The vocho is dead, long live the vocho. Like the Ford Crown Victoria, another iconic taxicab from another iconic locale, Mexico City’s aging, flatulent Volkswagen Beetles have come to define the city as much as pulquerías and El Ángel. But by the end of the year the classic Volkswagen Beetle taxicab will be all but gone, replaced by some sort of bottom-feeding Korean or Japanese product to ferry legions of borachos.
Call it nostalgia, or call it a genuine pest. The reason for Mexico City’s widespread culling of the Beetle is understandably rational. Parts are becoming increasingly harder to find for the out-of production Beetles—of which Mexico was, until 2003, the last place to find brand new parts for the 58-year-old Beetle. In addition, air quality is a consideration in one of the world’s most polluted cities.
“Their lifespan has run out,” said Victor Ramirez, Mexico’s City’s taxi services director. The city has implemented a new regulation for all public transport: all vehicles must be no older than 10 years, and taxis must have four doors and a trunk. The Beetle has gone this far without meeting any of those requirements. Taxi operators can exchange their vochos for a new car and receive a 15,000-peso ($1,181) voucher to do so, as run by the Mexico City government.
About 138,000 taxicabs roam the frenetic streets of metropolitan Mexico City, but just 3,500 of them are still Beetles (or officially registered, anyway). Perhaps nostalgia just isn’t what it used to be these days. Or perhaps (more pragmatically) the city’s 20 million inhabitants would rather get somewhere instead of wallow in a cramped, tiny bug. But even despite their rarity today, like most things that lie unassuming in our daily lives, they won’t be missed until they’re all gone. Just ask a New Yorker.