Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Where have they gone? Volkswagen Beetle and Citroen 2CV

In the sixties and seventies streets were dominated by few popular cars, for example the Volkswagen Beetle ("VW Käfer") or the Citroen DeuxChevaux (2CV), also called the "Ente". These cars were affordable and efficient. Almost everybody I know either had a Beetle in the family at one time or owned one even himself/herself. Volkswagen built more than 21.5 million Beetles between 1938 and 2003, Citroen almost 4 million between 1949 and 1990. That's a lot of cars. If you look at pictures of let's say Munich, Frankfurt or Zurich from the 70ies you will certainly spot a couple of Volkswagens in the streets, same for Paris and the 2CV. But how is it today?

Having just been for three days in Paris, I haven't seen one 2CV at all, at least not that I would remember. And also the Volkswagen Beetle has become a true rarity. 24 million cars have just disappeared almost! If the Beetle and the 2CV had survived in similar proportions as Ferraris or Porsches, we still would have 10-15 millions of them on the road. But that's not the case, as these cars were daily transports and often died after 8 to 15 years suffering from rust or accident damage.

Actually these cars were quite economical, especially the 2CV. With a weight of less than 600 kg and seats for four people, plus a decent trunk it was both practical and fuel efficient. Driven gently 5-7 liters of gasoline were enough. Of course these cars were not fast, but quick enough to get from A to B. Building a 2CV probably took 25-35% of the energy of a modern car, so all in all, the 2CV probably was substantially better in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. If you forget about modern safety precautions you could even imagine having them produced until today with modern 2 cylinder engines and catalysts.
But as said, they disappeared and the few that are left are now collectors' items. I actually wouldn't mind owning a Volkswagen Beetle (ideally an early sixties' model) one day.


greg said...

No car is more fun to drive - at legal speeds - than a 2CV. Shame they've almost vanished, though I spot one in Zurich every once in a while. I'll have to get me one some day soon...

John L said...

The Beetles must be all in Australia. I saw 2 today.