Come 2018, the Volkswagen Beetle will be loaded onto a wooden ship and set off to the Undying Lands. That is, according the Autoline, whose Twitter feed reports that Volkswagen will kill off the Bug amid the market’s seemingly unstoppable shift toward crossovers and SUVs.
Almost exactly a year ago Volkswagen told us it had plans to renew to Beetle for a new generation on the MQB platform used by the Golf. VW even showed off a hybrid Beetle prototype at last year’s New York show, hinting at the possibility of a Beetle EV down the line that could share much of its hardware with the e-Golf.
Good bye Beetle. VW to axe its iconic car at end of 2018. Sales are slowing to a trickle and VW needs more CUVs. pic.twitter.com/Kur7dnAc7Z
— Autoline (@Autoline) April 14, 2016
Of course, that was all according to then-board member for research and development Heinz-Jakob Neusser. A lot’s changed in the last year, and Neusser was forced out following the Dieselgate scandal. Since then Volkswagen has had to spend a lot of money and seriously examine its priorities, and crossovers are definitely at the top of that list. Basically all VW has done lately is show crossover concept after crossover concept, and we’ve already seen the new Tiguan in Europe as well as spied prototypes of the upcoming three-row crossover.
With all that’s going on inside the company, which has made a conscious effort to appear more humble, you can imagine the cheeky Beetle might not be the best thing for Volkswagen right now.
The retro craze of the 2000s, the era that brought us the Mini Cooper, reborn Ford Mustang, and boxy Dodge Challenger, owes much of its success to a trend kicked off by none other than the 1998 Volkswagen Beetle. But like so many trends, the New Beetle peaked only to linger on while its sales withered year after year. Not even a more aggressive new generation of the Beetle in 2012 could salvage the model here in the U.S., historically its best market.
Sales of the “New” Volkswagen Beetle topped out in the U.S. its second year of sale in 1999, with 83,434 units sold when it made sense to everyone who just saw Austin Powers to have a flower vase in the dashboard. Those numbers effectively sunk in almost every year to follow, with just 6,468 units sold the year before the most recent refresh, and only 22,776 units sold in the U.S. last year.
Volkswagen won’t comment on future products, so we’ll have to see come 2018 whether the Beetle ends a rather respectable 20-year run, or if it has the muster to soldier on.