Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
The world famous VW van has ceased production, though a last-ditch political effort could save it.
With a series of new car safety measures from the Brazilian government scheduled to go into effect January 1, Volkswagen's famous Type 2 van—known in Latin America as the Kombi—will no longer be produced after 56 years. But there may be one last glimmer of hope.
The iconic bread loaf-looking van, in continuous production at a plant just outside São Paulo since 1957, has never come with airbags or anti-lock brakes due to design constraints. After Brazil approved legislation requiring all vehicles made in the country to come with standard safety features starting next year, Volkswagen decided not to modify the Kombi. Instead, the carmaker announced it would be producing 1,200 special "Last Edition" versions of the van. For nearly twice the usual cost.
According to a Telegraph report however, Brazil’s finance minister is looking into a possible exemption that would allow the Kombi to resume production.
For most North Americans and Europeans, the Kombi is associated with hippies or camping, but in Brazil, it has long been the country's favorite utility vehicle, serving as ambulances, school buses, newsstands, food trucks, really anything that requires wheels and a lot of space. Volkswagen often pitched the Kombi to Brazilians through targeted commercials:
While a Brazilian auto blog had originally reported that Volkswagen may decide to add the new safety features after all, the German company issued a statement saying that if the exemption is passed, the company would reconsider killing off the van. A final decision is scheduled to come down today.