19 January 1978: production of the VW Beetle ends in Germany

The VW Beetle is one of the most popular cars in history – over 22 million were sold worldwide.

It was designed by Ferdinand Porsche before the second world war in response to Hitler’s demand for a people’s car for Germany. By the 1960s, it was in huge demand. But the 1970s brought with them new, modern, compact cars, with more space, greater comfort, better performance, and a more conventional layout. The Beetle’s popularity began to wane, and sales began to slide. It was obvious that the obsolete model with its rear-mounted air-cooled engine had to be replaced.

VW’s over-reliance on the one model left it facing financial difficulties. In 1974, the company recorded a loss. And so, with a bailout from the German state to tide it over its period of financial embarrassment, the company launched new generation of models, including the Passat, Scirocco, Polo, and the Golf.

It was the birth of the Golf that put an end to the Beetle’s production at VW’s Wolfsburg plant in 1974. And on this day in 1978, production in Germany ceased entirely when the last German-made Beetle trundled out of VW’s factory in Emden.

However, the retro car continued its life in the emerging markets for another 25 years, with production continuing in Latin America – until 30 July 2003, when the very last Beetle to be assembled came off the production line in Mexico.

Also on this day

19 January 1986: first PC virus infection

On this day in 1986, the first IBM personal computer was infected with the ‘Brain’ virus, spread on floppy disks. Read more here.