This Volkswagen Is A Nissan

Illustration for article titled This Volkswagen Is A Nissan

This looks like a Volkswagen. It says Volkswagen on the back. But it's a Nissan.

It's a VW Santana, built and sold by Nissan in Japan and for the Japanese market. The Japanese-built cars were almost identical to their German-built counterparts. The only structural differences were that the Nissan-built cars were 5mm narrower for Japanese tax purposes and they got right-hand-drive windshield wipers.

Illustration for article titled This Volkswagen Is A Nissan

You could think of this Japanese Santana as something like the captive imports we had in America from the '70s through the '90s, where you'd get things like American-built Toyota Corollas sold as Chevy Novas.


Except what's so strange about this Santana is that despite getting an internal Nissan production code, the car was still badged as a VW. Ever driver stared at a VW logo on the steering wheel and their car got German model names like 'Autobahn' and 'Meisterwerk,' like the one pictured above.

Illustration for article titled This Volkswagen Is A Nissan

The ads even were spelled out in German, though the announcer spoke Japanese.

The whole operation was supposed to act as a stepping stone to a full a VW-Nissan partnership, but Japanese production only lasted from '84 to '89, and VW sales in Nissan dealerships ended in '91 when VW started toying around with Toyota.


In the end, all we have left is this strange, orphaned Nissan VW.

Photo Credits: Nissan

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When I was in Germany several years ago I saw an orange Toyota pickup with a VW logo in the grille and VOLKSWAGEN stamped across the tailgate. Wikipedia says they were built in Germany and sold as the VW Taro.