Automotive exiles. A two-part study.
The average shelf life of a newly introduced car before it is withdrawn and replaced by a new model has steadily shrunk over recent decades. Whether this is due to the exponential speed at which technology is now developing or simply marketing-driven is a matter of debate, but in a number of cases the cessation of production in its country of origin does not necessarily mean that the car’s production life is over, many car lines continuing to thrive elsewhere around the globe.
There are several well known cases but equally some that have continued their career in relative obscurity. The ubiquitous Volkswagen Beetle will probably jump to mind for many because it was in production for close to 70 years. However, if we analyse and rank vehicles by the number of years of continued production in another country after manufacturing in the home country has ceased, the Beetle doesn’t win in the longevity stakes.
In fact, it fails to even make it into the top three. The reason for this of course is that it kept rolling off the Wolfsburg production lines for so long – the same going for the Citroën 2CV. Utilising this cars in exile yardstick yields some interesting results, and in some cases from unexpected sources. We begin with the VW’s home country.
By setting a minimum of ten years produced in exile in order to qualify for inclusion in this analysis, the first candidate to make the cut is the Ford Taunus TC2 / Cortina Mk4 which was produced between 1976 and 1982. The car remained in production in South America for years, but it was in Turkey (as the Otosan Taunus) that it survived the longest: 1994, which amounts to twelve years in exile.
The Opel Rekord C built between 1966 and 1971 surpasses this by some margin due to its second life in Brazil where it continued to be made as the Chevrolet Opala/ Comodoro/ Diplomata until 1992 for an exile score of twenty-one years. This is matched by the Volkswagen Jetta A2, produced in Germany between 1984 and 1992: FAW-Volkswagen in China continued making it until 2013. SAIC-Volkswagen, also Chinese but a separate company from FAW-Volkswagen, only halted production of the Santana B2 (made in Germany between 1981 and 1988) in 2012 which brings its tally to an impressive 24 years.
Next in line is that old favourite the VW Beetle- built in its Heimat between 1946 and 1978 – for which in Mexico the end only came by 2003 resulting in 25 years of life in exile; a performance matched by another, much younger, German car: the Opel Kadett E/ Vauxhall Astra MK II. Produced between 1984 and 1991, the car was assembled afterwards in a myriad of guises – its last holdout being Uzbekistan where its final year of manufacture was 2016 under the name Daewoo Nexia II or Chevrolet Nexia II.
We return to Wolfsburg for our next competitor, the much loved Golf I (1974-1983). The original Golf remained in production in South Africa as the Citi Golf until 2009 which means that it beats its rear-engined ancestor by one year on the exile scale with a tally of twenty-six.
The Cabriolet version of the first generation Golf was produced until 1994 at Karmann however, so depending on how you view such matters, this could reduce its exile score to fifteen years. The clear winner in any case is another famous VW, the bay window Kombi. Built in Germany from 1967 until 1979 it continued to be produced at several locations worldwide, with Brazil persisting the longest: 2013. That means a mighty 34 years of afterlife.
A bit unexpected for a country with such a huge car industry, the USA has just two candidates that make the cut here – the Willys Aero (1952-1955), a compact American perhaps a little too much ahead of its time, resurfaced in Brazil and was built as the Willys (and later Ford) Itamaraty until 1971. An effective facelift by Brooks Stevens hid its dated origins quite well – in all, the Willys registers sixteen years in exile.
The Ford Falcon was built in America in its first-generation guise between 1960 and 1963, then fled south to Argentina where it continued to be produced until September of 1991. This makes its extended life in exile a whopping twenty-eight years. Meanwhile, Studebaker’s 1963 Avanti, although still produced by a succession of enterprises in more or less original guise until as late as 1991, was never produced outside of the USA, and so is inadmissible in this overview.
Moving on to la douce France: first up is relatively young car, the Citroën ZX (1990-1998): As the Fukang and C-Elysée it kept rolling off the assembly lines in China until 2014, earning it an exile score of sixteen years. Peugeot’s trusty 404 (1960-1975) matches that performance – Kenya was the location where the very last 404 model was assembled in 1991.
Its successor, the 504 (1968-1983) rather comfortably beats its older colleague by being built in Nigeria until 2006 as the 504 Bestline, scoring a healthy twenty-three on the exile scale. At the bottom row of the lead photo of this article the tail-lifted Argentinian 504, made there until 1999, is also shown.
The big winner among the French manufacturers however is la Régie Renault. The popular 5 (1972-1985) only met its end -although one could argue if it really still was a Renault with its Mazda 121 sourced underpinnings and engine- in 2008 when the last one (now under the name Pars Khodro PK) was put together in Iran. That amounts to twenty-three years of manufacture in exile.
The larger Renault 12 (1969-1980) emerges victorious by continuing its life in Romania courtesy of Dacia: the very last 1310 only rolled out of the factory gates in 2004 – beating its smaller stablemate by one year at twenty-four. Pick-up derivatives of the 12 (1304/1307) were built by Dacia until 2006 so its score could even be augmented to twenty-six.
The concluding part follows shortly.
 Although the USA afforded many of their creations quite short lifespans until the seventies.