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Volkswagen's Enduring Icon Takes Its Final Bow

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After eight decades, the Volkswagen Beetle is officially retired.

The story of the Volkswagen Beetle is a remarkable one. It may not be the best car in the world, but there's no doubt it's the most interesting car in the world as well as an enduring design masterpiece. Finally though, Volkswagen is calling a halt to production of the last version of the venerable Beetle. The last third-generation car will be a Denim Blue coupe built by the Volkswagen de Mexico's Puebla plant before it shifts to build a compact SUV for the North American market. Then after 8 decades of production, the VW Beetle will finally be extinct, and the last model produced will be kept in Volkswagen's museum in the city of Puebla, Mexico.

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Hitler's push for a "people's car" in the vein of Ford's Model T took on a life of its own after the war when the bombed-out factory was rescued by a British officer and put to work building Beetles for both military and civilian use. It was then handed over to former Opel boss and Volkswagen detractor Heinz Nordhoff who started to build the legacy that the Beetle now leaves behind. In the form of the original Type 1, Volkswagen sold nearly five million Beetles in the United States alone and 21.5 million cars worldwide. In 1998, the familiar silhouette returned and went on to be one of the few modern-retro designs to survive into the first decades of the 21st century.

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The Beetle was a cultural wonder that spanned generations and endless sub-cultures. It was adopted by hippies to surfers to students, young parents to retired grandparents and just about everyone in between. It was an incredibly important car historically and culturally, as well as for Volkswagen itself. "It's impossible to imagine where Volkswagen would be without the Beetle," said Scott Keogh, President and CEO, Volkswagen Group of America. "From its first import in 1949 to today's retro-inspired design, it has showcased our company's ability to fit round pegs into square holes of the automotive industry. While its time has come, the role it has played in the evolution of our brand will be forever cherished."

JamesGilboy/The Drive