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The Last Beetle

May 3, 2016
8 minutes read
The Last Beetle

Since 1978, Volkswagen has been quietly turning out brand new aircooled Beetles at their plant in Puebla, Mexico. This state-of-the-art plant, with 14,000 employees, has produced 1.7 million Sedans to date. The “Sedan” (its official name in Mexico), is only produced for the local market and is not exported. They also produce the New Beetle and New Beetle convertible model, which are exported to Europe, the U.S., and other parts of the world.

When aircooled Volkswagen sales were at their peak, 1.3 million Beetles were being produced worldwide, while the Puebla factory produced fewer than 30,000 classic Beetle Sedans last year. Rumors have surrounded the fate of the Sedan for years, and a few times it looked as though production was going to be halted. Fortunately, Volkswagen decided to keep producing the Sedan and continue the tradition. Until now.

“True stars and their fans know when it’s time to quit.” –Dr. Jens Neumann, Volkswagen AG19

As the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end,” and in June 2003 Volkswagen made it official by announcing that production of the rear-engine, aircooled, classic VW Beetle will end. Dr. Jens Neumann, member of the Management Board of Volkswagen AG and head of the North America Region stated, “True stars and their fans know when it’s time to quit.”

The Sedan has been Mexico’s unofficial taxi cab for years with thousands of them filling the streets, looking to pickup passengers. The Vocho, as it is affectionately known in Mexico, has also been a delivery van, a police car and a family sedan. Last year the government of Mexico decided that for passenger safety all future taxis were required to have four doors, and of course the Sedan had only two. Could this have helped contribute to the drop in sales, or were other automobile manufacturers producing faster, more efficient cars, nudging the Beetle out of the market?

To commemorate the end of an era, Volkswagen decided to produce a Sedan called the “Ultima Edicion” or “Last Edition.” Production of this special edition was limited to only 3000 units and sold only in Mexico. According to Oscar Octavio Osorio Cortes in New Media Marketing at VW de Mexico, to export the Sedan, the assembly line would have to be extensively modified. Additional planning and development would be needed to produce a car that would meet the vehicle standards of foreign countries. Due to high costs this would not be possible. The Ultima Edicion draws elements from past and present models; this retro-styled Sedan really has a classic look. It is basically a standard Beetle, using the traditional torsion bar suspension, upright spare tire and flat windshield, with an updated engine and electronics. This vehicle lends itself well to the Wolfsburg emblems, chrome bumpers, mirrors and moldings that are all part of this classic–look Volkswagen, and with a price of $84,000 Mexican pesos (approximately $8000 U.S. dollars) this special edition sold out quickly.

Only two colors have been chosen for the Ultima Edicion, Aquarius Blue and Harvest Moon Beige. Both colors have a vintage feel to them and come with black or gray interiors respectively. VW put a lot of time and effort into combining the best of old and new technologies by installing, in the traditional flat dashboard, an am/fm/cd player. The sound system features four speakers, with two installed in the front door panels and two in the rear shelf over the cargo area. According to the VWoM Web site, never before has such an elaborate audio system been installed in a Sedan. Extra sound dampening material has been added to improve the sound quality and lessen road and engine noise. The dashboard is painted to match the exterior of the car and the driver’s door panel has the well-known VW map pocket.

Other high tech features include a 1600cc engine with electronic fuel injection, front disc brakes, halogen headlights and a factory installed security system with immobilizer. But it’s the exterior where the retro-style of the Ultima Edicion is most evident. Mounted on 15-inch steel wheels painted to match the exterior body color are wide whitewall tires. These nostalgic items combined with classic VW chrome hubcaps take you back to the past. VW hopes that the retro-look of the Sedan will allow people to reminisce and relive fond memories of one of the most beloved cars in the world.

To coincide with the release of the Ultima Edicion, VWoM has launched a new micro-site on the Internet ( that follows the Beetle’s history from 1934 to 1978. This world-class site has many unique features incorporated into it. You can follow a Sedan along the assembly line, download a picture for your desktop or play with the interactive homepage. The website will be translated into German and English and is Volkswagens’ way of reaching out to all air-cooled enthusiasts around the world.

The fateful day finally came on July 30, 2003, when the 21,529,464th Beetle rolled off the production line. This Harvest Moon Beige Sedan was shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to its new home at the Automuseum in Wolfsburg. The workforce of 300 workers from the assembly line that produced the Sedan were on hand to bid it a fond farewell by draping it in flowers while mariachi music played in the background. Along with the Volkswagen dignitaries on hand at the ceremony was 60-year-old Armando Pasillas. He is a factory worker who has been helping to assemble Beetle Sedans since 1967. The Ultima Edicion will be the crowning achievement of his long career with Volkswagen.

In a short speech, Reinhardt Jung, Chairman of the Volkswagen de Mexico Board of Management, thanked the Mexican staff, “who had not only worked in the production of a car, but also in the creation of a legend. A legend that would endure in the hearts and minds of all people for whom the Beetle had been a companion on their journeys.”

With the curtain finally coming down on close to 70 years of Beetle production, this record is not likely to be surpassed by any other vehicle in the near future. And even though the most recognizable car in the world is driving off into the Mexican sunset it will always have a place in the hearts of VW lovers everywhere.

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One Comment

  1. Bryanna

    Gosh, after reading this article I want one!!!

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