January 1949 marked a turning point in automotive history as the Volkswagen Beetle officially arrived in this country. Shipped to the port of New York by the automaker's first importer, Dutch businessman Ben Pon Sr., the venerable Type 1 began its American tale at a decidedly measured pace: Only two were sold here that entire year. By the mid-1950s, total sales of the iconic Beetle had risen beyond 35,000, a figure that climbed to nearly 300,000 by 1960 by which time they'd become a fairly common sight in many parts of the country. With the last of the air-cooled/rear-engine/rear-drive Type 1 Beetles rolling off of the assembly line in Germany in 1977, the car went on hiatus here - although it still remained in production in Mexico until 2003 - its entry position in the U.S. lineup being taken over by the more modern Rabbit/Golf.
The legendary VW model name and a more contemporary take on the car's signature shape were resurrected in 1998 with the introduction of the dramatically reengineered water-cooled/front-engine/front-drive New Beetle. In 2011, this seminal People's Car got its third remake, losing "New" from its appellation but gaining an added measure of style and sophistication while still retaining its fundamental "Beetleness." Presently offered in Coupe and Convertible body styles and available with gasoline and turbocharged gas and diesel engines, the Volkswagen Beetle sold over 43,000 units here last year.
"Since its arrival in the United States 65 years ago, the Volkswagen Beetle has preserved its reputation of being more than just a car, but a symbol of uniqueness and freedom," said Michael Horn, President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America. "The Beetle has become part of the cultural fabric in America and we are proud that its rich heritage continues to live with fans around the States."
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