By on February 5, 2015

Gol GT 1984 e Gol GTi 1990 _7_

If the Volkswagen Gol is no longer Brazilians’ sweetheart after 27 long years as the most sold car in this market, there is another whole segment of automotive sales where the Gol unequivocally leads. That is that of secondhand car sales. Does this mean the Volkswagen is still favored by most Brazilians or is it simply a reflection of the Gol’s lost, but decades old, sales crown?

According to FENAUTO (the national federation that congregates individual states’ associations of secondhand car dealers), the Gol tops by a wide margin the compilation of most sold used cars. All by its lonesome, close to 1 in 10 used cars sold in 2014 were of the model. 1,148,128 Gols of all vintages were sold (compare that to the slightly over 183,000 brand new Gols that left showrooms last year).

In all, more than 11 million used cars changed hands last year (compared to more than 3.5 million brand-new ones, more than three times more). In a faraway second place (a German advantage of more than 460,000), the Fiat Uno. 682,286 of one of Giorgetto Giugiaro’s most successful and acclaimed designs found new homes. In third, the Fiat Palio at 621,535. Adding up both Fiats, they outpaced the VW by more than 150,000 transactions. Though of course two different models, the Fiats were remarkably similar throughout their careers and though the Gol led for the better part of the last three decades, Uno and Palio together have always sold more then the VW since 1996 when the Palio was launched. The Gol, an all-Brazilian design and developed car, arrived in 1980, while the Uno has been doing battle with it since 1984.

In fourth and fifth the first Chevrolets appear, Celta and Corsa, both of which at over 370,000 sales. A bit further down, the first Ford in sixth (the Fiesta at 250 thousand). Another Volkswagen is the seventh, the Fox (245 thousand), while the first pickup, the Fiat Strada, is eighth (242 thousand). In ninth and tenth, the most commercialized sedans, the Fiat Siena (225 thousand) and the Chevrolet Classic (214 thousand).

Interestingly, the Toyota Corolla is in twelfth (170 thousand sales). It is the only representative of a non-Brazilian Big Four (Fiat, GM, VW and Ford) brand. And, iIn a testament of the segment’s growing strength in a market that has trebled in size, an “SUV” launched in 2003, the Ford EcoSport, is the fourteenth most sold (140,000).

Volkswagen do Brasil has sold over 7.5 million Gols since the 80s. Apparently, 6 million are still on the road though in what state is impossible to determine as there is as yet no vehicle inspection program in this country (though both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo states check cars for emissions and some visually verifiable items like tires). This is surely one of the reasons thrifty Brazilians buy the Gol in greater numbers than any other. In this country, Volkswagen still maintains a reputation for reliability, the more so the further back you go.

As such, Gols command a slight price advantage over their main rivals in the secondhand market. In spite of that, the Gol is considered an easy sell. To have a Gol is having “dinheiro na mão” (money in your hands) and this reputation lives on.

Being that Brazil is a continental country, local variations abound. São Paulo inhabitants, known as “Paulistas” have more money than any other in the country. In terms of brand-new car sales, two decades ago Paulistas bought more than 40% of brand-new cars in the country. The state’s sales ranking does not reflect sales in Brazil at large. As an example, Fiat is only third in state rankings (GM leads and VW is second) and Hyundai outsells Renault (and encroaches on Fiat in the city of São Paulo). Nowadays, Paulistas buy a little over 3 in 10 cars sold. In this way, the Gol’s leadership as the most secondhand car sold in Brazil is secure. However, as Paulistas’ participation in total cars sales decline, so should the Gol’s.

Another reason the Gol outsells all others is ease of repair. Since it’s been here since the 80s and has sold in greater numbers than competitors, there is a huge aftermarket parts and accessories industry pumping out everything a Gol needs to keep running. Volkswagen’s dealership network is the largest in Brazil, though it is widely known that consumers in this country run from the dealerships as soon as their warranties expire. Nonetheless, some parts are easier to find at the dealers than anywhere else, so the more remote the region in Brazil, the greater likelihood a Gol will have better support than most rivals. Also, mechanics see a lot of them everyday and know their ins and outs better than other cars’.

