January 2014 marks 65 years since Volkswagen’s iconic Beetle first appeared in America, putting both the recognizable car and Volkswagen as an automaker on the map. A Dutch race car driver named Ben Pon Sr. became the world’s first VW importer when he brought two Beetles with him to New York from Germany in 1945. It was the VW Type 1 Beetle, a car that previously had been called “too ugly and noisy” by the British and was nicknamed “Hitler’s Car.” Pon, in response, called the Beetle a “Victory Wagon.” He sold his first Beetle in New York for $800. But by the end of the following year, 157 Beetles had been sold in America. By the mid 1950s, Volkswagen officially set up a shop in New Jersey and sold 35,000 Beetles.
The Beetle gained massive popularity in the 1960s, as it became a symbol for many counter-culture, protest-ready young Americans. Plus it was small, practical, and inexpensive. More Beetles were sold in the 60s than any other decade – 400,000 on average each year. (That’s ten times more than the current Beetle model, which sold around 40,000 last year.) The Type 1 Beetle was sold in America until 1977, when Germany ceased production and stopped US imports. From 1949 to 1977, more than 21 million Beetles had been sold. The car continued production in Mexico for the next twenty years, until Volkswagen released the “New Beetle” in America in 1998. The Beetle entered its third generation in 2011, with turbocharged gasoline, diesel engines, improved safety, and still, more recognizable than ever. Now, Volkswagen is the second largest auto empire in the world.
“Since its arrival 65 years ago, the Beetle has preserved its reputation of being more than just a car but a symbol of uniqueness and freedom,” said Michael Horn, CEO of Volkswagen. “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.”
Happy birthday VW Beetle! Volkswagen’s iconic economy car marks 65 years of sales in the U.S. market http://t.co/2w5FzmjO5v
— VW Dispatch (@vwdispatch) January 31, 2014
Volkswagen is also premiering a new Superbowl ad this Sunday, which you can check out here:
Image via Wikimedia Commons