Volkswagen plans to bid farewell to the legendary Santana model in China
The joint venture between Volkswagen AG and SAIC Motor will cease production of the Santana, the Skoda Rapid and a current version of the Tharu sport utility vehicle (SUV) at its plant in the eastern city of Yizheng.
According to Volkswagen, more than 6 million have been shipped to Chinese customers over the years.
Volkswagen plans to cease production of Santana cars in China and, after more than three decades, is saying goodbye to its first model made in China, which has become a symbol of the country’s rising middle class and boosted the popularity of the German automaker.
The joint venture between Volkswagen AG and SAIC Motor will cease production of the Santana, the Skoda Rapid and a current version of Tharu Sport-Utility Vehicles (SUV) at its plant in the eastern city of Yizheng, government documents showed.
This plant is the main plant for the production of Santanas in China and has a capacity of 224,400 units per year.
Volkswagen didn’t comment directly on its plans for the Santana, but said in a statement to Reuters that consumer tastes had shifted from sedans to SUVs.
“Customer preferences are gradually shifting away from notchback ICE (internal combustion engine) to BEV (battery electric vehicle) and SUV models,” the company said.
Production of Santanas began in China in 1985, and Volkswagen said more than 6 million have been shipped to Chinese customers over the years. It was unclear whether Volkswagen would also manufacture Santanas in other markets.
Affordable sedans, which became status symbols with the boom in the Chinese economy in the 1990s, are credited with helping Volkswagen gain a foothold in the Chinese market and rise to the top of foreign automakers in terms of sales.
Volkswagen sold 3.85 million vehicles in China last year ahead of second-tier overseas manufacturer General Motors Co. This is partly due to a shift in focus to more popular and profitable SUV models.
Competition in the family car market has increased with the entry of international competitors and Chinese firms, putting some of the established overseas manufacturers under pressure.
In the first 10 months of this year, SAIC-Volkswagen sold 970,438 vehicles, 18% fewer than in the previous year. Companies such as Hyundai Motor, Renault and Suzuki Motor have closed plants, left joint ventures or left the Chinese market completely.
Instead of Santanas and Rapids, the Yizheng plant would produce T-Cross and revised Tharu SUVs, Polo hatchbacks and Lamando sedans, according to the document. These agreements would be finalized in 2023. Volkswagen has other joint ventures with the FAW Group and JAC. All ventures are building new electric vehicle plants.
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