The many different names of the world’s favourite Bug
Text by Hans Cheong
For a car that didn't even have a proper name when it was first created, the Volkswagen Beetle has certainly surpassed the expectations of its creators. More than just a car, the Beetle is one of the world's most recognized shape, anywhere in the world.
Anyone with even the faintest knowledge of pop culture, never mind cars, will recognize this iconic silhouette as that of a Volkswagen Beetle. Weird but true - in the first 30 years of the car's life Volkswagen never called it the Beetle, at least not officially.
The car started out in 1938 as the Porsche Type 60, bearing the family name of its creator Ferdinand Porsche, before changing to KdF-Wagen, and later to Volkswagen Type 1.
The Beetle name only entered Volkswagen's dictionary in 1968, when German brochures started using the name Kafer, German for beetle. But long before Volkswagen decided to finally give the car a recognizable name, people from different cultures around the world have taken the liberty to give various nicknames to the Beetle.
The Western world might recognize the car as the Beetle but people from other cultures have likened the car to other insects/animals found in their local environment.
The Indonesians for example, call it the 'kodok' (frog), while people in Hong Kong, Thailand, and even Malaysia refer to it as the turtle.
Many Malaysians will remember growing up with a 'kereta kura' (turtle car) in their neighbourhood. Similarly, our Thai neighbours call the car 'Rod Tao' for turtle car. In the Philippines, the locals don't liken the car to any bug or animal, referring to it simply as the 'kotseng kuba' or hunchback car.
Did you know that in certain countries like Brazil and France, the Beetle name was not used at all? The Beetle's official name was changed to Coccinelle in France and Fusca in Brazil, the former meaning ladybug while the latter is simply beetle in Portugese. Even in Volkswagen's home country of Germany, the Beetle is better known as the Kafer, beetle in German.
Irrespective of what different names the car is known as, there's no denying that the Beetle is one of the few unifying icons in our divided world. People across all cultural backgrounds will agree that the Beetle made our world a better place, and for many people, the Beetle is still the definitive Volkswagen car.