Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Bye Beetle

Beetles or Bugs are everywhere in Mexico. No, not only the insects but also the cars. The ‘Vocho’ as it is called here comes in all imaginable colors and often decorated with Mexican flags, huge sombreros mounted on the roof, or anything symbolizing the country. Painted in yellow or green-and-white, it is also the most common taxi, contributing to city congestion.

With congestion also comes pollution, and that is exactly why the Beetles have also become a plague. Soon, the beloved car will be a less common sight. Mexico City no longer allows new licenses to use the model for taxis, as it simply does not meet modern emission standards — and by 2012 no legal taxi will be a Vocho, as a new law will set the age-limit of taxis to 10 years.

No country produced the legendary Volkswagen model longer than Mexico. In 2003 the world’s last Vocho left the factory in Puebla. It was number 1,691,542 produced here, out of more than 21 million worldwide, making it the most-produced car ever. A mariachi band played as the last Vocho rolled off to be shipped to the Volkswagen headquarters in the German town of Wolfsburg. The car was part of the special ‘Última Edición’ of 3000 cars that had whitewall tires, chrome trim and were available in two different special colors. The Última Edición ended forty years of Beetle production in Puebla.

Mexicans love their Vocho — which they also call Pulguita (‘little flea’) or simply Sedán — because it is cheap and easy to repair. Even though lots of cheap alternatives especially from East Asia have flooded the market in recent years, a small dedicated team still produces a few Vocho engines in a corner of the Volkswagen factory in Puebla. Though German in its origins, the beloved car has become an inseparable part of Mexico’s and the Mexicans’ soul.

As it said on a Mexican advert announcing the goodbye to the Vocho: ‘It is incredible that such a small car can leave such a large void’.

Text & photos © Bjørn Clasen

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