Finally, there is the historical weight of the 27 years of leadership and a presence of 35 years in the market. Having been the favorite for such a long time means there is a wellspring of goodwill and fondness for the model. Many parents will undoubtedly buy their scions Gols when they come of driving age as they recall their own cars lovingly. Those spending their own money will also tend towards the Gol remembering Gols in their pasts, owned by friends and family and, taking into consideration reliability, ease of repairs, availability of parts, and wide array of selection, will outright buy or finance a used Gol as it’s surely a “safe” bet. The sheer numbers sold guarantee that in used car dealer lots across the country, a potential buyer will see more Gols than other cars and will be able to pick and choose among a wider offering.

Over the Gol’s career, the Brazilian brand-new car market has gone from under one million sales a year to highs of 3.7 million two short years ago. The used car market has of course followed this exponential growth. That means that the car is becoming a true mass market product in Brazil (and according to some reports, in some regions, car penetration has achieved European levels, being that the one car for roughly every 2.5 inhabitants in São Paulo city is similar to some Western European countries’ levels). So more Brazilians than ever buy cars, brand-new or secondhand. For them, the Volkswagen brand offers a degree of psychological comfort as they reflexively buy the car that has been the market favorite and has become a synonym, wrongly or rightly, with what is considered true “brasilidade” (Brazilian-ness).

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33 Comments on “Dispatches Do Brasil: VW Gol, Still The One...”

  • avatar

    Can you ship me a 25-year-old one? I like it!

    • 0 avatar

      Get a 1988 Gol GTS. I used to drool over that car when I was waiting to get my drivers license. A very wealthy friend of mine got one as a present when he turned 18 (legal driving age down here) and it was the coolest car in the city by far.

      A year later another wealthy friend got a Civic Si though and that was the end of his coolness-reign :)

      • 0 avatar

        I was one of the very lucky ones and got a new 1991 Gol GTS (post facelift) from my father when I turned 18.

        I had the carburetor swapped for a racing one, along with the exhaust. The car would get an equivalent to 11 mpg running ethanol and the tires used to last 6K miles on average due to the “driving conditions”.

        I miss that car dearly, and would buy one in a heartbeat if I could go back in time. Used ones in good shape go for a surprisingly high figure ($20-25K) for a 25 year old car, which is about what they cost new if you don’t account for inflation. Crazy.

      • 0 avatar

        The Gol GTS and GTi plus the later Gol “bolinha” with the hood bulge to fit in the 2.0 German Golf engine are surely classics. Roughly speaking, they are the Brazilian equivalents of desirable American pony/muscle .

        Come to think of it, though the market was much smaller, there were many more “real” sports cars back in the 80s and 90s. Cars like the Ford Escort XR3, Chevy Kadett GSi, and the Fiats: the 1.5R, the 1.6R, the Uno and Tempra turbos (not to mention convertibles like the Escort and Kadett…).

        Yes, everybody had them. Ford Corcel GT, Maverick V8, Escort RS Zetec 2.0. Dodge: Darts and Challengers. VW: Karmann Ghia, SP2, Passat TS. Chevrolet: Opala SS (inline 6!), Omega, Calibra. Fiat: Coupé, Tipo Sedicivalvole, Marea Turbo. All with modified suspensions and engines that they gave them real oomph.

        Now with a market 3x larger, there are only pseudo off roaders, and the only sports car, the Fiat Uno Sporting only has a bit lowered suspension and harder shocks, but the same engine as the regular line (making slower than the normal production Uno because of the beefier tires…). Unfortunately, those cars are long gone.

        Oh yeah, there is the Honda Civic Si again. For 120 thousand reais. Yeah right.

  • avatar

    That red one is so early Scirocco-like. Nice!

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, the Gol “quadrado” had a very spiffy look for the times.

    • 0 avatar

      Ditto! Was this one perchance a Giugiaro design?

