After almost four successful decades on the Chinese market, the Volkswagen Santana will reportedly be retired. Quoting leaked government documents, Automotive News says the model will be discontinued together with the VW Tharu and the local version of the Skoda Rapid.
The Santana was first launched in China in 1983 with a trial run of just 100 cars assembled from CKD kits delivered from Germany. Just three years later, in September 1986, the 10,000th Santana was built in the country and during the next ten years, the main mission of Volkswagen and its local partner was to fully localize the production of the Santana. In 1995, almost 90 percent of the components for the car were produced in China.
Gallery: 2013 Volkswagen Santana announced
Currently, the model is assembled at a plant in the eastern city of Yizheng under the ownership of VW and SAIC Motors. The factory has the capacity to produce 224,400 units per year, but the shift in customer taste from sedans towards SUVs means there’s not enough demand to justify the production. Volkswagen didn’t directly confirm the demise of the Santana, though admitted the sedans are no longer that popular in China.
"Customer preferences are gradually shifting away from notchback ICE (internal combustion engine) models towards BEV (battery electric vehicle) and SUV models," the company said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
The Santana is seen as arguably the brand’s most important model for China in the last few decades as it has become synonymous with the country’s economic growth in the 1990s. The Wolfsburg-based automaker has sold more than six million units of the Santana since it was introduced in China in the mid-1980s.
Interestingly, the first four generations of the model remained largely based on the original Santana, which in turn was a slightly redesigned and modified version of the Volkswagen Passat B2.