June 22 is Worldwide VW Beetle Day, and Tidbits joins the world in honoring everyone’s favorite bug!
• For more than 80 years, the Volkswagen Beetle transported people here and there, the longest-produced vehicle in history. In the early 1930s, only one in 50 Germans owned a car, and an idea for a cheap, simple car that could be mass-produced for the German people was given to engineer Ferdinand Porsche to spearhead the project. Although Porsche and his team finalized the design, the original design for the car has since been credited to Bela Barenyi, an 18-year-old Hungarian student who had submitted a chassis design for the Volkswagen in 1925, at least 5 years before Porsche’s initial design. Because Porsche claimed credit for the design and Barenyi’s version was not credited, in 1955, Barenyi sued Volkswagen for copyright infringement and won, and his contribution was finally legally acknowledged.
• In 1938, production of the Beetle began, marketed as the “Volkswagen,” German for “people’s car.” The “New York Times” was the first to refer to the vehicle as the “Beetle” that same year.
• The Beetle convertible went into production in 1949, the same year that VWs were first sold in the United States. It wasn’t a big year in the U.S., with only two cars sold, but by 1955, Volkswagen of America had been formed to regulate sales and service in America. The millionth Beetle was built in 1955, and the car was offered in more than 150 countries worldwide.
• The advertising slogan for the 1969 Beetle was “It’s ugly, but it gets you there.” That year’s Bug sold for $1,799.
• The Super Beetle was added to the VW lineup in 1971. The suspension system was changed and rack and pinion steering replaced the previous system. The front of the car was 2 inches longer, which allowed the spare tire to lie flat, thus increasing luggage space. The car featured a padded dash, and the former flat windshield was replaced with a curved one.
• For decades, the Ford Model T was history’s most-produced vehicle. In February, 1972, the Beetle broke Ford’s record when the 15,007,034th Beetle rolled off the line. By the following year, more than 16 million Bugs had been produced. It became the first car to sell over 20 million units. The original “first-generation” Beetle ceased production in 2003 after sales of 21,549,464 worldwide.
• The “second-generation” New Beetle was introduced in 1998, combining the old classic arched shape with a newer modern design. The engine moved from the rear to the front, with the luggage compartment in the back for the new models. A flower vase next to the steering wheel was added as a quirky accessory. “Motor Trend” magazine named the New Beetle “Import Car of the Year” for 1999, and sales in the U.S. were 80,000 that year.
• In 2012, the Beetle received another facelift, when the design became sleeker without the trademark rounded top. Although we think of the Beetle as a German car, the new vehicles were actually manufactured in Puebla, Mexico. It was the end of an era in July of 2019 when the final Volkswagen Beetle rolled off the assembly line. At the time, the CEO of the Volkswagen Group of America said, “There are no immediate plans to replace it. I would also say, ‘Never say never’”.
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