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Brazil Says Goodbye to the Kombi—For Now

With a series of new car safety measures from the Brazilian government scheduled to go into effect January 1, Volkswagen's famous Type 2 van—known in Latin America as the Kombi—will no longer be produced after 56 years. But there may be one last glimmer of hope.

The iconic bread loaf-looking van, in continuous production at a plant just outside São Paulo since 1957, has never come with airbags or anti-lock brakes due to design constraints. After Brazil approved legislation requiring all vehicles made in the country to come with standard safety features starting next year, Volkswagen decided not to modify the Kombi. Instead, the carmaker announced it would be producing 1,200 special "Last Edition" versions of the van. For nearly twice the usual cost. 

According to a Telegraph report however, Brazil’s finance minister is looking into a possible exemption that would allow the Kombi to resume production.

For most North Americans and Europeans, the Kombi is associated with hippies or camping, but in Brazil, it has long been the country's favorite utility vehicle, serving as ambulances, school buses, newsstands, food trucks, really anything that requires wheels and a lot of space. Volkswagen often pitched the Kombi to Brazilians through targeted commercials:

While a Brazilian auto blog had originally reported that Volkswagen may decide to add the new safety features after all, the German company issued a statement saying that if the exemption is passed, the company would reconsider killing off the van. A final decision is scheduled to come down today.


A 2013 "Last Edition" model of Volkswagen's Kombi minibus is displayed at the VW plant in Sao Bernardo do Campo December 9, 2013. (REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker)


People eat near a sushi bar adapted inside a Volkswagen Kombi minibus in Sao Paulo September 30, 2013. (REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker) 


A man unloads cardboard boxes from his Volkswagen Kombi minibus for recycling in Sao Paulo October 1, 2013. (REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker)


Various models of Volkswagen's Kombi minibus are displayed during a Kombi fan club meeting in Sao Bernardo do Campo December 8, 2013. (REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker)


A boy pulls along his Volkswagen Kombi toy during a Kombi fan club meeting in Sao Bernardo do Campo December 8, 2013. (REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker)

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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