Having bid farewell to the VW Beetle a few years ago in Australia, Volkswagen has announced it is ending worldwide production of its iconic Beetle after seven decades on the market, with the last love bug to roll off the line from the company's factory in the state of Puebla, Mexico, in July 2019.
With such linage, will Beetle enthusiasts be granted a spiritual successor to electrify coming generations?
Will it re-emerge as an electric Love Bug?
Based on history, never say never.
The original VW Beetle, developed in the 1930s, made a journey from a product identified with Adolf Hitler to a symbol of Germany's rebirth as a democratic, industrial powerhouse after World War Two.
In the 1960s, the Beetle was a small-is-beautiful icon of the post-war baby boom generation.
With over 21,000,000 produced, the Beetle is the longest-running and most-manufactured car of a single platform ever made.
According to Volkswagen historians, in 1961 the Volkswagen Beetle was the second most popular car on Australian roads behind Holden and ahead of Ford.
The Beetle played the starring role of Herbie in the 1968 Disney film, "The Love Bug." The sentient race car sporting red, white and blue racing stripes from the front to the back bumper headlined several follow-up films and a television series.
Beetle buying in the US peaked the same year of the original Disney movie at about 423,000 units sold.
Volkswagen discontinued US sales of the "bug" in 1979, but continued production for Mexico and Latin America.
The car became a phenomenon again in the 1990s. With Volkswagen struggling to rekindle sales in the United States, then-Chief Executive Ferdinand Piech pushed to revive and modernise the distinctive Beetle design pioneered by his grandfather, Ferdinand Porsche. The result was a crescent-shaped car called the "New Beetle," launched in 1998, which offered playful touches such as a built-in flower vase.
But demand for the Beetle and other hatchbacks like the Golf has come under pressure as customer appetite has shifted toward SUVs.
Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess has been a driving force behind this slimming down since he started leading the main VW car brand in 2015.
Putting the Beetle out to pasture enables VW to produce more of the other models built in Puebla, including the Jetta sedan and Tiguan SUV.
But the car may not go away for good: Diess has pondered reviving the Beetle as a fully electric car to tap the model's popular culture cachet.
VW has touted the upcoming I.D. Neo hatchback being rolled out in 2020 as the potential new Beetle for the electric vehicle age.
"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," Hinrich Woebcken, CEO of Volkswagen's US sales unit, said in a statement.
The end of the Beetle comes at a turning point for Volkswagen. The German car maker's last three years have been rocked by the fallout from a scandal caused by its admitted cheating on diesel emissions tests.
Now, Volkswagen is gearing up to launch a wave of electric vehicles to appeal to a new generation of environmentally conscious consumers – children and grandchildren of the 1960s Beetle enthusiasts.
In a statement announcing the end of the Beetle, Hinrich Woebcken, head of Volkswagen of America, said that as the company ramps up its electrification strategy, there are no plans to replace the Beetle.
However, his statement did not rule that out some day.
While there are no immediate plans to replace the car with a next-generation version, he pointed to the VW I.D. Buzz -- a modern interpretation of the legendary VW Combi - to hint that the Beetle could one day make a comeback.
"Never say never," Woebcken said.
VW Beetle Fast Facts
Even with a star-studded cast that included Dean Jones, David Tomlinson, Buddy Hackett, and Michele Lee, there was no misconception with audiences as to who was the real star of Walt Disney’s The Love Bug. That title belonged solely to Number 53, a sassy white Volkswagen Beetle, complete with blue and red pinstripes and a whole lot of attitude in this 1969 classic.