The last Volkswagen Beetle sedan, Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler's legacy that helped West Germans beef up their postwar economy, rolled off an assembly plant here today.
Since Daimler Benz made the first 30 Beetles, which were designed by Ferdinand Porsche, 40 years ago, Volkswagen built 19.2 million of them, surpassing the production record of 15.007 million set by Henry Ford's Model T in the late 1920s.
From now on, buyers who prefer the Beetle to newer and sleeker Volkswagen models will have to import them from Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and Nigeria, where they will continue to be built.
Two weeks ago the first such imports from Mexico arrived at the same Emden pier from which thousands of German-made Beetles left for dealerships in the United States.
West Germany assembly lines are still making a limited number of Beetle convertibles in nearby Osnabrueck. Besides Rolls-Royce's expensive Corniche, they are the only four-seater convertibles in production.
In 1930, Porsche hired six people too begin work on his dream - an inexpensive auto that most German families could afford.
Porsche developed the unmistakeable outline of the Beetle on the basis of Chrysler's streamlined cars, which had impressed him on a visit to the United States in the early 1930s.
He unsuccessfully tried to mass produce his design in successive ventures with two German motorcycle companies. In January, 1934, he wrote Hitler to propose "construction of a German Volkswagen" (people car) with state support.
A friend from Daimler Benz arranged a meeting for him with Hitler. Both native Austrians, the men got on well together and the Fuhrer gave his full support and state financing to the scheme.
The car was finally made available to German consumers in 1949. The primary Wolfsburg plant produced them until July, 1974, when it switched over to Rabbits and other new models. A limited production of about 100 a day continued at the plant here until today.
Company officials started planning the changeover from the Beetle to the Rabbit when they became concerned about depending on a single model as the backbone of their fleet.