Home / Social media / News / The Volkswagen Golf is now officially 50 years old with 37,000,000 sales under it's belt.


The Volkswagen Golf started life as the replacement for the Beetle, a car that had a worldwide cult-like following that helped it amass over 21,500,000 sales. Those are some pretty damn big shoes to fill, so the Golf had to be good. Well, it turns out that it was, and still is, because in the last 50 years, more than 37,000,000 people have bought one. As a result, chances are quite high that most people over 40 have a story or memory relating to the Mk1 Golf. Here in SA plenty of younger people fall into that category too thanks to the original timeless Mk1 only ceasing production here in 2009. The result of this is that huge numbers of people learned to drive in a Mk1 and many had the Mk1 as their first car. Even now, the Mk1 remains an affordable car that appeals to both students and serious motorsport fanatics and thanks to the way Volkswagen components are made, many parts from different generations can be retrofitted to update and customise them. It doesn’t only count for the Mk1, the same story goes for the Mk2 and Mk3, even though they had normal-length production runs. Head to any car shop and you’ll see versions ranging from mint original condition cars through to highly modified show cars. The Mk4 was the first grown-up model of the Golf thanks to a new line of engines and a decidedly upmarket interior. These are a lot more affordable now and we’re starting to see them in the hands of people who wanted one back when they were new but couldn’t afford them - like me. I’d had a few Mk1 Golfs, but I always wanted a Mk4 and they were always out of my reach, but patience, as they say, is a virtue and I got mine a little over two years ago and I’ve never been happier. I bought one of the last year models to be released, a 2004 Mk4 GTi. While the car is about to turn 20 years old, it’s still in great condition, a testament to the build quality introduced with the model. The leather is real, and it’s not worn or torn, and everything works from the Climatronic aircon system to the electric windows and the door locks. The car is about to hit 240,000 km on the odometer, and even though it’s got a few choice modifications that take the power from the factory 132 kW on the crank to just over 150 kW at the wheels and it gets driven like it was new, it’s still running on the original 20-year-old turbo. That’s the definition of quality right there. In my circle of friends and acquaintances, Volkswagen is a way of life. Everyone has one or has had one, and even though many of these caps are heading to the same as the Mk1, they remain loyal to the brand. If you scroll through my Facebook feed you’ll see everything from show-worthy Mk1s through to immaculate Mk7.5s and even tastefully modified Mk8s. I could literally spend days regaling stories about Volkswagens of all kinds, the brand is an intrinsic part of my world. In celebration of the Golf turning 50, here’s a great overview of the life of the timeless Volkswagen Golf from the Volkswagen PR machine.

Golf Mk1: A reflection of progress. Just like all following Golf generations, the first generation was also a reflection of the technical state-of-the-art and current automotive trends. And that was not just true of the ingenious use of space for the time and the vehicle’s front-wheel drive. With the first Golf GTI (1976), Volkswagen initiated the dynamic development of the compact class. The Golf D (1976) and the later Golf GTD (1982) ensured the breakthrough of diesel in the compact segment. In 1979, Volkswagen launched the Golf Cabriolet – for a time the best-selling convertible car in the world. This was like a breath of fresh air for this vehicle class, which had by then already long been known as the Golf class. A total of 6.9 million units of the first generation of the Golf, including all derivatives, were sold on all continents by 1983 – the Golf I thus proved itself to be a worthy successor to the Beetle.

