Few automobiles have had as long a lifespan as the Volkswagen Golf. It practically invented the “hot hatch” segment of the market when it first went into production in 1974 as theq replacement for the original Beetle. The first Toyota Corolla appeared in 1966 and the first Honda Civic went on sale in 1972, but both of those lacked the hatchback feature that made the Golf (sold as the VW Rabbit for many years in North America) so practical. To date, it is one of the best selling automobiles in history with more than 35 million copies sold through 2019.
The current Golf is version 8. A mid-cycle refresh is planned for 2024 and the company said this week that the car will probably be sold through 2030. But this will be the last-gasoline powered Volkswagen Golf. When version 9 gets here in 2030, it will be battery electric car only and the internal combustion powered Golf will be no more.
Volkswagen says it plans to sell only electric cars in Europe by 2033 — two years ahead of the European Union’s ban on internal combustion cars that is scheduled to go into effect in 2035. (Germany is trying to fudge that timeline a bit by carving out an exception for certain e-fuels, but they will likely be irrelevant by the time 2035 rolls around anyway.)
Reuters reports that Thomas Schäfer, the current head of the Volkswagen brand, told Germany’s Automobilwoche on Sunday that the company does not plan to develop a new combustion engine generation of the Golf after the current version reaches the end of its normal life.
“With that, the car is set until the end of the decade. Then we have to see how this segment develops,” Schaefer said. “If the world develops completely differently than expected by 2026 or 2027, we could develop a totally new vehicle — but I don’t think it will. So far that is not expected,” he added.
Volkswagen’s decision not to invest in upgrading the Golf, for decades Europe’s bestselling car, is a marker of the shift in investment by the carmaker from retooling combustion engines to bringing down the cost of electric vehicles. The Volkswagen brand is targeting 80% electric sales in Europe, 55% in North America, and 50% electric sales globally by 2030.
The company plans to keep the Golf name for a future electric model, but the earliest this is likely to be released is 2028, Schaefer said. The brand says it will launch 10 new electric models by 2026, including a battery-electric car for under 25,000 euros ($27,000).
The Future Of The Volkswagen Golf Name
Volkswagen has displayed some ambivalence about what the future of the Golf name will be. At the Los Angeles Auto Show last November, Shäfer told the press the company has no intention of retiring the Golf name when the eighth generation of that iconic model is retired.
“There is a connection with VW and ID, and there is no need to cancel [ID]. We have iconic brand names, Golf and GTI; it would be crazy to let them die and slip away. We will stick with the ID logic but iconic models will carry a name.” He noted the ID. Buzz already uses a name rather than a number and that Volkswagen “might have ID Golf. We would not let go of the Golf name, no way.” Despite that, the ID naming convention is here to stay, said Schäfer, as it is already well known to buyers and is associated with electric VWs.
Schäfer made it clear a new electric e-Golf would not be a replacement for the Volkswagen ID.3, and that the two models were considered separate cars in size and positioning. When asked if there was room for both, he said “yes” before adding, “The ID. 3 has never been a successor to the Golf, it is more a Golf Plus.”
Then in February, Volkswagen moved on from the ID.Life that was under development when Ralf Brandstätter was in charge. New boss Schäffer sent his designers back to the drawing boards, where they came up with the ID.2, a smaller version of the ID.3 that is supposed to sell for under €22,000 or €25,000, depending on which news story you read.
Unnamed sources told Autocar the new car will be a compact 5-seater that will carry the well known Golf name forward. There is even the possibility that a GTI version may be in the offing sometime in the future. Those sources also confirmed that the Volkswagen ID.2/Golf will be the first Volkswagen based on the MEB Plus platform — an updated version of today’s widely used MEB electric car structure that will use lithium-iron-phosphate prismatic battery cells and be able to charge at up to 200 kW.
In an interview with Autocar last October, Schäfer said much the same thing he said in Los Angeles. “The Golf name has huge value. The recognition it receives at [customer] clinics — people absolutely understand what we are talking about. So to change the name to something completely different doesn’t make sense.”
The ID.2all Debuts
A few weeks ago, Volkswagen introduced the ID.2all, a version of the ID.2 we heard about in February that incorporates several design cues from previous versions of the Golf. Volkswagen says it expects the ID.2all to go into production in 2026. It is scheduled to be built alongside similar models from SEAT and Škoda at the company’s factory in Spain.
Volkswagen stressed at the introduction that the ID.2all is a concept car that is not expected to go into production for at least 2 years. It may well become the ID.Golf —or something like that — when it actually goes into production. What it is called by that time is anyone’s guess, but if it has the word “Golf” associated with it, no one would really be surprised. There is a lot of brand equity in that name, which has graced tens of millions of Volkswagen vehicles. If it looks like a Golf and drives like a Golf, you might as well call it a Golf.
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