      • 0 avatar

        Hi James! The Gol? Never. Seems to me they were always done in-house and by Brazilian VW staff.

      • 0 avatar

        Thought the same thing RE: Guigiaro. It smacks of same-era Fiats.

        • 0 avatar

          Well, Guigiaro got his fame from “inventing” the two box, boxy car. It even got a cute name that made his and German cars’ fame, the hammerbach or something like that (means cut with an ax I believe). It means the back is truncated, like if an ax cut through it. This was very evident in the first Golf that made the designer’s name. Most other small hatchbacks have followed the basic template set then, in one form or another.

          But of course, though the Golf and Guigiaro made it famous, there is another car that did this before them and surely heavily influenced Guigiaro’s vision. A French car, the Simca 121(? – I forget the exact model) from the 60s. I also think some Renaults predated the modern hatchback. So, though Guigiaro and the Germans got the fame, the modern hatchback comes straight out of a French tradition.

  • avatar

    I bought one of these new in 1989, a white two-door wagon (a VW Fox here in the US). By no means sporty, it was reliable. The only issue was the cold-start injector (later in it’s life) sticking open and flooding the engine. I unplugged the electrical connector and cured it. It hit a deer at 50 mph without much damage – a curled, hair-covered fender was all. My ex-wife drove it for 100k miles and then it passed through two of my sons to over 200k miles reliably. I remember the boys complaining about the lack of power steering. Pretty basic transportation but very well built.

  • avatar

    Never liked it, never understood its popularity. I guess I am (was) just another Paulistano GM fanboy. Interestingly and probably paradoxically, I really liked the Parati (Gol station wagon) – that is, until the Ipanema came along (Chevrolet Kadett station wagon).

    I remember my father bought a Gol to replace his Dodge Polara. Had it for a few months and quickly replaced it for a Fiat Uno which was a lot more satisfying to all in the family.

    • 0 avatar

      Hello Autobraz, long time! Me neither, :). The Parati was fine (though the Elba had four doors, but it looked weird to me), until the Palio Weekend came along. I liked the Voyage, but then I also liked the Premio. So yes, count me in among those who don’t get the Gol’s popularity, except for the things mentioned in the article. But then again, I think an Uno or Palio do everything better and as cheaply and as reliably. Plus, Gols always had such high insurance rates.

      Back in the day my sister had a Gol bolinha first generation and I an Uno. Sometimes I’d drive her car. Compared to the Uno, wow, did it ever feel so cavernous, ponderous and dark. I remember driving that Gol with a broken rib, that hurt, believe me!

      Nonetheless many picked it and continue picking it. Like I said in my article on the Palio’s victory in sales last year, the Gol never did much for me until the G5 came along. However, the Gol will forever be as Brazilian as feijoada to many. Got to respect that.

      • 0 avatar

        My father in-law bought a Gol bolinha first gen to replace a Chevette. From time to time I had to drive it. Hated doing it. 100% agree with your impressions. The newest Gol doesn’t seem so bad but still I don’t know why one would choose it over all the alternatives available.

        Still see the odd Voyage and Parati around Vancouver (branded as Fox).

    • 0 avatar

      nice Ribamar pic, Autobraz

  • avatar

    Are you guys crazy?!?!?! i grew up in Brasilia/Goiania and to own an early 90’s Gol GTI was to have the coolest car around. I remember when a friend of mine bought a 1989 Maroon colored GTS with the 1.8 engine and had it lowered with Santana’s 15 inch rims… it was the coolest car EVER!!!!!

    Well – I was 15 at the time and stealing my mother’s GOL to go out on weekends with my friends on joyrides… hers wasn’t anything special, but it was a really great car.

