The Volkswagen Beetle’s compact, yet stylish, design has been turning heads since it made its debut more than 80 years ago. This famous German automobile has a reputation and history that are larger than life. Keep reading to learn some of the biggest facts about this tiny car.
- Starting troubles slowed the Beetle
Volkswagen debuted the Beetle in Europe in 1938. The company was only able to produce 700 vehicles before World War II brought production to a halt. After peace was declared, the German factory was scheduled to be turned over to the British. Automobile manufactures in Britain thought the car was impractical and poorly designed, so they let Germany keep the factory and the designs for the Beetle. The Germans needed time to recover from the war, and it took them until 1947 to get the first mass-produced Volkswagen Beetles ready to hit the market.
- A car of many names
Obviously, the Volkswagen Beetle is so well-known that people often refer to it just by its insect-inspired name. This petite vehicle also happens to have so many other nicknames from all over the globe that it would have a hard time fitting them all on its registration card. In the United States, many people affectionately call this beetle-shaped car a “Bug”. In Colombia, it’s known as “Pulga”, the Spanish word for flea. Peru, another Spanish-speaking country calls it a “Sapito”, or little toad. Sri Lankans refer to is as “Kæsbǣvā”, which means tortoise in Sinhala. Denmark may have more nicknames for the Volkswagen Beetle than any other single country does, referring to it as either “Boblen” (the bubble), “Asfaltboblen” (the asphalt bubble), “Gravid Rulleskøjte” (pregnant rollerskate), or “Hitlerslæden” (Hitler-sled), among several other Danish nicknames.
- About that last Danish nickname…
Remember how the Volkswagen Beetle entered production in the late 1930s? Well, Hitler had many visions for his ideal version of Germany. One of them was that German families would be able to afford a car that would meet all of their transportation needs. He also thought it would be a nice touch if the vehicle’s designer looked to nature and animals to find inspiration for streamlining the car in order to make it as efficient as possible. Hitler asked the founder of the Porsche car company, Ferdinand Porsche himself, to make his concept of the perfect family automobile a reality. It’s important to not give Hitler all of the credit for designing this one-of-a-kind vehicle. Porsche was able to use designs he’d already created to bring the Volkswagen Beetle to life.
- America was the car’s toughest critic
Possibly because of the vehicle’s association with Hitler, or maybe because of the common American belief that bigger is always better, the Volkswagen Beetle took some time to gain popularity in the United States. Beetles hit showroom floors across America in 1949, but had such a hard time connecting with the new customer base that only two vehicles sold during that first year. The vehicle slowly grew in sales each year, but the Volkswagen Beetle’s popularity didn’t really explode until the 1968 classic film, The Love Bug. Thanks in part to the success of the film and its sequels, there were over half a million Bugs on the road by 1970.
- Gone, but not forgotten
To the disappointment of many, Volkswagen stopped manufacturing the classic Beetle in the early 2000s and they ceased production of the remaining models of their iconic vehicle in 2019. The last classic Beetle rolled off of the assembly line on July 30, 2003, at a factory in Puebla, Mexico. Today, the denim-blue Bug can be seen by visiting the town’s Volkswagen museum, a fitting resting place for the car that found a home in every corner of the globe.