After nearly 50 years in the U.S. market, the Volkswagen Passat is no more. The final sedan rolled off the assembly line in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where more than 800,000 Passats were built since production started in 2011. This may not sound like that big of a deal since the Passat has been a middle-of-the-road sedan for some time now. But, it is to me.
The Passat and Chattanooga plant have always been closely associated – mostly because 2011 was the start of the U.S. getting its own, completely unique Passat. It was both much larger and cheaper than the European version. It turned out to be a huge sales success.
In 2011, the final year of the European Passat sales – the company sold less than 23,000. The next year, VW sold over 125,000 North American Passats. That also happened to be the best sales year the Passat would ever have – declining nearly every year after. In its final year, VW sold just 24,398 Passats in the U.S.
With those rather small numbers it’s not hard to see why Volkswagen is pulling the plug. Segment leaders like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord sold 313,795 and 202,676 units, respectively. Hell, the Passat was handily outsold by the Chevy Malibu – a car I didn’t even know was still on sale in 2021.
The Passat’s downfall was most likely due to the fact it had barely been updated since its 2011 debut, aside from a facelift in 2020. Even that was too little too late.
It’s fitting that Volkswagen’s press photo of the final Passat is a grey car, since they all seemed to be painted grey.
The Chattanooga plant will now start pumping out the all-electric ID.4 crossover.
But, while no one is sad to see the Passat leave the U.S. market, why am I? Well I’m a sentimental baby, and my first car was a 2000 VW Passat V6. Granted – it was a far better car than the North American Passat that replaced it years later, but the name means something to me.
Maybe it has something to do with getting older and not being 17 anymore, but it feels weird getting older and seeing cars you grew up with sliding away into the ether. Anyway, this is an existential crisis I’m going to have to have somewhere else.