efe-epaPuebla, Mexico

The Volkswagen de Mexico plant here was the scene Wednesday of a ceremony - complete with a mariachi band - to mark the end of production of the iconic Beetle.

"The loss of the Beetle after three generations and almost seven decades should provoke a wide variety of emotions," Steffen Reiche, CEO of the German automaker's Mexican unit, told employees and guests inside the Puebla production facility.

For the last two decades, the Mexican factory has been the only one in the world turning out Beetles.

VW halted production of the original Beetle in Germany in 1979, nearly 20 years before presenting the New Beetle, made exclusively in Mexico.

The Puebla plant, which opened in 1954, assembled both original Beetles and New Beetles until 2003, when the first-generation model was definitively retired.

The third-generation Beetle was introduced in 2012.

The final production run at Puebla consists of 65 Beetle Final Edition vehicles, each with a numbered commemorative plaque.

They will be sold over the Internet with a base price of $21,000, though the very last car to roll off the assembly line is destined for a museum.

"I believe that this model is, without a doubt, one of the most iconic at the global level, as the silhouette is unmistakable," Reiche said, noting that 1.7 million Beetles have left the Puebla factory since 1997.

Though out of production for 16 years, the original Beetle remains popular in Mexico and visitor is sure to see plenty of "Vochos" - as they are known here - on streets and highways in the Aztec nation.

"With the Beetle we close a cycle for our plant with countless goals met," the VW de Mexico boss said. "The future presents us with new challenges in which quality, love and detail must continue being the keys to success."

Starting next year, the line at the Puebla plant that produced the Beetle will be converted to handle a new compact SUV based on a model currently produced and sold by VW in China, Reiche said.

Mexico is a major international oil supplier, but the auto industry now plays a more important role in the Mexican economy, accounting for tens of thousands of jobs and the largest share of revenue from exports, mainly to the United States. EFE

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