How many of you have been fascinated by the character of Herbie from the movie named Herbie: The Love Bug? For those of you don’t know Herbie is a silly VW Beetle with a cute personality. Herbie’s also got a big attitude. Upon reflection he is also quite a bit of sinister- is this the speedy and little motor possessed under the hood? Even today while I see a Beetle, I often think, it would have been great if I could own one of the little car.
However, life of Beetle has never been quite easy. Since its production it have seen and participated in multiple wars, and conflicts. Everyone knows how Beetle became the car which everyone dreamt to own. Even after 70 years since its production, it still gains the same attention from people. The remarkable point about the Bug is not just the sales figures, but the fact that a small car born from the idea of Adolf Hitler became a style statement for college going kids, hippies, cool dudes from California in a same manner as it was desired by Nazis and the Gestapo. So, today we are not going to discuss only about the good things about the Beetle (popularly known as Bug or a Pregnant Rollerskate in Denmark ), instead we will discuss how it was born during the aftermath of World War One, and played a key role in World War two.
After the World War One, Germany was left in a complete economic mess, additionally, the great depression of 1929 made it even worse for the country. Later in 1933, when Hitler came to power, he ordered the creation of autobahns and envisioned the idea of building a mass production car that could be made and sold cheaply. The idea was to build a small car that could easily carry a German family of five while maintaining a flatout speed of 100Kph along the country’s newly made autobahns.
In 1933, Hitler commissioned engineer Ferdinand Porsche in order to design the car. The type 1 was basically an air cooled, rear wheel driven small car, which took design cues from Tatra and other Porsche cars. However, the main concern was the need of a factory that could easily build these cars, so an organization named Kraft durch Freude (basically experienced in organizing tourist trips) was chosen, thus the vehicle was renamed as KdF-Wagen and a savings scheme was started in order to let people save up for an all new car.
So, a whole town was built! A factory and barracks to house workers were also built. However, the civilian production was almost immediately stopped due to the start of a little scuffle, popularly termed as 2nd World War, and few of the cars were built for the military, and einsatzgruppen officers and Hitler got the first convertible Beetle. During the scuffle KdF was destroyed pretty much and the factory started to produce various military hardware. However, few Beetles were made and used as command cars, but sadly none of the basic passenger cars were ever sold.
After the war, whole Germany was in complete mess, KdF was soon renamed as Wolfsburg. The Beetle factory was put under British control and it was under their occupation, the company started functioning again. By the end of 1946, Nazis were completely out of the picture and VW sold more than 10,000 vehicles. A decade later, the company sold more than one million vehicles. Since then the vehicle has seen tremendous demands amongst the mass market and slowly changed from People’s Car to a Style Statement.
However, like every other product, the lovely cute little bug’s sales started to decline since 2013 and VW soon announced that Beetle has reached the end of its lifecycle. The last two models from the company would be Final Edition SE and Final Edition SEL. So is this the end of the life for our beloved Herbie? Or as the President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America stated in his announcement, “Never say never.”
– Kaustav Roy