This past September, Volkswagen announced after nearly 80 years of production they would be retiring historic car model, the Beetle. One might wonder what will happen to the German manufacturer now that their original car, the one that put the company on the map and rode a wave of success for several decades, is retiring.
Consider VW’s history for a moment. In 1937, Volkswagenwerk, or “The People’s Car Company” was introduced under the National Socialist (Nazi) Party in German, to provide cars for the masses. The car – what we know as the Beetle – would become quite popular and withstand the rise and fall of the Nazi party. As a part of helping revitalize the German nation, VW continued to manufacture its cars and the beloved Beetle and would eventually make its way to the United States, becoming the top-selling auto import beginning in 1959
Despite being an icon of the 1960s, it fell out of popularity until most sales stopped in 1979. After a nearly twenty-year hiatus, the model returned with a major redesign and survived until 2011, when an even newer New Beetle, the A5, was released.
The rise and fall of products, markets, and industries are inevitable – any long-running business will experience shifts caused by each of these factors. Business cycles change, and in the case of VW, they have proactively faced the rise and fall, focusing on the present while preparing for the future, a future where the current auto industry is gearing toward another IE—a technological one, unlike anything we have seen before.
Instead of bracing for, and reacting to, change, we should accept it as inevitable and approach it proactively. In our family business, we expect our business cycles to end eventually, which is why it is a smart idea to create an investment fund that encourages a generation of new ideas and promotes better communication.
In embracing the flexibility, entrepreneurial nature, and global citizenship of our past, we have been able to move from one place to another, from one business to another, conducting our present business as we also plan for the future—a new kind of future that we may have yet to envision.
And keep in mind, there’s nothing to say changes need to be permanent. In fact, VW of America’s CEO, Hinrich Woebcken hinted that, despite the end of the Beetle’s production in 2019, the car could make another comeback someday. “As we have seen with the I.D. Buzz—which is the modern and practical interpretation of the legendary Bus—I would also say, ‘Never say never,’” he said.