Iconic Kombi gone – or has it?

Cindy Preller

THE final curtain has come down on the iconic Volkswagen Kombi – or has it?

After stopping production at the last VW plant in Brazil still manufacturing the iconic van due to safety regulations that took effect on January 1, the government is considering making an exception for the Kombi.

Finance Minister Guido Mantega said there was no room for an airbag or anti-lock brakes on VW Kombis, so it might be the only model not required to be fitted with that equipment. VW Group SA communications manager Matt Gennrich said although the Kombi manufactured in Brazil had not been imported into South Africa, many local drivers had a nostalgic association with the original Kombi, a 1960s’ icon much like the Beetle.

“At the moment we import the T5 and in 2001 discontinued our production of the T3 at our Uitenhage factory,” Gennrich said.

However, it seems that the reason behind the exception on safety standards in Brazil is not purely nostalgic but mostly business driven. Brazil is the world’s fourth-biggest vehicle market with VW, Fiat and General Motors and Ford selling more than 70% of new cars in the market. The Kombi was the sixth best-selling commercial vehicle and particularly popular with small businesses.

The Kombi was first produced in 1963 at VW’s Wolfsburg plant in Germany, and in 1969 production started at VW’s plant near Sao Paulo.

The Kombi Last Edition 1.4, which was produced at the Brazilian factory until late last year, sported traditional blue curtains and split bench seats for driver and passengers.

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