Volkswagen is bringing an end to its much-loved Beetle car this week at its plant in Puebla, Mexico.
Volkswagen’s Beetle was conceived by the Nazis in 1938.
Production of the car under Nazi rule never happened, but was restarted with the British.
The marque produced over 21 million versions, and was embraced around the world
It’s the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolised many things over a history spanning the eight decades since 1938.
Initially birthed as a project of Germany’s Third Reich, it then became a symbol of Germany’s post-war economic renaissance and rising middle-class prosperity.
Today, the Beetle stands as a formidable piece of 20th-century design — about as recognisable as a Coca Cola bottle.
The car’s original design — a rounded silhouette with seating for four or five, nearly vertical windshield and the air-cooled engine in the rear — can be traced back to Austrian engineer Ferdinand Porsche, the founder and namesake of fellow German marque, Porsche.
He was commissioned by Adolf Hitler to create a “people’s car” that would make motoring widespread among the German people, which was then known as the KdF-Wagen — the acronym of the Nazi labour organisation, Kraft durch Freude (Strength through Joy).
Preparation for the vehicle even involved creating a purpose-built factory town, which was then known as the City of the KdF car at Fallersleben.
Aspects of the car bore similarities to the Tatra T97, made in Czechoslovakia in 1937, and to sketches by Hungarian engineer Bela Barenyi published in 1934.
But due to World War II, production of the Beetle never happened. Instead, the factory switched to military vehicle production, using forced labour sourced from occupied Europe. Liberated by US troops in April 1945, the factory town was renamed Wolfsburg a month later. By June of that year, control of the factory was turned over to Britain.
In total, over 21 million original Volkswagen Beetles were produced in its lifetime. The Kombi Van was a big seller in the 1960s.
But not all Brits were immediately on the side of the Beetle, with automotive baron Sir William Rootes telling a meeting of the country’s leading car manufacturers the vehicle would be “quite unattractive to the average motorcar buyer”.
By the end of 1949, the Volkswagen factory had produced over 45,000 vehicles, and had transferred ownership over to the West German government and the state of Lower Saxony, which still owns part of the company.
By 1955, the one millionth Beetle, officially called the Type 1, had left the assembly line.