of the Microbus inspired concepts we’ve been seeing.
So, if everyone loved the Beetle so much, what happened here? Well, the Baby Boomers got their nostalgia fix, and soon moved on. The young buyers it attracted got married, started families and needed something more practical. In 1997, the New Beetle was in a league of its own. Eventually, the MINI Cooper came along, and then the Fiat 500. While Fiat and MINI were able to expand their line to encompass different body styles for different buyers, doing the same with the Beetle just didn’t seem possible. Also, VW seemed extremely limited in regards to what they could do to evolve the Beetle, so they just didn’t bother. VW had painted themselves into a corner, and with no evolution of the car, it simply faded from memory. VW knows we are looking forward to the Bus, but this time around, let’s all hope that constant development and improvement will be needed, otherwise it will suffer the same fate as the reincarnated Beetle.