By Kevin Kelleher
September 13, 2018

Volkswagen is exterminating its iconic Beetle car after nearly 80 years on the market.

On Thursday, Volkswagen of America confirmed it would end production of the Beetle next year while unveiling what will be the last two Beetle models: Final Edition SE and Final Edition SEL, which will be available in coupe and convertible editions.

“The loss of the Beetle after three generations, over nearly seven decades, will evoke a host of emotions from the Beetle’s many devoted fans,” Volkswagen of America CEO Hinrich Woebcken said in a statement. Instead, Volkswagen will spend its efforts and resources on more popular areas such as SUVs and electric cars.

The Beetle, also known as the Bug in some countries, was originally designed in 1930s Germany as a low-cost, rear-engine car for the masses, but it wasn’t until after World War II that the company began manufacturing them in large numbers.

Despite its origins in Nazi Germany, the car became an icon of surfing culture as well as the counterculture movement during the 1960s, spurred on by a creative ad campaign for the car. The model, which Volkswagen formally referred to as “Type 1,” seeped into mainstream culture though films such as Disney’s The Love Bug and a memorable cameo in Woody Allen’s Sleeper.

The Beetle still has its share of adherents – owners gather annually at Volkswagen festivals like Ohio’s Volksfest – but while Volkswagen tried to update the classic look of the Beetle each year, sales for the model have been slumping in the U.S., where consumers have a preference for larger cars. Rumors that Volkswagen would retire the model have been circulating for some time, despite the company’s insistence it would keep the Bug around.

This isn’t the first time Volkswagen has ceased U.S. produciton of the Beetle. In 1979, the company stopped selling the car in the U.S. but continued production in Mexico and Brazil. Beginning in 1998, the company began introducing redesigned versions of the classic car, although none resonated as much as the original design did.

Woebcken hinted that, despite the end of the Beetle’s production in 2019, the car could make another comeback someday. “As we have seen with the I.D. Buzz—which is the modern and practical interpretation of the legendary Bus—I would also say, ‘Never say never,’” he said. Last year, Volkswagen unveiled a prototype of the I.D. Buzz, an electric version of its classic minibus.

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