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The history of the Volkswagen Beetle dates back to the 1930s, when Germany’s National Socialist leadership set out to make a “people’s car” accessible to a wide range of people. Ferdinand Porsche, who is credited, wrongly, as the creator of the Beetle, played a major role in the development of the car. But the development of the Beetle goes back even further. Béla Barényi drew up detailed plans as early as 1925, but these were long disputed by the Porsche family, who considered Ferdinand Porsche to be the car’s designer. It was only after the 1953 court ruling that Barényi was able to assert his copyright and thus his claims.

The role of József Ganz in the development of the “Ancient Beetle” is controversial and not definitively clarified. His dream was also an affordable people’s car for the people. But he was not allowed to go as far as realising it because of his Jewish background – Hitler had him arrested and exiled. However, Porsche was free to use the Hungarian-born Ganz’s drawings as a basis for the creation of the Model 12, widely regarded as the Beetle’s predecessor – the question is how much of the total work was actually done by the German designer. The first Ganz prototype was built at the Ardie factory in Nuremberg in 1930.

Serial production of the car could not begin before the war, as the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg, founded in May 1938, was not yet ready. During the Second World War, the factory produced only military vehicles and other military equipment. Series production of the car, then called Volkswagen, could only begin in the summer of 1945. By the end of 1945, 1,785 cars had been produced, which were delivered to the occupying forces and the German postal service. From 1946, the VW was also available for private sale at a price of 5,000 marks.

Shortly afterwards, VW began exporting to the USA and many other countries around the world. Thanks to this and the “German economic miracle”, of which Volkswagen became a symbol, “bug production” in Wolfsburg and many other production and assembly plants around the world rose to previously unimaginable levels. In the USA, the most important VW market after Germany, the Beetle gained great popularity in the 1960s as a cheap, economical car in the US sense and as the embodiment of the ‘counter-culture’.

The story of Herbie also contributed greatly to the popularity of the Beetle. Herbie the Little Buggy is a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle who is sentient and thoughtful; he has starred in several Walt Disney films, starting with 1969’s The Adventures of the Little Buggy. Herbie often participates in car races and is a serious competitor to other drivers. In most of the films, he is seen with red, white and blue stripes, pearl white bodywork, number 53 and California licence plate OFP 857.

A major milestone in production was reached on 17 February 1972, when the Volkswagen Beetle overtook the Ford Model T in terms of units sold. In the early 1970s, sales declined as the Beetle faced increasing competition from significantly more modern small cars. In 1974, production of the successor model, the VW Golf, began in Wolfsburg and in 1978 production of the Beetle in Germany was completed. After that it was only produced in Mexico and Brazil. VW continued to offer the Beetle in Germany until 1985.

A total of 21 529 464 VW Beetles were produced, of which 15.8 million units (of which around 330 000 convertibles) were manufactured in Germany.

The last Beetle, chassis number 3VWS1A1B54M905162, was produced on 30 July 2003.

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