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Jun 22

Volkswagen Day

Volkswagen Orange Trim
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1974 Beetle
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"Think Small" ~ 1959, Doyle Dane Bernbach Advertising

Conceived as a populist vehicle to enable mass transport on the German Autobahns, the Volkswagen Beetle evolved through three generations and more than 80 years to become an automotive icon. Neither fast nor stylish, it nevertheless became a hippie totem in the 1960s and 1970s. Beetles were cheap, reliable, counterculture alternatives to the massive V-8-powered Detroit sedans their parents drove. Further popularized by the 1969 Disney’s “Herbie The Love Bug” movie and clever and ironic advertising by Doyle Dane Bernbach (“Ugly is Only Skin-Deep” and "Lemon") resonated with the hip populace. The iconic Beetle model will be discontinued after 2019. Did you drive a Beetle?

Today marks the founding of the German car manufacturer, Volkswagen, in 1937.

 

Volkswagen is German for "people's car," and was established by the German Labour Front  to build a car that was speedy and affordable. The company was decimated during World War II, but re-established by the Allies seeking to rebuild Germany. 

Volkswagen models were imported into New York City in 1949 and marketed as VW "Victory Wagons."  

Though with a slow sales start of just 2 the first year, by 1955, over 1 million had been sold.

Sales continued to soar throughout the 1960s, peaking at the end of the decade, thanks in part to the famous advertising campaigns by New York advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach.

 

Led by art director Helmut Krone, and copywriters Julian Koenig and Bob Levinson, Volkswagen advertisements became as popular as the car, using crisp layouts and witty copy to lure the younger, sophisticated consumers.

 

Even though it was almost universally known as the Beetle (or the Bug), it was never officially labelled as such by the manufacturer, instead referred to as the Type 1.

The original color palette for the 1960s standard Beetle included Black, Pastel Blue, Ruby Red, Beryl Green, Turquoise, Pearl White, and Gulf Blue. 

Oranges and Yellows were introduced as the fashion for bright and counter-culture colour choices for the period, with hipster names and eye-searing shades including: Oriole, Yukon Yellow, Shantung Yellow Lemon Yellow, Texas Yellow,  Saturn Yellow, Brilliant Orange, Blood Orange, and Amber Orange!  

The orange tartan/plaid was a popular upholstery in the 1974-1979 models, particularly the Campmobile VW Bus.

For more on the most famous advertising campaign of the 20th century, the innovative "Think Small" campaign, click the 1974 orange beetle.