Volkswagen is halting production of the last version of its Beetle model on Wednesday at its plant in Puebla, Mexico. It's the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolized many things over a history spanning the eight decades since 1938.

It has been: a part of Germany's darkest hours as a never-realized Nazi prestige project. A symbol of Germany's postwar economic renaissance and rising middle-class prosperity. An example of globalization, sold and recognized all over the world. An emblem of the 1960s counterculture in the United States. Above all, the car remains a landmark in design, as recognizable as the Coca-Cola bottle.

The car's original design — a rounded silhouette with seating for four or five, nearly vertical windshield and the air-cooled engine in the rear — can be traced back to Austrian engineer Ferdinand Porsche, who was hired to fulfill German dictator Adolf Hitler's project for a "people's car" that would spread auto ownership the way the Ford Model T had in the U.S.

Mass production of what was called the KdF-Wagen was cancelled due to World War II, but took off after the war. By 1955, the one millionth Beetle had rolled off the assembly line.

The United States became Volkswagen's most important single foreign market, peaking at 563,522 cars in 1968, or 40% of production.

The New Beetle — a completely new retro version build on a modified Golf platform — resurrected some of the old Beetle's cute, unconventional aura in 1998. In 2012, the Beetle's design was made a bit sleeker. The last of 5,961 Final Edition versions is headed for a museum after ceremonies in Puebla on Wednesday to mark the end of production.

The end of the Beetle comes at a turning point for Volkswagen as it rebounds from a scandal over cars rigged to cheat on diesel emissions tests. The company is gearing up for mass production of battery-driven electric compact ID.3, a car that the company predicts will have an impact like that of the Beetle and the Golf by brining electric mobility to a mass market.

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