22 November 2022 ~ 0 Comments

Volkswagen hints at European Polo sales halt: could this be the end of the road?

Announced in April 2021, the refreshed sixth-generation Volkswagen Polo’s arrival came just after the small car name celebrated its 46th birthday. And rumours are circulating that this latest version of the Polo could be its last. It may not even live to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

The reason? The car market is a very different place to when the original incarnation of the Polo was launched in March 1975. Emission legislation – especially that in Europe – is forcing car makers to produce more electric models, and while internal combustion engines will remain for some time to come, the costs and development needed to make them more environmentally friendly and cleaner are rising. This means the prices will have to rise, making small cars much more expensive.

Small car casualty
Some manufacturers have already pulled the plug on some of their most popular models. The Ford Fiesta has long been a Polo sparring partner, having been launched a year later than the VW, but it is the most high-profile small car casualty yet. Ford has announced that production will stop in June 2023, bringing to an end 47 years of a very popular – the Fiesta has topped the UK registrations chart for several years, most notably from 2009-2020 – nameplate. Could the same be about to happen to the Polo?

Autocar reports that Volkswagen is to take a decision on the Polo’s future within the next two weeks. New technology needed to bring engine emissions down under proposed new Euro 7 regulations would add at least £3,000 to the average cost of cars like the Polo. Volkswagen’s new CEO, Thomas Schäfer, said that would make the Polo essentially unsaleable, making plans for a new electric small car even more prescient. Auto Express states that the larger – and more ‘iconic’ – Golf may stay and even turn into an electric-only model in the future. French magazine Auto-Journal hints that ID 1 and ID 2-badged models – with elements taken from the ID Life concept car – could replace the Polo.

Market withdrawal
What all this means for sales – and a very possible market withdrawal – of the Polo in the UK and Europe is unclear, but there are signs the nameplate may not die imminently elsewhere in the world. A popular model in South Africa – although Cars.co.za reports that sales are starting to slip – the Polo is also built there, the Volkswagen factory in Kariega producing all Polos exported to right-hand drive markets. The facility is also the sole producer of the Polo GTI.

While it may be phased out in Europe, Martina Biene, the managing director of Volkswagen Group South Africa, has commented that the Polo and its cheaper Polo Vivo sister – based on the fifth-generation Polo made from 2009-2017 – will ‘remain’ beyond 2025. Quite what this actually means, we don’t know, but it intimates that for the local market, the Polo name will live on, at least for the short-term, and the model will mark its 50th birthday.

Only electric cars in Europe
The Polo is also built for South American markets in Volkswagen’s Anchieta factory in Brazil and is produced in China in the Anting SAIC Volkswagen plant. South America is still at the very start of the electric car transition, and so will need internal combustion-engined cars for some time to come, whereas China already leads the worldwide electric car market. So, we certainly see the Polo remaining a South American small car staple for a few years yet.

However, elsewhere, things are not so certain. Schäfer has outlined that from 2033 Volkswagen will only produce electric cars in Europe. Ironically, the Polo was the most popular VW in the UK in 2021, a market where the brand also reached the top of the registration charts for the first time. A total of 147,826 Volkswagens found homes, and the Polo was the fifth most popular car in the UK.

While the current Polo has nothing in common with the original car of 1975, given the name and subject of this website, we’d obviously be very disappointed to see the Polo name reach the end of the road. Now one of Volkswagen’s most popular models worldwide, the culling of the Polo name will be a decision that won’t be taken lightly, but European market odds don’t look good. We hope any decision Volkswagen reaches means its small car lives on in some way.

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