The Bug’s Life: What Makes the Volkswagen Beetle Such an Automotive Icon?

January 29, 2018

It possesses one of, if not the most recognizable shapes in the automotive industry. A profile that has withstood the test of time. And people just can’t seem to get enough of it.

We are, of course, talking about the Volkswagen Beetle. What started out as a project commissioned by Adolf Hittler to build a motor car for the masses during pre-World War II Germany has become one of the most loved automotive icons of he 20th century.

As history would tell us, many others tried to bid for the said project. Yet only Ferdinand Porsche succeeded in designing a simple, no-frills motorized conveyance that could ferry people from point A to point B using as little fuel as possible. Moreover, the design was so simple that it was easy to maintain and cheap to run. Thus was born the Type I, more popularly known as the Volkswagen (People’s Car in German) Beetle.

And these traits are arguably what made the car such a hit the world over. Since it first rolled off the German VW plant in 1938, the Beetle managed to sell 1 million copies as of 1955, later ballooning to 21 million examples. This made it the most sought-after motor car in history. What’s more, the profile and mechanicals remained virtually unchanged until the last Classic Beetle rolled off the Pueblo, Mexico factory in 2003.

So what exactly made the Beetle so well loved? Some would say that it was the shape. The cute, round profile somehow managed to transcend race, age, and social standing. Rich and poor, old and young, hippie or conservative simply loved how it looked. Moreover, it was the perfect platform for customization. People would dress it up as a sporty racer, a symbol of Flower Power, or simply as a no-nonsense everyday car. Either way, it still had its appeal.

Then there were the simple mechanicals. The range of air-cooled flat engines may have only generated as much power as a sewing machine, yet people didn’t really care. It was cheap to run and sipped gas so efficiently that gas stations were a rare sight for Beetle owners. And having no radiator meant no boiling over during summer or freezing during winter.

And despite its smallish exterior dimensions, the bubble roof made the cabin quite spacious. This made it ideal for families and large groups of friends.

Yet maybe it wasn’t just one simple trait but rather, a combination of all these virtues that made the Volkswagen Beetle such an icon. An icon that will undoubtedly live on for generations to come.

About the Author

Mr. Gerard Jude Castillo
Gerard has been a self-confessed car nut ever since he was a little boy. As a grown-up, he indulges in his passion by collecting toy cars (which he started since childhood) and reading up on the latest cars out there.  As Associate Editor, he will ensure that you get your fill of the latest cars in the market, as well as a load of automotive features.