The final Volkswagen Passat has rolled off the assembly line in Chattanooga, Tennessee, ending the model’s extended run on the North American market.
Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro and introduced in 1973 using the VW/Audi B1 platform, the Passat arrived in the United States as the Dasher and was sold as a midsized luxury vehicle to people in the market for an imported economy car. The model carried different names in other parts of the world and even saw a few unique monikers used in the U.S. (e.g. Quantum) to help differentiate between the hatchback, sedan, and wagon variants sold throughout the 1980s. But it was officially known as the (B2) Passat by 1990, regardless of format.
Base models came equipped with a transversely mounted 1.6-liter outputting a rather meager (albeit acceptable for the time) 71 horsepower. Customers could opt for the VR6’s narrow-angle 2.8-liter unit, offering 172 hp and a top speed of 139 mph. Though most purchased versions are equipped with 1.8 or 2.0-liter engines, with Europeans being partial to the diesel variants.
Sales pitched up after the facelifted B4 model hit the scene in 1993 and continued to rise once the B5 resumed platform sharing with Audi in 1997. The model became an upscale option once again, proved by Volkswagen’s decision to begin offering versions with a 4.0-liter W8 late in its lifecycle. However, the majority of fifth-gen models came equipped with four or six-cylinder motors and front-wheel drive, though all-wheel drive remained available throughout most of the B5’s lifespan.
U.S. volume peaked in 2012 with 117,023 deliveries after the B6 had been retired. But it might not be a totally fair assessment because that was also the year holdover models were being sold alongside the larger Passat “New Midsize Sedan” designed specifically to cater to North American and Chinese customers. While the initial reception was positive, sales began to taper off and VW started offering fewer ways to configure the model. Thanks to the internet, Americans had also become aware that the smaller, European-market Passat came with glitzier options and a higher price.
By the end, the manufacturer was only offering the facelifted North American Passat with the default 2.0-liter TSI (174 hp) and six-speed automatic while China got an entirely new model. In 2021, Volkswagen reported it only managed to move 24,396 units inside the United States. China sold 124,402 examples — making it easy to see the company opted to pull the Passat from one market and not the other.
VW mourned the loss of its midsized mainstay this week as executives publicly suggested it was for the best.
“Volkswagen is in the business of making memories, and for 50 years nearly two million Volkswagen owners made memories behind the wheel of a Passat,” stated Scott Keogh, President and CEO, Volkswagen Group of America. “For the thousands of our workers in Chattanooga, that is what makes their job special. And as we look to the future, with the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport in high demand, and the assembly launch of our all-electric ID.4 SUV coming later this year, they’re ready to help America make millions more of those memories.”
[Images: Volkswagen Group]
Become a TTAC insider. Get the latest news, features, TTAC takes, and everything else that gets to the truth about cars first by subscribing to our newsletter.