The capital city of Mexico has one feature that no other city in the world can boast of: a huge fleet of iconic Volkswagen Beetle taxis to transport citizens around the bustling city of twenty million
people. No, it isn’t the same “New Beetle” sold in the US, rather the original Beetle that was last sold in the US more than three decades ago.
Now, Mexico City wants to distance itself from the cute bug, citing pollution concerns. Yes, the lovable bug is long on personality, but short on environmental friendliness and, citing published reports, is facing extinction. According to Victor Manuel Ramirez, head of the taxi division at the city transport and road ministry, the city now considers these cars to be a nuisance and wants them off of city streets, replaced by a modern fleet of fuel efficient vehicles.
The city is home to more than 100,000 taxis, often the only way that residents are able to get around the metropolis. But, the aged Beetles are anything but fuel efficient, getting just 19 miles per gallon when some of its modern competitors are averaging 34 mpg. Never mind the pollution that these cars emit — Mexico City is often enshrouded in smog, its residents plagued with respiratory illnesses.
The city’s government has plans to push taxis more than ten years old out of the city, which means that 75,000 cars would have to be replaced, the majority of those which are the original Volkswagen Beetle. City leaders are offering drivers $1500 to scrap their cars, but most drivers say that their taxis are still worth at least $2500. When sold new, the Beetle retailed for just $7500, but the car was last produced in 2003.
Not every taxi driver is thrilled with the move, citing a potential financial loss as one reason for wanting to keep their Beetles or seeking a higher contribution from the city to help them buy bigger, but more fuel efficient replacements.
Regardless of those feelings, by 2012 taxi drivers will be legally required to comply with the edict, with some expected to keep their cars for private use or sell them to third parties as the ban does not cover private owners…yet.