The Volkswagen Beetle—officially the Volkswagen Type 1, was manufactured from 1938 until 2003.
The need for a people's car (volkswagen in German), its concept and its functional objectives were formulated by the leader of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler, who wanted a cheap, simple car to be mass-produced for his country's new road network. Lead engineer Ferdinand Porsche and his team finalised the design in 1938.
Mass production of civilian VW cars did not start until post-war occupation. The Volkswagen factory was handed over by the Americans to British control in 1945; it was to be dismantled and shipped to Britain. However, no British car manufacturer was interested in the factory; an official report included the phrases "the vehicle does not meet the fundamental technical requirement of a motor-car… it is quite unattractive to the average buyer… To build the car commercially would be a completely uneconomic enterprise." The factory survived by producing cars for the British Army instead. The re-opening of the factory is largely accredited to British Army officer Major Ivan Hirst who was ordered to take control of the heavily bombed site.
Though extremely successful in the 1960s, experiencing its greatest sales growth in North America between 1960 and 1965, the Beetle became increasingly faced with stiff competition from more modern designs globally. By 2002, over 21 million Type 1s had been produced, but by 2003, annual production had dropped to 30,000 from a peak of 1.3 million in 1971. VW announced the end of production in June 2003, citing decreasing demand, and the final original Type 1 VW Beetle (No. 21,529,464) rolled off the production line at Puebla, Mexico, on 30 July 2003.
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