There will be no more nights on the town for the Citi Golf.
The 31-year old on Monday retired her little black dress officially as Volkswagen of South Africa (VWSA) announced that it would no longer produce the entry-level hatchback at its Uitenhage plant, in the Eastern Cape.
However, more than 517 000 units later, the A1, of Golf 1 – or as it became better known, the Citi Golf – will next year be replaced with a new entry-level vehicle, said VWSA MD Dave Powels, addressing a media conference in Midrand.
But, he added, it would be “difficult to compete on a R87 000 level, so don't expect it to be down at that level – but, yes, we will launch an entry level car.
“Next year, we will be launching into the market a comprehensive range of products to compete in all major segments of the market.”
The Citi Golf's replacement will be announced in the first quarter of next year, with the local plant currently gearing up for its production, as well as that of the Polo, at a cost of R3-billion.
Ironically, the continued existence of the Golf 1 was motivated by price, as VWSA viewed the heftier price tag of the newly-launched Golf 2, or Jumbo Golf, in the 1980s as prohibitive to the company's success in the entry-level market.
Hence, the local arm of the German manufacturer designed, with the blessing of its parent company and some creative advertising gurus, the new and truly South African Citi Golf (sold at R 7 600) to run as an entry-level vehicle alongside the new, much pricier Golf range, which had since evolved into the Golf 6.
Powels noted that the demise of the Citi Golf was not brought about by any stuttering in demand.
“There is still demand, but it is no longer economically viable to produce any platform that has a production level of 20 000 to 25 000 units a year. There is no economies of scale for us or our [component] suppliers.”
The introduction of the Automotive Production and Development Programme in 2013 to replace government's current support programme, the Motor Industry Development Programme, will provide incentives to companies able to produce 50 000 units a year or more, preferably on the same platform.
In July this year, VWSA still sold more than 1 600 Citi Golf's for the month – this after 1980s Citi Golf production estimates had been placed at 300 units a month, with the product's life-cycle predicted at roughly three to five years.
Powels said secondary reasons for halting more than 30 years of Citi Golf production – the vehicle exists only in South Africa – were also driven by customer expectations, especially in terms of safety and technology.
He said customer demands were growing increasingly sophisticated, and that the Citi Golf could no longer keep up with these demands.
“It is an old technology platform.”
Powels noted that VWSA would continue to support and service all Citi Golfs, for “as many years as it takes”.
With local content at roughly 90%, Powels said most Citi Golf component suppliers would be able to provide VWSA with components for other models, but that a “handful of suppliers” would not be able to continue doing business with the company.
However, he believed they could still provide parts to other vehicle manufacturers, and that none of them would close their doors as a result of the Citi Golf's demise.
The closing of the Citi production line had also not resulted in any job losses, added Powels.
LAST CHANCE . . .
South Africans who still wished to own a Citi Golf could buy one until the start of next year.
To celebrate the end of the Citi Golf, which far outgunned Beetle production at Uitenhage, VWSA branded the last thousand Citi Golf's which were produced as Mk1 models, or Mark 1, harking back to its introduction to the local motoring scene.
Each car is individually numbered, and will be sold at R113 500.
The Mk1 comes with a 1,6 l engine, sports seat with partial leather, a golf ball gear knob, a radio and CD player, an airbag, red stitching detail, lowered suspension, twin exhausts and tinted glass all around.
To celebrate the end of the South African icon, Citi 001 (the last one produced in August already) would travel around the country, offering the public the opportunity to provide it with some body art in the form of signatures.
Citi 003 will be auctioned on the Bid or Buy web-site, with the proceeds to go to charity.
Two of the last produced Citi Mk1 units will join other Volkswagen Classic cars that are on permanent display at the Autostadt, the Volkswagen Group Museum and Brand Expo in Wolfsburg, Germany, and at the Volkswagen AutoPavillion Brand heritage centre, in Uitenhage.