5 Facts About the Volkswagen Beetle You Might Not Have Known

October 30th, 2023 by

Even for such an undersized vehicle, no one could have predicted the VW Beetle would become such an underdog story. Built for 65 years between 1938 and 2003, the original Beetle set the mark for the longest produced vehicle in auto history. That record still stands in 2023, as we mark the 20th anniversary of Volkswagen suspending production of the original Beetle.

The illustrious run of the Bug officially came to an end in 2003, after annual production numbers dipped to 30,000 units (down from their peak of 1.3 million in 1971). Although Volkswagen would attempt to recapture the magic with the New Beetle in 1997 (and a third iteration later on), nothing could stack up with the original Beetle’s remarkable run. Here are five additional facts you may not have known about the Beetle, as we celebrate Volkswagen’s little car that could 20 years later. 

It’s Known as Different Animals in Different Countries 

The Beetle’s official name is the Volkswagen Type 1, but here in the United States, the diminutive car has always been affectionately referred to as the Beetle. But different countries have their unique nickname for the Bug. In France it’s known as a “Coccinelle,” meaning ladybug. Bolivia calls it “Peta” (turtle), while Indonesia uses “Kodak” (frog).  

Thankfully, the Beetle moniker endures in other countries, though translated to their native tongues. In Italy, the Beetle is called the “Maggiolino.” And in Germany, birthplace of the VW Beetle, it’s known as the Käfer.  

The New York Times Popularized the Nickname 

When production began in 1938, there was no iconic Beetle nickname. The general public referred to the plucky vehicle as the “people’s car,” which is the official translation of “Volkswagen” from German. But in 1938, the New York Times referred to the car as the Beetle, and the name simply stuck.  

There’s no word on whether the Times held similar influence on John Lennon and Paul McCartney 22 years later. 

It Exploded in the U.S. Thanks to a Brilliant, Minimalist Ad Campaign 

In 1959, Volkswagen hired the advertising firm of Doyle Dane Bernbach and their pioneering creative director Bill Bernbach to run their U.S. advertising. The Beetle was an ideal match for Bernbach’s subtle, low-pressure method of advertising.  

Rather than follow the trend of loud, splashy ads at the time, the first VW ad arrived in the form of a black and white photo, with Beetle tucked away in the corner. The slogan was “Think Small.” Similar ads followed, each with a sly, self-deprecating sense of humor towards the car’s slight, unorthodox design. By thinking small, Bernbach and company enabled the Beetle to sell huge in America. 

Its Popularity is a Black and White Issue 

Part of the Beetle’s appeal was the kaleidoscopic range of vibrant colors the car was available in. However, as of 2018, white and black were by far the most popular Beetle colors. While blue took third place on the podium, green, red, and orange all sat lumped together in the middle of the popularity scale, while yellow ranked dead last.  

The Last Beetle Off the Assembly Line Can Still be Seen Today 

Though the last VS Beetle rolled off German production lines in 1974, it would continue being produced in Mexico for three additional decades. Then, on July 30th, 2003, Type 1 VW Beetle No. 21,529,464 – the final Beetle – was assembled in Puebla, Mexico (while being serenaded by a mariachi group). Today, that final Beetle can be seen at Volkswagen’s Auto Museum in Wolfsburg, Germany, where it remains on display. 

Our full inventory of new and pre-owned Volkswagens is also on display here at Volkswagen of Macon, Georgia’s number one stop for all things Volkswagen. If you’re interested in learning even more about Volkswagen, we’ve compiled research on an assortment of VWs 

And if your Volkswagen is experiencing any issues, don’t Bug out – our Service and Parts Centers are here to help keep you on the road this Fall.