With a history that spans over 70 years, the Volkswagen Beetle has remained faithful to its iconic design and stands as a monument for being the very first “People’s Car.” This is a look back at 3 generations of the “Bug.”
The Rise of the Volkswagen Type 1
The idea first came about in 1932 when Adolf Hitler wanted a people’s car for Germany’s working class. Inspired by the Ford Model T, he sketched the first “Beetle” in a restaurant and called it Kraft durch Freude (KdF-wagen) which literally means “strength through joy car.” An engineer that goes by the name Ferdinand Porsche was then hired to develop the the “Volkswagen.”
The KdF-wagen would later be renamed as the Volkswagen Type 1 before earning the nickname “Beetle.”
In its early stage, the Beetle was designed based on 5 key pillars: It should be a car capable of speed, economical to repair, suitable for vacation travel with 5 passengers, equipped with an air-cooled engine thereby eliminating frozen radiator problems during winter season, and most of all, it had to be inexpensive.
Although hated by some who had strong memories of the war, the Beetle charmed consumers with its unique design, reliability, and practicality. Moreover, with the help of a Jewish advertising executive Bill Bernbach, the Beetle became the biggest selling foreign-made car in America throughout the ’60s. It was loved by free-loving hippies, surfer dudes, college kids, and even on the silver screen thanks to a movie called “The Love Bug.”
It was a huge hit to say the least, selling more than 21 million units during its 65-year run. The last Classic Beetle with No. 21,528,464 rolled off from Mexico production in 2003.
The New Beetle
The “New Beetle” made its debut in 1997. The design featured some resemblance with the original Beetle including vestigial running boards, sloping headlamps, large round tail lights, and a rounded roofline. Yet for the first time, it adapted the front-engine front driven layout based on VW’s popular compact hatchback, the Golf.
The New Beetle also came available with a range of engines from a 1.4L inline-4 to a 2.5L inline-5 including a diesel burner. A special edition Beetle RSi powered by a 3.2L VR6 heart was also sold as a limited run.
The New Beetle, however, didn’t follow the same record breaking sales as the original Beetle and production ended in 2011.
The 21st Century Beetle
The successor of the “New Beetle” debuted in 2011 dropping the word ‘new’ from its name but marketed it as the Beetle of the 21st century.
Design-wise, an aggressive exterior matched with lower and flatter roofline and Bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights clearly flaunts its masculine character day and night. It redefines the “cheeky” and “feminist appeal” associated from the previous generation as it is now a Beetle worthy for all sexes.
Yet even if the Beetle is a car compounded with its history from pre-war to post-war and towards America’s counterculture, inside still feels like a stimulus of the past. The more mature interior design poses plenty of rectangular and circular shapes are finished in two-tone color scheme. It’s a combination of modern and retro without ever feeling cartoonish.
In the Philippines, the Beetle is available in 2 variants, a 1.4L TSI DSG Design (P1,790,000) with a 7-speed DSG transmission and a 1.2L TSI M/T Basic (P1,590,000) with a 6-speed manual transmission. Standard features include all-power amenities, RCD 310 Radio/MP3 Infotainment system with 8-speakers, steering mounted audio controls, Park Distance Control, and a 50/50 flat folding rear seats. Safety also comes in dual front airbags, side and curtain airbags, ABS, EBD, Hill Hold Control, and an Electronic Differential Lock as standard – things that didn't even exist when the 1st gen. Beetle came out.
Although it's no longer the most affordable mode of transport today (or have an air-cooled engine at the back), the Beetle is still very much lovable that makes it stand out from a crowd. It's both a refreshing alternative to the cars we have today and a tribute to a retro icon.