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It’s the end of the road for the VW Beetle

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    Potted sunflowers push out of the bonnet of an old Volkswagen Beetle surrounded by flowers in Athens’ central Syntagma Square. AP PHOTO/PETROS GIANNAKOURIS, FILE

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    FILE - In this April 21, 2017, file photo a collection of VW beetles car toys seen on Volkswagen Beetle displayed during the annual gathering of the “Beetle Club” in Yakum, central Israel. Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model in July 2019 at its plant in Puebla, Mexico, the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning eight decades since 1938. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

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    FILE - In this April 27, 1966 file photo, Volkswagen workers drive their Beetle cars from the parking lot on their way home at the end of a days work at the world’s largest single auto plant, the Volkswagen factory (seen in background) in Wolfsburg, Germany. Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model in July 2019 at its plant in Puebla, Mexico, the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning eight decades since 1938.(AP Photo, file)

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    FILE - In this May 26, 1938 file photo, German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler speaks at the opening ceremony of the Volkswagen car factory in Fallersleben, Lower Saxony, Germany. Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model in July 2019 at its plant in Puebla, Mexico, the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning eight decades since 1938. (AP Photo, File)

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    FILE - In this May 26, 1938 file photo, German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler speaks lays cornerstone to the Volkswagen car factory in Fallersleben, Lower Saxony, Germany. Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model in July 2019 at its plant in Puebla, Mexico, the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning eight decades since 1938. (AP Photo, File)

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    FILE - In this June 16, 1954 file photo, VW beetles are assembled in lines at the Volkwagen auto works plant, which manufactures nearly 900 automobiles each day, in Wolfsburg, West Germany. Thanks to Volkswagen, Wolfsburg boomed in West Germany’s postwar rebirth and today the town and the company are inseparable. Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model in July 2019 at its plant in Puebla, Mexico, the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning eight decades since 1938.(AP Photo/Albert Riethausen, File)

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    FILE - In this April 21, 2017, file photo two kids sit on Volkswagen Beetle roof as it displayed during the annual gathering of the “Beetle Club” in Yakum, central Israel. Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model in July 2019 at its plant in Puebla, Mexico, the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning eight decades since 1938. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)

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    FILE - In this May 11, 1968 file photo, Guards stand in front of a shop on a street in the Latin Quarter of Paris, following a student riot and general strike that rocked the city. Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model in July 2019 at its plant in Puebla, Mexico, the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning eight decades since 1938. (AP Photo, file)

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    FILE - In this Aug. 23, 1954 file photo, four female employees tend to a Volkswagen at a gas station in Deidesheim, near Kaiserslautern, Germany. Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model in July 2019 at its plant in Puebla, Mexico, the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning eight decades since 1938.(AP Photo/Albert Riethausen, File)

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    FILE - In this July 7, 1953 file photo, to celebrate the 500,000 produced Volkswagen Beetle after WW II the company has organized a beetle roulette, with 10 red and green beetles in the Volkswagen stadium in Wolfsburg, West Germany. Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model in July 2019 at its plant in Puebla, Mexico, the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning eight decades since 1938. (AP Photo/ Henry Brueggemann, File)

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    FILE - In this April 21, 2017, file photo Volkswagen Beetles are displayed during the annual gathering of the “Beetle club” in Yakum, central Israel. Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model in July 2019 at its plant in Puebla, Mexico, the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning eight decades since 1938. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)

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    FILE - In this Dec. 18, 1977 file photo, a Volkswagen Beetle is unloaded at Emden harbor, Germany, as the first shipment of 1600 Beetles made in Mexico arrives. Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model in July 2019 at its plant in Puebla, Mexico, the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning eight decades since 1938. (AP Photo/Heinz Ducklau, file)

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    FILE - In this March 12, 2012, file photo a Volkswagen New Beetle car is lifted inside a delivery tower after the company’s annual press conference in Wolfsburg, Germany. Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model in July 2019 at its plant in Puebla, Mexico, the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning eight decades since 1938. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

