After a three-year break, Volkswagen returns to the Techno Classica, one of the world's largest car shows held annually in Essen, Germany. VW plans to present itself as a brand "with a heart" and showcase its historical models. The centerpiece will feature 50 years of the Passat, a car VW calls an everyday hero and a design classic.
Volkswagen launched the Passat in 1973 as a flagship model and part of its strategy to transform its post-Beetle lineup. Based on the Audi 80, the Passat shared many components and styling with the Audi, both of which were designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro. Offered as a sedan, wagon, or liftback, it featured front-wheel drive and fuel injection, making it one of the most modern European family cars of its time.
A second-generation model debuted in 1980. Still sharing most of its components with the Audi 80, top-of-the-line models received the Audi five-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive, which Volkswagen called the Syncro. Production increased as VW manufactured it in China, Mexico, South America, and South Africa and sold it on six continents.
Volkswagen made several changes with the third-generation Passat, including moving the Passat over to a VW platform shared with the Golf. It was the first version of the car called the Passat in the US. The previous generations were known as the Dasher and Quantum. Styling also departed from Audi and featured a unique front end that recalled air-cooled VWs of the past. It's the only generation with that unusual styling. VW engineered a facelift in 1993, and styling returned to its more traditional Audi-like look from then on.
For the Techno Classica, VW has given the Passat the motto "Immer weider neu" or "always reinventing itself" to mark the car's anniversary. From the beginning, customers liked the Passat for its value and engineering. Each of the eight generations has built on those strengths while adapting to the changing times.
Most recently, those changes have included dropping the Passat from the US lineup and ending production of the sedan. The 2024 model will be a wagon-only model sharing a platform with Skoda, while the sedan version will be replaced with a new EV.