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There are few iconic cars out there that Americans identify with. The Ford Mustang, and the Corvette, sure; but they are American made so it's to be expected. The German made Volkswagen Beetle is definitely a standout though, having an important place in both history and nostalgia for car lovers in the U.S. The Beetle is considered the fourth most important car in automotive history.
Sixty five years after it's arrival, Volkswagen is celebrating with a classic photo set. To mark the occasion, Volkswagen is issuing a gallery of photographic images featuring a 1949 Type 1 next to a 2014 Beetle.
The Volkswagen Beetle arrived in the U.S. four years after operations resumed in Wolfsburg, Germany after the second world war. Originally called the Type 1 Beetle, the British occupying forces used the cars as light transport, but the cars were not taken seriously. The British actually tried to give the company away for free to Ford, unsuccessfully. Ford's chairman at the time famously said: "I don't think what we're being offered here is worth a damn!" I imagine that Ford lived to regret that decision, now that Volkswagen has become the second largest automaker in the world.
Recently appointed president and CEO of Volkswagen in America says: "Since its arrival in the United States 65 years ago, the Volkswagen Beetle has preserved its reputation of being more than just a car but a symbol of uniqueness and freedom. The Beetle has become part of the cultural fabric in America, and we are proud that its rich heritage continues to live with fans around the States."
Just like most immigrants of that time, the Volkswagen Beetle made it's way to America via New York City. In 1950, Max Hoffman, became the first official Volkswagen dealer in America, selling 157 Beetles that year, after a Dutch businessman made a failed attempt the previous year, selling only two cars in 1949. A Volkswagen base of operations was established in New Jersey in 1955. The company seemed to understand the need for cheap transportation after the war and by 1960 had sold 300,000 units in the U.S.
In 1968 alone, during the Flower Power era, 423,008 Beetles were sold in the United States. To put that astonishing number into perspective, the company's U.S. operations only sold 407,000 across their entire line-up last year. While that number has shrunk by about 90 percent, but the Beetle is still one of Volkswagen's most popular vehicles.
The Type 1 Volkswagen Beetle was sold in the U.S. until 1977. Production had stopped in Wolfsburg, although it continued in Mexico until 2003 for that market. A "New Beetle" was brought back in 1998 and in 2011 entered it's third generation.
By Linda Aylesworth - autoExpert.ca