There’s a saying in the fine spirits community; “All cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is cognac.” Similarly, but in a converse fashion; all Volkswagen Beetles are Porsches, but not all Porsches are Volkswagen Beetles. This is because Ferdinand Porsche, the man for whom one of the greatest sports car companies on earth is named, was also the father of the original Volkswagen Beetle.
Yes, there are rumors the Beetle was Adolf Hitler’s idea. And it’s true, Hitler absolutely announced a desire for a car with attributes like the Beetle; a simple, affordable design—one attainable by the vast majority of the German population—a “people’s car”. Thing is, Ferdinand Porsche had already created that exact sort of car and it just happened to fit within Hitler’s vision. So yes, Hitler had something to do with the emergence of the Volkswagen Beetle, but he did not invent it.
Hitler association aside, there’s no denying it was a darn good idea.
That basic original Beetle configuration was in production from 1939 to 2003, easily making it the longest running automotive design ever. However, while the air-cooled, rear-engined original Beetle remained in production in Mexico until 2003, by 1994, the car has ceased to be sold everywhere else in the world. However, that year, a creation of VW’s Simi Valley, California design studio called Concept 1 was shown at the Detroit Auto Show. With a shape clearly derived from the original Beetle and thus playing heavily on the vast reserves of nostalgia surrounding the iconic little car, the Volkswagen Concept 1 was an immediate sensation.
The decision was made to build and market a version of the vehicle.
So, in 1998, a different kind of Beetle began to emerge from the Puebla Mexico plant— even while the original Beetle was still in its last five years of production there. The result, known as the Volkswagen New Beetle, entered the marketplace to an enthusiastic reception, and sold, just like its predecessor, largely unchanged from 1998 until 2010. That year, it was officially discontinued in favor of its replacement, the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle. As a result, Volkswagen did not produce a 2011 New Beetle.
As we stated earlier, Volkswagen made no truly significant changes to the New Beetle during its 13-year production run. Thus, there is really but one generation of the Concept 1–based Volkswagen New Beetle. Yes, incremental improvements were made to the car over its life cycle. And yes, as emerging technological advancements became affordable for a car in the New Beetle’s class they were added to the car. But overall, if you’re looking to buy a pre-owned New Beetle and you’re wondering if any one particular year is better than another, our best advice is to buy the newest one you can comfortably afford.
They’re all pretty much alike.