After showing you that the first car built by Chery was a first-gen Seat Toledo for which the Wuhu government bought the rights and production line without knowledge of Volkswagen management and without a license to produce cars from the Chinese government, we’ll continue with part 2 of our series of cars which continued production in China under a new owner and new brand after they retired in their original market. We’ll start with one more SAIC product, one that had already been briefly mentioned in the first article. And that’s also one of the reasons why I included it here (also because I just liked the story), even though it doesn’t really belong here because it didn’t change owner after retirement in Europe and the US.
Volkswagen has been the most successful foreign car brand in China, thanks to being one of the first players in the market, as early as 1978. And in 1984, Volkswagen beat Peugeot-Citroën in to set up the first passenger-car production Joint Venture in China when it closed a deal with SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp.) to assemble Santana sedans, a model that would continue uninterrupted production for 30 years. A few years later, in 1990, VW started a second Joint Venture in China, this time with the oldest local car maker FAW (First Auto Works). Because of plunging gasoline prices in North America in the 1980s, US demand for the Volkswagen Rabbit (Golf), Rabbit pick-up and Jetta had decreased sharply. As a result, Volkswagen’s Westmoreland Assembly Plant near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was operating way below capacity and a huge loss-maker for the company. The plant was shut down in 1988, and VW subsequently moved the production line to Changchun, China and started production of the Jetta at the end of 1991. The Jetta became famous in China for its bullet-proof durability, helped by the proven 1.6 liter 8-valve engine that would power every Chinese Jetta until 2013. After 21,5 years of Chinese production (29 years since its original launch) and three exterior facelifts the Jetta II was finally replaced by an all-new China-only version that year. [Read more…]