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.
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.
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.
Imagine how many kids with names like Star, Moon and Sunshine were conceived in a cloud of Maui Wowwy in these old tin cans?
Is the term Hippie politically correct???
Politically Correct is neither political nor correct. GO HIPPIES!!
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