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Volkswagen ends bus production in Brazil

The 63-year-old van, bus, hippie mobile and Deadhead wagon -- whatever you call it -- will finally become a classic.

By Clifford Atiyeh Dec 18, 2013 9:45AM
The world is saying goodbye to another classic car that should have gone belly-up decades earlier.

But the Volkswagen Type 2 bus, after more than 10 million made since 1950, is no ordinary old car. In the United States, the van became the symbol for the 1960s hippie counterculture, and like the Type 1 Beetle, a VW bus was slow, cheap to buy, cheaper to run and looked timeless. So timeless, in fact, that Volkswagen had kept the van in production -- nearly identical to how it looked and ran in 1967 -- until the end of December.

Brazil is the only country where you can still buy a new VW bus (or Kombi, as it's known around the world), but the South American nation's upcoming safety regulations are forcing VW to cease Kombi production at its São Paulo plant.

News reports are now saying that the Kombi could be granted an exception to the new rules, but since Volkswagen publicly announced its departure more than a year ago, we doubt it will live on.
Like many developing nations -- somehow this has been a surprise to much of the American and European press -- Brazil does not require airbags, anti-lock brakes or many of the standard safety features we see in the U.S., nor does it have any standards for crash testing. By next year, however, Brazil will require frontal airbags and anti-lock brakes for the first time, although no other such regulations have been announced. It plans to open a crash test facility by 2017.

The VW bus, with its paper-thin steel body, rear-engine design and lack of crumple zones or side-impact door beams, has always been deadly in the lightest of accidents. It does have seatbelts -- lap belts for the seven rear passengers aboard, no headrests -- but that's about it. The U.S. last saw it in 1980, when a more modern T3 Vanagon was introduced.

Until 2005, the Brazilian-spec Kombi still had the original air-cooled, flat-4 engine that made a measly 28 horsepower. With water cooling, the 1.4-liter engine made 78 horsepower. White has been the only color, but the 600 Last Edition Kombi buses come in a 1950s-style two-tone in powder blue and a white roof, white steel wheels, blue and white vinyl seats and cloth curtains for the side windows. While the Kombi normally sells for just under $22,000 with tax, the Last Edition will reportedly go for a whopping $36,000. With a 4-speed manual, the Kombi gets to 60 mph in nearly 17 seconds.

But despite how out of touch the Kombi appears, Volkswagen seems to know their products and customers better than any other automaker. No other brand could sell a stripped-down tin can of a bus to low-income buyers in Latin America while marketing a full-size luxury sedan based on a Bentley in Germany.

The company's reputation for pushing popular old cars to their absolute last legs -- and wringing every last penny of profit out of them -- is unmatched in the industry. Volkswagen still sells an outdated sedan in China, the Santana Vista, that was discontinued in Germany in 1987. In 2009, Volkswagen finally stopped selling the first-generation Golf in South Africa, first introduced in 1974. And in 2003, Volkswagen's Mexican plant built the final Beetle, a nearly identical copy of the iconic car that first rolled down its Puebla assembly line in 1955.

Call them crazy, but Volkswagen knows a good thing isn't gone until it's practically run out of town.

"Should have gone belly up decades ago?" It's a hell of a lot more interesting looking than the choice of vehicles we have now.
Dec 18, 2013 1:08PM
If you thought Hippies were sensitive before......wait till you see the down pour of tears at this news! They definitely have their following though, I let a friend store her old one at my place and at least three people a year stop buy begging to purchase it.
  Imagine how many kids with names like Star, Moon and Sunshine were conceived in a cloud of Maui Wowwy in these old tin cans?
Dec 19, 2013 5:37PM

Is the term Hippie politically correct??? 

Politically Correct is neither political nor correct.  GO HIPPIES!!

Dec 19, 2013 10:40AM
Dec 18, 2013 5:05PM
My husband and I bought a 1963 VW Van in Los Angeles, when we were living there, and I loved it, it was made in Germany, the color was the Top Off white and the bottom was Olive Green, and it cost us $2,200.00 , new, we love it, because we had 5 children, and they sleep in the back.  I pass my Driving Test for my license in that Van and the Officer could not believe it that I had never had a license before, because I drove it very well,
Dec 19, 2013 5:48PM
Kinda Sad to see it go. That Van has seen a lot of Change in America. Helped Create a lot of change in America, And Around The World. Carried a lot of Protest Signs, Protesters, Paint and Paper. But most Importantly of all. This funny looking VW Van Carried a lot of America's AND THE WORLD'S most Prized and Essential cargo of all. And that cargo my friends, out there in The Cyber World, Was PEACE and LOVE...

Yep, You will be missed...
Dec 19, 2013 5:39PM
You Said It I Would Buy a New One Today if I Could! LUVE THE BUG!
Dec 19, 2013 5:34PM
Dec 19, 2013 5:42PM
Once owned an vanagon Wesphalia camper - miss it!
Dec 19, 2013 5:42PM
I had one in the 70s, Changed lanes without moving the steering wheel. Not made for cross winds but it was cool and got good mileage. I loved my Chevy van. You could actually tow with it. There was a hitch on the bus but I never dared to use it. Around town it was good. On the freeways and highways look out. Kinda like driving a Porsche on a race track. A bit twitchy.
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