The last Beetle

I can understand why one may think so, but that headline has nothing to do with whether Ringo Starr will outlive Paul McCartney, or vice versa. Besides, that would be spelled Beatle.
No, this has to do with the VW Beetle. The bug.
The last VW Beetle that will ever be manufactured rolls off the production line at a factory in Mexico today. After some 70 years, not another will be made.
I find that sad. I’ve owned several cars and am currently on my third Lexus, which I love, but I always say the greatest car I ever owned was a 1969 VW Bug. It was red. With a sunroof. And two years old when I bought it for 900 bucks. It was only about $1900 when new.
It was a perfect car for the times, when, even if you had money, which I did not, flaunting it was not cool. It was a time of long hair, and protest songs, and power to the people. If you have any food, please share it, they announced from the stage at Woodstock. We were supposed to be one. A family of man. And the “People’s Car,” to which Volkswagen translates, said everything we wanted to say.
It was inexpensive to own, inexpensive to run, and screamed, if such a tiny vehicle is capable of screaming, of humility. The person driving a Bug was not about to stoop to being defined by a car. The Bug said everything a Cadillac didn’t. And that’s the way we wanted it.
I bring up the VW Bug in all of my advertising classes partly because the ad campaign “Think Small,” created by the Doyle Dane Bernbach ad agency was ranked by “Ad Age” the greatest advertising campaign of the 20th Century, but more because of the car’s and the campaign’s back story.
Trying to sell the Beetle to Americans was indeed a challenge. Not only was it the antithesis of the American dream car with flashy tailfins, but it was built in Germany and had a German name, and World War II was still fresh in everyone’s mind. And to top it off, although the car was designed by Ferdinand Porsche, it was first conceived by Adolph Hitler.
Who would dare to attempt to sell “Hitler’s car” in America?
Bill Bernbach dared.
And Bill Bernbach not only had served in the U.S. Army in World War II, Bill Bernbach was a Jew.
The ad campaign he and his cohorts put together was a masterpiece. And the history of the VW Bug speaks for itself.
With its rear-engine technology, my Bug was the only car able to negotiate the snow-covered roads of Northeastern Pennsylvania in the early ‘70s. So not only was I driving the car that defined my generation, in winter, I was driving the only car on the road.
My friends always wanted to ride with me. The lack of a decent heater typically overcome by generous amounts of alcohol. Which I suppose points to another desirable quality of the VW Bug. It didn’t go fast.

Ed Ackerman