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    FILE - In this June 22, 2014, file photo a Filipino girl plays with a toy Volkswagen Beetle as she joins activities to celebrate World Volkswagen Day at Camp Aguinaldo in suburban Quezon city, north of Manila, Philippines. Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model in July 2019 at its plant in Puebla, Mexico, the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning eight decades since 1938. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila, File)

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    FILE - In this Nov. 17, 1999 file photo, a VW Maggiolino Cabriolet, the famous VW Beetle completely made of wood, is shown by Italian artist Livio De Marchi in Essen, Germany. Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model in July 2019 at its plant in Puebla, Mexico, the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning eight decades since 1938.(AP Photo/Karl-Heinz Kreifelts, file)

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    FILE - In this Dec. 8 2007 file photo, a model poses next to a 1968 Volkswagen Beetle covered in tiles made of a blend of 18 karat gold and glass at the annual Luxury Show in Bucharest, Romania. The car is functional and on sale for 60,000 euros, $88,000. However it is not street legal in Romania because of the nature of its paint. Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model in July 2019 at its plant in Puebla, Mexico, the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning eight decades since 1938.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, file)

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    FILE - In this July 21, 2003 file photo, Volkswagen employees work in the assembly plant of the Volkswagen sedan ‘last edition,’ at the VW plant in Puebla, 65 miles (105 kms) southeast of Mexico City where it will stop producing the cult classic bug on July 30th. Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model in July 2019 at its plant in Puebla, Mexico, the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning eight decades since 1938. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

Published July 12. 2019 12:22PM

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Volkswagen halted production of the last version of its Beetle this week at its plant in Puebla, Mexico. It’s the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning eight decades since 1938.

It has been: a part of Germany’s darkest hours as a never-realized Nazi prestige project. A symbol of Germany’s postwar economic renaissance and rising middle-class prosperity. An example of globalization, sold and recognized all over the world. An emblem of the 1960s counterculture in the United States. Above all, the car remains a landmark in design.

The car’s original design — a rounded silhouette with seating for four or five, nearly vertical windshield and the air-cooled engine in the rear — can be traced back to Austrian engineer Ferdinand Porsche, who was hired to fulfill Adolf Hitler’s project for a “people’s car” that would spread auto ownership the way the Ford Model T had in the U.S.

Aspects of the car bore similarities to the Tatra T97, made in Czechoslovakia in 1937, and to sketches by Hungarian engineer Bela Barenyi published in 1934. Mass production of what was called the KdF-Wagen, based on the acronym of the Nazi labor organization under whose auspices it was to be sold, was canceled due to World War II. Instead, the massive new plant in what was then countryside east of Hanover turned out military vehicles.

Relaunched as a civilian carmaker under supervision of the British occupation authorities, the Volkswagen factory was transferred in 1949 to the Germany government and the state of Lower Saxony, which still owns part of the company.

By 1955, the millionth Beetle — officially called the Type 1 — rolled off the assembly line in what was now the town of Wolfsburg.

The United States became Volkswagen’s most important foreign market, peaking at 563,522 cars in 1968, or 40% of production.

“Unlike in West Germany, where its low price, quality and durability stood for a new postwar normality, in the United States the Beetle’s characteristics lent it a profoundly unconventional air in a car culture dominated by size and showmanship,” wrote Bernhard Rieger in his 2013 history, “The People’s Car.”

Production at Wolfsburg ended in 1978. But the Beetle wasn’t dead yet. Production went on in Mexico from 1967 until 2003, longer than the car had been made in Germany.

The New Beetle — a completely retro version build on a modified Golf platform — resurrected some of the old Beetle’s cute, unconventional aura in 1998. In 2012, the Beetle’s design was made a bit sleeker.

The last of 5,961 Final Edition versions of the Beetle is headed for a museum after ceremonies in Puebla on Wednesday to mark the end of production.

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