A look back at the 1981 Volkswagen Passat
German automaker Volkswagen announced the end of its North American Passat production last summer. Manufactured at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant, the legendary sedan has become a household name around the world, symbolizing the dominance of German cars in the Western Hemisphere. However, changing consumer beliefs and behaviors, the rise of electric vehicles, the global shortage of microchips and the VW diesel emissions scandal have devastated Passat sales and brought about its slow demise.
With fans and collectors mourning the end of the Passat era, we’ve gone back in time to remember the 1981 Volkswagen Passat, the epitome of West Germany’s extraordinary automotive industry and the economic recovery of nations.
Volkswagen replaced the Dasher (Volkswagen Passat B1) with the slightly more stylish Passat B2
Although the Passat B2 retained distinctive styling cues from its predecessor, it received a minor facelift that made it look more modern and refined.
“Its angular lines, big rectangular headlights and plastic bumper were a fresh look on the market,” says the Auto Evolution. The side panels and doors were also refreshed to create a more modern look, in line with the style trend of the decade. With this in mind, the three body styles available: sedan, hatchback and station wagon allowed Volkswagen to conquer different demographics. For example, the hatchback was perfect for families leading busy lifestyles who needed extra cargo space. At the same time, the limousine aroused the interest of urban city dwellers who wanted a smarter automobile. And the station wagon was an excellent choice for large families because it had a lot of cargo space and space.
The first offensive: Audi 80 inspiration or imitation
Volkswagen used the platform from the Audi 80 for the 1981 Passat. Sharing some design cues and the same platform with Audi might not seem like a big deal to most modern drivers, but back then the issue conflicted with some customers.
The similarities between the two German automobiles raise the question of originality and creativity. Additionally, some customers were not convinced that there was market potential for an Audi-inspired car when Audi itself was widely available in the market. Today, that’s hardly an issue given that Volkswagen uses a number of common automotive platforms for its cars.
Establishing a market position and fending off competition from Japanese, French and Italian car manufacturers
In the early 1980s, Toyota Corolla and Renault 5 reigned supreme. The only Volkswagen driving behind them was the Golf. In fact, Toyota sold around 775,000 units of the Corolla worldwide in 1980, while Renault 5 followed with around 525,000 units, according to the Best Selling Cars blog. Obviously, entering the market with such established competitors was not an easy task, but Volkswagen capitalized on the growing power of Western Europe’s middle class. Riding the wave of Dasher success, Volkswagen introduced an evolved and more refined version of the Passat that could compete with the titans on the market.
At first glance, the exterior remained heavily influenced by the design of the Volkswagen Passat B1, created by the Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. However, the facelift gave the Passat strong German accents and straighter silhouettes. This allowed the B2 to establish itself in a market dominated by Italian and French automobiles, which had more playful looks and sensual curves.
Strengths, weaknesses and what made the 1981 Volkswagen Passat unique
Volkswagen’s marketing strategy was ahead of its time. Germans understood that the early 1980s were the perfect years to abandon their “Volkswagen” motto and embrace a global vision. This meant producing cars with global appeal like the Volkswagen Passat B2. In fact, the second generation Passat had several selling points, such as: B. long range, a more elegant exterior, the three body styles and an impressive cargo volume.
The B2 appeared to be a luxury option designed for young families who needed lots of cargo space, commuters who needed comfortable rides and young professionals who needed sleek-looking cars. Of course, it was difficult to position the Passat as a real player in the world market and to shift the narrative from a car built for West German mid-range consumers to one made for the world market.
Certainly, the second generation Passat had robust qualities. For example, the B2 offered generous loading and passenger compartments. The folding rear seats increased trunk size from 745 liters (26.3 cu ft) to 1575 liters (55.62 cu ft). Meanwhile, according to Auto Evolution, the B2 could do 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) in 17.5 seconds, while the top speed achieved was 148 km/h (92 mph). In terms of gas mileage, the Passat B2 was an economical car, achieving 31.4 MPG US (7.5 L/100 km) combined.
That’s why Volkswagen is discontinuing the Passat
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