The Volkswagen Type 1 is an economy car produced by the German auto maker Volkswagen (VW) from 1938 until 1979. It used an air cooled rear engined rear wheel drive RR layout.
In the 1950s it was more comfortable and powerful than most European small cars, having been designed for sustained high speed on the Autobahn, and ultimately became the longest-running and most-produced automobile of a single design. It remained a top seller in the US, even as rear-wheel drive conventional subcompacts were refined, and eventually replaced by front-wheel drive models. Its success owed much to its extremely high build quality, and innovative and eye catching advertising. The Beetle car was the benchmark for both generations of American compact cars such as the Chevrolet Corvair, and subcompact cars such as the Chevrolet Vega and Ford Pinto. It was a German equivalent and counterpart to the Morris Minor, Renault 4CV, Citroen 2CV, Fiat 600, Saab 92, and Volvo PV444 immediate post war European economy cars. The 1959 Austin Mini that pioneered the use of the transverse front wheel drive FF layout, was the beginning of a switch to front wheel drive by European manufacturers in the 1960s and 1970s, Volkswagen were among the last to change with the Golf, after nearly going bankrupt. The Beetle was thirteen feet long and the Mini was only ten feet, but they had similar interior space.
The car was originally known as Käfer, the German word for "beetle," from which the popular English nickname originates. It was not until August 1967 that the Volkswagen corporation itself began using the name Beetle in marketing materials in the US. In Britain, VW never used the name Beetle officially. It had only been known as either the "Type I" or as the 1100, 1200, 1300, 1500, or 1600 which had been the names under which the vehicle was marketed in Europe; the numbers denoted the vehicle's approximate engine size in cubic centimetres. In 1998, many years after the original model had been dropped from the lineup in most of the world (production continued in Mexico until 2003), VW introduced the "New Beetle" (built on a Volkswagen Golf Mk4 platform) which bore a cosmetic resemblance to the original.
In an international poll for the award of the world's most influential car of the twentieth century the Beetle came fourth after the Ford Model T, the Mini, and the Citroën DS.
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