Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Shuttered Bug: Mexico Rolls out Its Last Classic Beetle ; the Last, Much-Loved 'Vocho' - a Mexican Workhorse and American Icon of the 1960s - Zips out of the Factory Tuesday

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Shuttered Bug: Mexico Rolls out Its Last Classic Beetle ; the Last, Much-Loved 'Vocho' - a Mexican Workhorse and American Icon of the 1960s - Zips out of the Factory Tuesday

Article excerpt

Wednesday, Mexicans will bid farewell to an icon when the last classic Volkswagen Beetle - the longest-running model in auto history - rolls out of its lone surviving plant here.

But while Americans nostalgically recall childhood games of "Punch Buggy," collectors anticipate windfalls, and aging hippies lament the death of still another symbol of innocence, Mexicans simply regret the loss of a good car - a friend that has served them well for 50 years. With Mexico City aiming to clean up its notoriously polluted air, and with Mexicans facing a plethora of inexpensive car-buying options that didn't exist just a few years ago, the world-famous Bug will finally be exterminated.

Though the Beetle has long since faded from other locales, it has never left Mexico. As worldwide sales declined in the late 1970s, Volkswagen confined Beetle production to Mexico and Brazil. Since 1996, only one Beetle production facility has remained, in Puebla. The reason was purely practical: They still sold well here.

"Mexicans know the Beetle," says Volkswagen spokesman Israel Victoria Diaz. "They know how to fix it. They know they can find parts almost anywhere. And they know they can depend on it when driving on the country's rough road conditions."

In Mexico, a passing Beetle does not evince quaintness, or evoke cries of, "Ah, how cute!" Here, the bug is king. And it is ubiquitous. Here, perhaps more than anywhere else, Adolf Hitler's vision of a "people's car" for every family has become a reality, selling new for a mere $7,400.

"I really don't make enough money to own a car," says construction worker Andres Duran Lopez of his well-used 1988 white Beetle. "My family owes a lot to this vocho," as the Beetle is known here. "It still works after 11 years of hard punishment we've given it."

It is also the workhorse for the Mexican taxi industry. In Mexico City especially, there is virtually no major street at any time of day that isn't full of the little green couriers.

Taxi owners typically rip out the front passenger seat of their Beetles to allow easier access to the back seat, and attach catalytic converters to help them pass the city's strict smog tests. …

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