It was the antithesis of the land yachts being churned out in Detroit, and Baby Boomers loved it. In 1968, a Beetle with a mind of its own, Herbie, starred opposite Dean Jones in the hit Disney movie "The Love Bug."
But sales slowed as VW faced tough competition in the small-car segment from Japanese and U.S. automakers and money problems back in Germany. U.S. sales of the original Beetle peaked at 200,000 in 1962. VW stopped selling the car in the U.S. in 1979.
In 1998, the company introduced the New Beetle, an overhaul of the original that became a huge hit. Buyers swooned over its cute, rounded styling and the vase next to the steering wheel that held a Volkswagen-issued plush flower. That was a nod to the original Beetle, which offered an optional vase.
Larry Erickson, who led a lauded redesign of the Ford Mustang six years ago along with New Beetle designer J Mays, says people are unusually attached to the original Beetle and New Beetle because of their friendly shapes and the confident but unaggressive way they sit on the road.
It will be difficult for VW designers to capture that emotion and still make the car look current, he says, especially because it hasn't been that long since the 1998 redesign.