In its bid to rein in costs and increase profitability, Volkswagen is exploring several options including killing off the iconic Beetle nameplate.
Sales of the second generation of the new Bug, introduced in 2012, have been disappointing over the last few years, particularly after the international hype that surrounded the car’s launch in 1997.
Global Beetle sales last year were around 94,000 cars, or 22 per cent down on 2013.
In Australia, 2014 sales amounted to just 476 units, while in 2015, there have only been 58 sold, down 75 per cent year to date.
News of the Beetle’s demise comes despite Volkswagen indicating last year, that a production version of the Beetle Dune Concept was “practically a production vehicle”.
However, it wouldn’t be the first time the German manufacturer has axed a poor selling model in recent times. The Volkswagen EOS convertible was shelved after a seven-year production run that ended in 2014.
Volkswagen’s continuing rationalisation program comes eight months after CEO, Martin Winterkorn, announced cost-cutting plans worth 5 billion Euro, as the company strives to deliver on its promise of surpassing Toyota as the world’s largest automotive manufacturer.
Despite selling a record 10.1 million vehicles in 2014, the Volkswagen group is expected to lift volumes, revenue and profit in 2015, and has forecast an operating margin of between 6 and 7 per cent for its passenger car business alone (up from 2.5 per cent in 2014).
If Volkswagen does choose to remove the Beetle nameplate from its portfolio, it will undoubtedly mark the end of an icon that has been around since 1938.
It was, for many years, the company’s best-selling vehicle – and at one time, Volkswagen’s only product. However, its eventual demise began decades ago with the arrival of more sophisticated cars from Japan.