Volkswagen Santana. Taxi in the French Concession of Shanghai

Good design. The legendary Volkswagen Santana

1 December 2012

The Volkswagen Santana is a legendary car model, not in Europe but in China. In Europe, the model was introduced in 1981 as the sedan model of the hatch-back Volkswagen Passat. It was not a success in Europe and manufacturing was discontinued after a few years. However, the model was launched in other markets such as Mexico, Japan, Brazil and China. Volkswagen signed a deal with Shanghai Tractor Automotive Corporation in 1982. The first cars were complete knock-down kits assembled in Shanghai. Over time, technology was transferred to the Chinese and the local content increased. The car has been very popular as a taxi and has been manufactured until now with a total volume of 3.4 million cars.

Over the years, the model has seen a few upgrades of the power train. The recent model had 1.8-litre or 2.0-litre gasoline engines with fuel injection, five-speed gearbox and front-wheel drive.

It is amazing to see how a car model can survive for more than 30 years. The designers hit the right specification to meet the needs of the Chinese taxi market. But I would not guess that the designers believed that the car would be manufactured over more than 30 years.

Volkswagen Santana. Taxi in the French Concession of Shanghai
Volkswagen Santana taxi in the French Concession of Shanghai. The model is the common taxi in the streets of the city. The registration plate indicates that the car is from Shanghai. The Chinese letter 沪 (Hù) is the official abbreviation of Shanghai. The city has about 45,000 taxis. For the first 3 km, there is a flat rate of 14 RMB (about 15 SEK).