As Beetle ends, iconic original thrives

The Associated Press

A Volkswagen Beetle makes it to the top of a hill in a neighborhood of Mexico City on Tuesday.

The Associated Press MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Beetle is dead. Long live the Beetle.

The modern edition of the iconic Volkswagen model ceased production Wednesday, but people in Cuautepec on the outskirts of Mexico City still rely on the original no-frills version, praising it for its affordability, reparability and, most of all, its dexterity at handling the district’s steep streets.

High above the valley floor, where the notorious smog turns the surrounding hills into hazy silhouettes, the old-model compacts are popularly used as informal taxis for a place that lacks public transportation. The sputtering, bulbous, rear-engine cars popularly known as “vochos” are ever-present in Cuautepec, an obsession for some after production of the Type 1’s stopped in 2003 and the front-engine New Beetle failed to impress most locals.

“The new ones don’t get uphill, and the old ones can climb any incline without problem,” said taxi driver Adrian Martinez.

An exception is businessman David Alvarez, a resident of neighboring Mexico State who drives a 2008 New Beetle with a roll-down top. Though he has owned older Beetles and admits his newer version isn’t as ideal for hilly terrain, he likes the attention it draws.

“It’s an attractive car with a lot of personality,” Alvarez said. “It turns a lot of heads in the streets.”

For Mexico, the halt to Beetle production marks an end of an era. The VW factory in Puebla, southeast of the capital, had long been the only plant in the world still manufacturing classic Beetles and more recently became the only one left making modern ones.

At the plant Wednesday, the last of the 5,961 Final Edition versions of the Beetle — this one painted “stonewash blue,” according to the company — was rolled out under a confetti shower as a mariachi band sang the classic Mexican tune “Cielito Lindo.” It wasn’t for sale, destined instead for a museum.

Steffen Reiche, president of VW Mexico, said at the goodbye ceremony that while the Beetle won’t be manufactured anymore, it left its mark on the country.

“Its arrival conquered the hearts of the people with its special design and quality,” Reiche said. “Still today in the streets, we see the ‘vochos’ that keep this legacy alive.”Speech

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