The VW Beetle is perhaps one of the most iconic cars in the automotive industry with its bold curves, and unusual style it is visually striking. What is more, it has become synonymous with innovation and in many ways represents exactly what Volkswagen strives to be associated with: a strong, efficient, innovative and reliable family car. Therefore, in the last 80 years the car has become one of the most popular vehicles worldwide, from the US.
What makes a car iconic?
Design is a key factor in making a car iconic, and in the 20th century there weren’t many cars that looked like the Beetle. It was commonly accepted that smaller family cars would be slightly more boxy and share some DNA with rivals on the market and yet the Beetle went against this, it defied expectations and it defied what was expected of family car and this led to a startling increase in demand for the car globally. There were factories built in Canada, Brazil and Mexico and in the 1960s it became the biggest imported car in the US.
The 1960s in particular was a period of upheaval and rebellion against the status quo there was a growth in the idea of the ‘counter culture’ and the Beetle was arguably a reaction to this. It was a trend setter, in that it appeared to be against the trend. It had all the hallmarks of the underdog, yet simultaneously becoming the dominant figure in its field. This was a result of the low price and the longevity the car offered, it also had excellent fuel economy which appealed to a large section of society who wanted a car but also had to balance their chequebooks.
Arguably, the model’s enduring legacy was also helped by its ascension in popular culture and through the medium of entertainment. The Beetle was the chosen car for the 1960s Disney classic Herbie which brought it to a wide audience and in many respects, this was an early form of synergy; with the families heading to watch the film, being happily enthralled by the car on screen.
Moreover, the Beetle was also the chosen car for the Transformers series, another family focused TV show. Meanwhile the Beetle was also being showcased on the cover of perhaps the most iconic record of all time, the Beatles’ Abbey Road. By crossing over with a variety of famous and cultural important symbols the car become one in itself.
Interestingly, the car has been remodelled numerous times as a toy and in many cases, people would considered it to be an associate of the Woodstock and 1970s Peace movement. As such the car’s unique look and nature have seen it re-imagined as a piece of art. A representation of the period.
Arguably, the Beetle has become an iconic figure not only due to it’s remarkable and enduring legacy as a quality piece of manufacturing but also its inclusion popular culture particularly in the 1960s and 70s, as well as it’s appeal to families as a reliable and loving car, that is low on price but high on efficiency.