Vintage 48,000 Mile Test: 1976 VW Rabbit – How VW Handed Over The US Import Market to the Japanese

Here’s the final installment of Road and Track’s long term test of a first year 1975 Rabbit. The plan was to test it only to 24,000 miles, but since the car required extensive upgrading to 1976 specs (by VW) and than suffered a major failure (broken crankshaft) along with numerous more minor maladies, the test was taken all the way to 48,000 miles.

And it shows just why VW lost its grip on the US market to the Japanese.

The first chapter of this saga (24,000 miles) is here; The second chapter (36,000 miles) is here.

The combination of poor quality/reliability along with a very unfavorable exchange ratio was a body blow to VW, which watched its market share shrivel away. Well, that had already started a few years earlier, when it was still trying to sell a desperately obsolete Beetle and other rear-engined cars like the 411/412. Meanwhile, Honda couldn’t make Civics and Accords fast enough.

And VW is still trying to play catch-up in the US market, where it has been losing some $600-700 million per year, the one big black hole in its huge global success. And so far, success has been rather modest.