This month Volkswagen announced that it plans to retire one of the most recognizable vehicles ever made, the VW Beetle.
The Beetle was born in the 1930s, when Ferdinand Porsche, the engineer behind the luxury vehicle brand, decided to design a “People’s Car” or “Volkswagen” in German. They started mass producing the car after World War II, and it debuted in North America in 1949. Over the next twenty years, it became one of the world’s best-selling cars.
But a lot has changed since the Beetle’s day in the sun and with today’s ‘bigger is better’ philosophy, SUV’s seem to be the cars of the moment.
Volkswagen president Hinrich Woebcken said: “The loss of the Beetle after three generations, over nearly seven decades, will evoke a host of emotions from the Beetle’s many devoted fans.”
I’ll admit, I’m a little sad about this news. One of my earliest childhood memories is driving around in my mom’s Java Green Volksie that she bought just before I was born. In fact, that Volksie was quite well known in the Northern Suburbs in the 80’s. My mom loves to tell the story of how when I was in playschool I would cry my eyes out if the other moms came to fetch their little ones at the end of the day and she was a bit late. The playschool teacher had to send a letter to all the other moms asking them to please not go inside until the green Volksie has arrived. I’m glad I’ve gotten over my abandonment issues!
Our family made so many memories in that car – some better than others. One I can laugh about now (but it wasn’t so funny at the time) was when my mom had collected my sister and I from school one Summer afternoon and as she turned into our neighbourhood I smelt something burning. I looked down and there were flames coming from under the back seat! Being a rear-engined vehicle, the Volkswagen was prone to this but it was the first time it had happened to us! I started screaming thinking my school frock was going to catch fire but luckily my quick-thinking mom pulled up onto the lawn of a house that was having renovations done and threw handfuls of building sand onto the back seat. We all made it out unscathed, but I can’t say the same for old Volksie.
Then there were the road trips along the Garden Route that were made that much more fun when we played Punch Buggy in the car (and we took it very seriously). One particular holiday, about an hour outside of Knysna, we realised that we had left my sister’s specs on a restaurant table back in Mossel Bay. My mom was on the phone with the restaurant manager to see if anyone had handed them in. In the middle of her conversation she spotted a white beetle on the other side of the road. She whispered to my dad, “punch buggy white.” He was like, “really?” Yes, really. And guess what? Mom won that day with 11 punch buggies. Don’t worry, my sister got her specs too (but only 3 punch buggies).
It’s the end of an era but who knows, maybe the beloved Beetle will make a comeback as an electric, self-driving car just in time for my kids to start asking for their first wheels.