Even today, in the age of techno-razzle-dazzle, the original Volkswagen Rabbit lives on as a current production model. Point your browser to the Volkswagen of South Africa website and you'll see for yourself that the old Rabbit, now renamed the Citi Golf, is a current offering on the new model menu. Here's the link: http://www.vw.co.za/models/.
Sure, this new Rabbit...er...Citi Golf has been updated with amenities such as airbags, modern alloy rims and multi-port fuel injection, however, it is still just a Rabbit, albeit in a fancy, hare suit. Perhaps then, it is ironic that Volkswagen has rekindled the Rabbit moniker for North America while, of all things, retaining the outgoing Mark IV Golf and Jetta as the renamed City Golf and City Jetta for the 2007 Canadian market. Or, perhaps it is not so ironic but rather a final thrust during the waning hours of the same retro-marketing movement that propagated the New Beetle.
This movement has been the force behind the development of other throw-back-mobiles such as the widely popular, retrospective Ford Mustang or the over-muscled Dodge Charger. The later, when in black and white livery, has given small-town cops a reason to get out of bed again. And then, there is the forthcoming Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger, both of which appear to be designs lifted directly from their muscle-car era ancestors. And let us not forget the PT Cruiser which, with its dowdy lines, has been with us so long that it has, perhaps, become a classic in its own right. As well, there have been others that are no longer with us. These are the retro-mobiles that did not make the grade and have been kicked back into history for a second time. Among their ranks are such notables as the Plymouth Prowler and the reinvented but ill-received Ford Thunderbird.
But retaining outgoing platforms for extended tours and recycling old nameplates is not a new practice at Volkswagen. During the late '80s and early '90s, the Rabbit convertible lived on in North America as the Cabriolet long after production of its hard-topped brethren had ceased. As well, the "old" Beetle (the one with an air-cooled engine) was produced and sold in Mexico until 2003, meaning that for six years, "old" and New Beetles co-existed as current production models. But this is nothing compared to the mileage that Volkswagen has squeezed out of the Fox nameplate.
In South Africa the Mark I Jetta was re-badged and sold beside the Mark II Jetta as the Fox until 1995. Meanwhile, in the United States a different Fox, one based on an older Audi Fox design, filled the entry level slot at dealerships until 1993. Incidentally, this same fifty-state Fox was sold in Brazil as the Gol. No, I didn't leave out the 'f'. Today, the Fox is a sub-mini auto, akin to the Smart Car in appearance, that can be seen on the streets of Europe and Latin America.
But this is marketing and the new Rabbit, though equipped the same, costs more in Canada than it does in the United States. Fearing that a twenty-thousand-dollar entry level offering would leave a good deal of the VW faithful stranded, the Volkswagen bean counters hit upon a brilliant idea, rename the outgoing model and offer it at a substantial discount. This is a no-brainer for Volkswagen and a boon for the consumer. For about the equivalent of 13 grand in US greenbacks the consumer gets a brand new Mark IV Jetta or Golf. The caveat being that there are few options available and only one engine choice, the wheezy 115hp 2.0 liter four-cylinder. But this is still a great deal. According to Edmund's, a used 2006 Golf or Jetta of the same trim level lists for about $13 to $15k. Meanwhile, Volkswagen saves a bundle on advertising, design and safety testing by reintroducing a known and well-liked product.
If you live in Arizona, you may never see a City Golf or Jetta- though I'm sure that you're inundated with Mexican Beetles. For folks like myself who live in close proximity to our northern neighbor, there is always the chance that one of these may end up in one of our driveways. Click here to build your own City Golf or Jetta: http://www.vw.ca/vwca/models/0,,143,00.html. I'll take one in alpine white, please.