Golf Mk2: The milestone. Today’s Volkswagen Chief Designer, Andreas Mindt, sums up the most important moment in the history of the Golf: “It was the switch from Golf I to Golf II. Volkswagen’s then Chief Designer Herbert Schäfer did everything right there. He modernised the second Golf but kept the DNA of the first generation. This bridge is extremely important for the Golf’s history. The Golf has always remained a further development of this original model. That is the special thing about the Golf, and the credit for this belongs to Herbert Schäfer.” Technologies such as the controlled catalytic converter, ABS and all-wheel drive made their debut in the Golf II. A total of 6.3 million Golf II cars were built between 1983 and 1991.
Golf Mk3: Safety first. From August 1991, Volkswagen kick-started a new era of safety with the Golf III. This was the product line’s first model available with front airbags from 1992, and great progress in the area of body design also led to significant improvements in its crash properties. A number of the product line’s other milestones are associated with the Golf III, which had been built 4.8 million times by 1997: for example, the first six-cylinder engine (VR6), cruise control system and the first side airbags. For the first time, this Golf was also available as an estate model.
Golf Mk4: The style icon The Golf IV presented in 1997 is today considered to be a style icon – no doubt also due to the fact that it bridged the gap to the Golf I from 1974 with its clear features and the striking C-pillar design of the product line. With the Golf IV, Volkswagen achieved a new quality standard within the segment. In parallel, the debut of ESP made a further contribution to making safety available to the masses. In 2002, Volkswagen also presented the sportiest Golf to date on the basis of the fourth generation: the R32 with a top speed of 250 km/h. In 2003, this was the first Volkswagen to receive a direct shift gearbox (DSG). The Golf IV was replaced in the same year after 4.9 million units were built.
Golf Mk5: Class limits abolished. With its outstanding comfort, the fifth Golf – which was launched in 2003 – was miles ahead of many competitors in the upper mid-sized class. The same was true for quality. A value that underlined the stability of the laser-welded body was the 35-per-cent increase in torsional rigidity. For the first time, up to eight protective airbags were also on board. In addition, the Golf V, which had been built 3.4 million times by 2008, impressed with a new four-link rear suspension, bi-xenon headlights and the first 7-speed DSG.
Golf Mk6: High-tech compact class. By the end of July 2012, a further 3.6 million Golfs had been produced in only four years on the basis of the sixth generation that was introduced in 2008. And safety once again took a great leap forward: the again laser-welded body was so stable that it scored the maximum of five stars with flying colours in the Euro NCAP crash test. New technologies such as Light Assist (advanced main-beam control), Park Assist, Hill Start Assist and adaptive chassis control (DCC) made the 2009 ‘World Car of the Year’ one of the most advanced compact cars of its time.
Golf Mk7: Less weight, less consumption. In September 2012, Volkswagen celebrated the world premiere of the seventh Golf. Its weight was reduced by up to 100 kg compared with its predecessor, which meant that fuel consumption was also reduced by up to 23 per cent. New technologies such as the Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, Adaptive Cruise Control and Front Assist including City Emergency Braking System rounded off the range of assist systems. In 2014, Volkswagen set its course for the era of electric mobility with the new e-Golf. A total of 6.3 million Golf VII cars were produced up to 2019.
Golf Mk8: The progressive modern era. Volkswagen presented the Golf VIII in October 2019. With its new mild and plug-in hybrid drives, it electrified the compact class. As one of the first compact cars, it enabled assisted driving by means of Travel Assist. Even the entry-level version today has features such as Lane Assist, Front Assist, LED headlights, LED tail light clusters and automatic air conditioner on board as standard. In combination with the optional adaptive chassis control DCC and the vehicle dynamics manager, the Golf VIII also achieves an unprecedented spread between comfort and dynamics in this class. More than one million units have been sold so far. Now, in 2024, the new evolutionary stage of the eighth generation has arrived. The new Golf impresses with a next-generation infotainment system, a more intuitive operating concept, a sharper front and rear end design as well as efficient drive systems. These include plug-in hybrid drives with an increased all-electric range of significantly more than 100 kilometres. An illuminated Volkswagen logo also adorns the front for the first time in a Golf. In addition, the new Golf with voice control and the AI-based chatbot ChatGPT once again make technical innovations available to the masses.

Take a look at the YouTube video that was posted on YouTube many years back that's been created using photos from when the car was still in mass production in Germany. It's an interesting collection of images and many will surely trigger memories in Volkswagen fanatics: VW Golf 1 The Legend- Great photo history | VW Golf Mk1 cabrio channel Giorgos Ath

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