VW’s new American adventure

The year is 1974, West Germany win the world cup on home soil, Abba unleash Scandinavian pop on the world and Volkswagen unveil the car that will replace the much loved Beetle. The Golf has gone on to spawn seven generations and has been a huge success the world over.
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Except America that is - a market that was being flooded with cheap, fuel-efficient, Japanese econobox cars, and had enjoyed a long standing love affair with the Beetle, maybe wasn’t ready for the Golf. Or maybe it was because it was inexplicably badged up as the ‘Rabbit’ over there. Whatever the reason, the Golf/Rabbit never took off quite as expected, but almost 40 years on Volkswagen is ready for a new American adventure as production of the Golf begins in Mexico. But before we go into that, let’s take a quick look at where it may have gone wrong for the rabbit…

Rabbit in the headlights

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A year after making its European bow, the VW Golf was released in the US and Canada but never really caught on until around 1979 when an oil crisis gripped the globe following a power shift in Iran. It was around this time the VW Rabbit also became the first foreign car to be manufactured in the US as the first American built Volskwagen rolled off the Westmoreland assembly line at New Stanton, Pennsylvania on April 10, 1978. Volkswagen decided to have the car manufactured in the States in order to cut production costs, but these cost-cutting measures led to cheaper materials being used for the interior and a softening of the suspension. And the look of the car was also tweaked slightly, with square headlights replacing the distinctive round ones that adorn European models of the same era. While the cosmetic changes were of no great consequence, the use of cheaper materials  was not popular among  US-based VW purists or company executives in Germany and by 1983 the suspension had been stiffened and the car fitted with a higher quality trim. By 1984 the Rabbit moved over to make way for of the Golf Mark 4 and although its production was relatively short-lived it arguably gave Volkswagen a new lease of life in the States and helped spawn a generation of American compacts such as the Dodge Omni, Plymouth Horizon, Ford Escort and Chevrolet Cavalier. So what of the future of the Golf now production has started in Mexico?

VW’s American dream

Production of the new Golf began at Volkswagen’s Puebla plant in Mexico earlier this week (January 15) and is part of a $7billion (£4.2billion) investment in North American production between now and 2018 as the German manufacturer looks to boost its profile in the States. The Mexico plant is one of the group’s largest plants and one of its highest exporters having shipped more than 10million vehicles across the globe. The new Golf is just one of a number of VW’s to be manufactured there as it already produces both coupe and cabriolet versions of the Beetle, plus the Jetta. And after production of the camper van stopped in Brazil late last year, the arrival of the new Golf could be just the injection Volkswagen needs. [embed width="560" height="315"]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7R7WC95lsE[/embed]

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