The venerable Volkswagen bus has been hiding out in South America since—well let’s see, the venerable Type 2 bus went on sale in 1950, stopped production in 1979 here, and is still going strong in Brazil, until next year. Which leaves it Volkswagen’s current longest-running car in production, for 63 straight years.
Sixty-three years. There’s a thing to be said about long-lived Volkswagens: the original Beetle only stopped production in 2004, and up until last year you could still buy a brand new original Golf from South Africa. All of them have outrun the Reaper of regular product cycles, but ultimately killed due to safety and emissions standards that weren’t created during the Ford administration. The times, they are a changin’, you might hear from the 21 windows of a Microbus, and the same adage applies to Brazil, where the “Kombi” has outstayed its welcome for all these years.
Brazilian safety regulations are being updated for the 2014 model year: all new cars must have anti-lock brakes, and both driver and passenger airbags, a luxury the Volkswagen Kombi has soldiered on without. In addition, new emissions regulations mean that redesigning the Kombi to suit, says the VW Brazil product development chief Egon Feichter, would mean that the Kombi would need to become “a new car.” Meeting the regulations of the largest automotive market in Brazil means that it would cost too much to build the Kombi: “you can get two Kombis for the price of one normal car,” said Feichter. Hence, its death knell, in December of next year.
If you speak Portugese, you can still buy one of the 251 Volkswagen Kombi vans churned out daily by Volkswagen do Brasil’s Planta Anchieta São Bernardo do Campo. Otherwise, expect a warm send-off for the Kombi, next year: millions of memories, millions of work vans, ambulances, and bank heist getaway cars, all plying the streets of Rio. That’s something that’ll outlast even the most long-lived of Kombi.
As long as they don’t replace it with the Routan.