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Love Bugs & Other Wheels in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

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April 27, 2015

The last Beetle manufactured now resides in a museum in the Vatican; it was gifted to Pope John Paul ll and dubbed the Popemobile. A shiny chrome plate marks the car as the Ultima Edición.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - Tourists visiting Mexico often express surprise at the abundance of Volkswagens in Puerto Vallarta. Mexico has been the home of auto manufacturing for many decades, the Volkswagen being one of the largest contributors to the economy.

The city and state of Puebla proudly produced the first Beetle in 1964 and rolled out the end of the line four decades later. The final model sedan manufactured now resides in a museum in the Vatican; it was gifted to Pope John Paul ll and dubbed the 'Popemobile.' A chrome plate identifies the car as the Ultima Edición.

Long before the VW Beetle, affectionately called the 'Love Bug,' and VW Van, referred to as a 'Combi' in Mexico, other cars were built here including, but certainly not limited to, Buicks, Fords, the Daimler and Renault.

This tradition continues with a new Nissan plant opening in Aguascalientes in late 2013, turning out multitudes of vehicles, counting among those the ubiquitous taxis one sees in large quantity in Puerto Vallarta. The first models produced were stenciled humorously with "Flat Fare to JFK." The ultimate goal is to build a million Nissans a year, as of 2016.

According to the Wall Street Journal, last month Volkswagen said it would spend $1 billion expanding a Mexican plant to build a small SUV for the U.S. and some foreign markets. All told, auto makers and parts suppliers have earmarked more than $20 billion of new investments, Mexican officials say.

Mexico is the eighth largest auto manufacture in the world, with the aim of leaping in front of Brazil and competing with countries in front, which are China, USA, Japan, Germany, South Korea, and India.

Cars appeared in Mexico as early as 1903. President Porfirio Díaz established the first Mexican Highway Code, which allowed autos to move at a maximum speed of 10 km/h or 6 mph on crowded and narrow streets and up to 40 km/h or 25 mph in other areas. Things have picked up noticeably since then.

The Tenencia Vehicula, the car owner's tax, which is no longer due in Puerto Vallarta as of 2012, was originally established to raise money for the 1968 Summer Olympics. This tax remained in place with the intention to later finance the 1970 World Cup and to this day has not been repealed in many states. However, it is still required to register a vehicle and receive a tarjeta de circulación (Holograma), which costs in the neighborhood of $500 pesos annually.

There are currently over 400 different models and 42 auto makers with official representation in Mexico, making it one of the most diverse markets in the world.

Que es cómo es.

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