On this day in 2003, the last Volkswagen Type 1, more commonly known as the Beetle, rolled off the assembly line in Mexico. The illustrious 65 year career of the car includes production of 21.5 million units, a pop cultural movement in the 50’s and 60’s, and an ad campaign that has been called the greatest of all time by the magazine Advertising Age. To commemorate the historical automobile, here are 9 of the snazziest advertisements, each with its own fact about the iconic car.
The original Volkswagen was commissioned by Adolf Hitler to designer Ferdinand Porsche, with Volkswagen being a literal translation of “People’s Car” in English. The car was designed to be simple to make, comfortable to drive, easy to repair, and inexpensive to buy, originally selling for 990 Reichsmark — around the price of a small motorcycle.
The original Beetle had much in common with a Czech made car known as the Tatra V570. In 1938, Tatra filed ten legal claims against Volskwagen for patent infringement. Ferdinand Porsche, designer of the Beetle, was about to pay a settlement to Tatra, when Hitler approached him and told him he would “solve his problem.” A few months later, the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia and the Tatra factory went under the ownership of the Nazis.
After the war, British Army Major Ivan Hirst took control of the VW factory which had been heavily shelled and originally captured by the Americans. His first order of business was to remove an unexploded bomb that had fallen through the roof and come to rest near pieces of irreplaceable production equipment. Had the bomb gone off, the Beetle would never have seen another unit produced.
This advertisement, depicting a Beetle with a missing headlight, and the word Lemon was so popular that it became part of American nomenclature, representing defective models of everything from cars, to electronics.
Although the car’s appearance changed nominally over its 65 year run, there were more than 78,000 smaller changes to various components of the Beetle.
Having reached 21 million units produced in the Year 2002, the VW Beetle is longest running and most manufactured car in the world.
With its doors closed, the Beetle is nearly airtight — if it were dropped into a lake, it would float for a few minutes before sinking.
The Beetle’s iconic advertising was originally created by the Manhatten advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach. Due to Volkswagen having a miniscule advertising budget when compared to its competition, the ads had a minimalist, black and white aesthetic, with unretouched photos of the cars. The results were highly praised, and likely gave rise to the car’s position as a cult automobile.
Although the car was unanimously popular in Europe, in America the Beetle was initially considered a disappointment due to its differences from U.S. cars. Henry Ford II once called the Beetle as “a little box” and declined to take ownership of the VW factory following the war, even though it was offered to him for free. When Ford asked his right hand man Ernest Breech about the the offer, Breech replied “What we’re being offered here, Mr. Ford, isn’t worth a damn!”