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On Friday, Volkswagen announced it had produced its 30 millionth Golf since the introduction of the nameplate in 1974… If you do the maths, this means no less than 2,000 Golfs were sold every day in the last 39 years! The Golf is therefore only the third nameplate to have managed to pass the 30 million unit-milestone after the Toyota Corolla with 37.5 million through 10 generations since 1966 and the Ford F-Series at 35 million units since 1948. It is however arguably the fastest nameplate to reach that figure. As a reminder, the Golf passed the 10 million units in 14 years in 1988, had to wait only 13 more years to break the 20 million unit-barrier in 2001 and therefore 12 years to add another 10 million to its total.
For comparison, the VW Beetle first generation sold 21,529,464 units between 1938 and 2003, making it still today the most successful and longest-running single car design in automobile history. Since the first Golf was launched in 1974, 7 generations have hit worldwide roads, with the 7th launched at the end of last year and looking set for similar success than the previous ones. The design of the Golf has only marginally evolved over the last decade, a bonus for the hardcore fans of the nameplate but a potential deterrent for new buyers.
The Golf has been the best-selling car in Europe for 25 of the last 30 years and the most popular model in Germany for the last 32 consecutive years (no interruption since 1981!) and for 37 of the last 38 years, with only the Mercedes W123 interrupting its reign in 1980… The second and third generation have been the most successful at home, with the Golf II peaking at 378,856 sales in 1987 and the Golf III establishing an all-time record for the nameplate at 414,132 units sold in 1992. The fifth gen was the weakest, dropping to 148,879 sales and 4.3% share in 2006.
See the full article featuring commentary/pictures for each generation below.
(These commentaries are featured in the excellent Romanian car site www.autoevolution.com)
Golf I (1974 to 1983): “It all began in 1974 with a revolution,” is how Klaus Bischoff, Head of Design for the Volkswagen brand describes it. “The step from the Beetle to the Golf was revolutionary. A new vehicle layout was created with the conversion from an air-cooled rear engine to a water-cooled front engine and from rear-wheel drive to front-wheel drive. In terms of the car’s styling, Volkswagen designers switched from round shapes to a rectangular design structure – based on the legendary design study by Giorgio Giugiaro”.
Golf II (1983 to 1991): This was the Golf in which Volkswagen technologies such as the controlled catalytic converter (1984), ABS (1986) and all-wheel drive (1986) were introduced. In this generation, the model series also advanced to become a definitive icon. Marc Lichte, lead exterior designer for Volkswagen recalls: “Back then, one of the key moments in the history of the Golf was the decision by board members to further develop the styling of the Golf I and conceptualise the Golf II based on its “visual DNA”. This set everything into motion, and Volkswagen created the foundation for continuous development of the model series.”
Golf III (1991 to 1997): In 1991, Volkswagen initiated a new era of safety in the third generation. For one, the Golf III was the first model in the series to offer front airbags in 1992; for another, great progress in the area of body manufacturing led to further improvements in crash properties. The first TDI engine of the model series was also introduced in this Golf (1993).
Golf IV (1997 to 2003): Under the direction of the former Head of Design (Group) Hartmut Warkuß, a precise design was created that would pave the way for the future of Volkswagen. Today, experts look upon the Golf IV as a design icon and a pioneer for the series. But this Golf was also an engineering innovator with technologies such as ESC (1998) and the dual clutch gearbox (2002).
Golf V (2003 to 2008): 35 per cent was gained in torsional rigidity when the Golf V made its debut in 2003. The first Golf BlueMotion (4.5 l/100 km fuel consumption) – based on the Golf V – was created in 2007. The Golf V has so far been the least successful generation of the nameplate.
Golf VI (2008 to 2012): The body, once again welded by laser, was so safe that it performed with flying colours in EuroNCAP crash testing, attaining its maximum five star rating. The triumph of the TSI engines (high-tech petrol engines) and conversion of the turbodiesels (TDI) to the common rail system led to more dynamic performance and better fuel economy. The forerunner was the second Golf BlueMotion, which offered a combined fuel consumption value of just 3.8 l/100 km.
Golf VII (since 2012): Weight was reduced by up to 100 kg in the seventh generation Golf, reversing the much discussed upward weight spiral. Fuel consumption was reduced by as much as over 23 per cent compared to the previous model, depending on the specific engine. The forerunner of this movement is the Golf TDI BlueMotion with a combined fuel consumption of just 3.2 l/100km, and it is also the 30 millionth car produced.
Source: Volkswagen, www.autoevolution.com