Last of the Beetles

2003-08-01 09:54

Mexico City - To the accompaniment of a mariachi band and workers' applause, the last Volkswagen-licensed Beetle car to be built in Mexico rolled off the assembly line on Wednesday, marking the end of a 39-year tradition.

Mexico's final Beetle, painted aquarium blue, rolled off the production line at the Puebla Plant, some 110 kilometres east of Mexico City, at 09:06 local time on Wednesday, putting the brakes on a process that first started rolling in 1964.

A traditional Mexican band played several tunes, including a fond farewell song, while Reinhard Jung, president of the Volkswagen Council of Mexico, placed a commemorative plaque on the car.

The Puebla Beetle represents the 21,529,464th such Beetle to be built worldwide. It will be shipped to Wolfsburg, Germany, where it will take pride of place in a car museum housed in Volkswagen's headquarters.

The first Beetles were produced in Germany in 1935, but since 1996, Mexico has been the only country still producing the bug-shaped car which is known affectionately in Mexico, and around the world, by its "Beetle" nickname.

Jung paid tribute to the Mexican workers who "not only participated in the production of the car, but also the creation of a legend, a legend that will remain in the hearts and minds of all those that had the Beetle as a friend."

The final 46-horsepower Puebla Beetle is fitted with a 1.6-litre gasoline engine, chrome bumpers and a "Final Edition" badge on its glove compartment. A Wolfsburg badge has also been placed on the front of the car.

Beetles retail across Mexico for some 84,000 pesos ($8 100).

The car was produced in more than 20 countries around the world.

Production ceased in Germany in 1978, after 16.2 million models had been built. Some 1.7 million Beetles have rolled off Mexican production lines during the 39 years in which the car was constructed in the country.