BEIJING -- Volkswagen Group plans to stop making Santana cars in China, bidding farewell after over three decades to its first Chinese-made model that became a symbol of the country's rising middle class and helped fuel the automaker's popularity.
VW's joint venture with SAIC Motor will end production of the Santana, Skoda's Rapid and a current version of Tharu SUV at its plant in the eastern city of Yizheng, government documents showed.
That plant is the main factory responsible for making Santanas in China and has the capacity to manufacture 224,400 units a year.
VW did not directly comment on its plans for the Santana but said in a statement to Reuters consumer tastes had shifted away from sedans toward SUVs.
"Customer preferences are gradually shifting away from notchback ICE (internal combustion engine) models towards BEV (battery electric vehicle) and SUV models," the company said.
Production of Santanas began in China in 1985 and Volkswagen said more than 6 million had been delivered to Chinese customers over the years.
It was unclear whether VW will continue to make Santanas in other markets.
The affordable sedans - which became status symbols in the 1990s as China's economy boomed - have been credited with helping VW break into the Chinese market and rise to the top rank of foreign automakers there in terms of sales.