It was fun, it was frolicsome, and came in great, tasty colours, but Volkswagen is keeping aficionados on the edges of their seats over what comes after the iconic Citi-Golf. But it won't be another Golf. In August, and after 31 years, the German carmaker rolled its last South African-produced model off the line in Uitenhage.
And now Volkswagen has officially announced the end of the line of the most successful South African hatchback ever. The zippy Citi replaced the A1 Golf in South Africa in 1984, as a streamlined fun car for first-time buyers. With life-time sales of 377,484 units, it overshadowed the popularity of similar Toyota and Mazda marques.
Volkswagen says it will still sell the Citi early into 2010, but has given no indication of what comes next, other than to say that all shall be revealed in March next year. Carmakers and dealers in South Africa have had a rough time of it of late, with the gyrations before and after the October 2008 market crash plunging sales and causing industry-wide job losses. But with Volkswagen saying that no jobs had been lost because of the termination of the Citi and sales of small petrol-sippers presumably even more attractive to pinched consumers, you have to ask: What gives?
German news agency DPA reports that at its peak in 2006, Volkswagen SA sold 26,800 units of the car, or about 2,233 a month. But by July 2009, that had fallen to 1,690 units. That’s a pretty drastic cut by any count. The company’s Uitenhage plant is now being refitted to produce vehicles off two manufacturing platforms instead of five, so it looks like Volkswagen will offer the public fewer models for somewhat more cost. The seismic shifts in the US and European car industries means that manufacturers cannot sustain tooling up for endless variety. Industry watcher Metal Miner says PriceWaterhouseCoopers estimates light vehicle excess capacity to be in the region of 5 million units in Europe, and nearly 4 million in the US, and this could rise to 7 million in Europe by 2010 and more than 4 million in the States.