    My favorite car as I became of age was the Uno 1.5R / 1.6R and Uno Turbo. I owned a 1988 Uno 1.5R in 1992 and trust me – that car was awesome to drive and a major chick magnet. Didn’t it have less than 100hp? How did I call that car a sports’ car is crazy…

    i have lived in the US since 1994 and now I own an “under-powered” BMW 330…. how did I have it easy back in the day! we were very happy with so little hahahahahah

    • 0 avatar

      In line with Doug deMuro’s question of the day today, for me, to own a Gol GTI – specially with mods – was to be “that guy”. Would definitely have gone for a Uno Turbo or a Escort XR3.

      • 0 avatar

        You get it, you get it, you get it Autobraz. Glad you said this and not I, as that being a writer on this site, I’m accused enough of being biased. Fact is, in my aunt’s building there is a GTi. Blue, beautiful. Never driven. The guy washes it once a week (why? to look good in his garage?).

        Fact is, over the last two months, I have seen at least 5 different Ferraris in BH(!) (one parked on the street like a regular car – second time I have seen this during the day) and at least 7 Porsches (but they look similar to me I can’t tell if they were the same car or not, and for years I saw a Porsche parked on the street close to my old workplace), but I have not seen a GTS or GTi, parked, or even out being driven about, in maybe 10 or 20 years. That is how much their owners think of the car and it makes them very much, that guy.

        I see Escorts XR3, Uno Turbos and 1.5 and 1.6Rs, Kadetts GSis. Kadett and Escort convertibles, Tempra Turbos fairly often (even the occassional Opala SS). In other words, being enjoyed. The Gols? Never. Yeah right, again, makes you that guy.

        German car superiority. Yeah, whatever. ( I was going to say something more graphic but this is a Family site, :) )

  • avatar

    Is it just me, or does that VW bear a striking resemblance to the 3-door Lada Samara….

    • 0 avatar

      Just you, :)

      For us used to hatchbacks, I think the Samara looks more like French cars, like an old Citroën Saxo (IIRC) or Renault Clio. Even maybe something of a Ford Fiesta. In relation to the old square Gols, the three columns (A, B and C) are completely different as are how front and back lights are integrated better into the body.

      I know where you are coming from, but we in Brazil, and people in Europe, too, who have been around small hatchbacks our whole lives, see the many minute differences between them. Besides, the Samara was more Golf sized than Gol sized (if my memory is correct, we got got later Samaras in Brazil for a short time).

    • 0 avatar

      The Samara looks more Renault 11 to me. AvtoVaz was more closely associated with Fiat. The Samara used a Fiat engine but was the first AvtoVaz product not based on Fiat mechanicals.

  • avatar


    I’m glad the Gol lost its crown. while I have nothing against the current car, I like any achievement by the non-“Big Four” crew. as for the Gol moniker, I hated the so-called Gol G4, when VW de-contented it to the bones. since then, I got a nerve on the brand… on the flipside, I like the Up but it is clearly not made for Brazil.

    the two-tone Gol GTS and GTi of the late eighties and early nineties were great cars, with their stylish Recaros, BBS wheels, that “four-balled” steering wheel and affordable performance. they were never my cup of coffee but I’m fond of such versions. it’s sad that since the early-2000s, VW never dared to offer a spicy version of the Gol.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Hola Marcelo

    I think you covered in your articles the reasons of why the car is king in the used car market: difussion/volume, support network, mechanic’s knowledge and cheap parts. You can also throw the sentimentalism there.

    You can also see why it won’t go away from the Top 10 (or Top 5) new car sales anytime soon.

    I remember sitting a long time ago (I was a teenager) in a square one. I was unimpressed. The bolinha was a huge step forward.

    Regarding the Uno, I remember the 1.6R. It looked both hot and the part and was fast. At that time we had Camaro and Celica as OEM imports and whatever else you wanted from the US: Eclipse, Fox Mustang, Firebird… The Mitsu was particularly popular.

    • 0 avatar

      Sentimalisn is a big part! are we or are we not “latinos” (whatever that means)?

      Your Market was different from ours. I cannot bring myself to hate the square ones. Maybe they were right for our market. The bolinha however….they to me epitomized everything wrong VW was doing. Selling old cred, on old mechanicals, wrapped in a pretty package.

      The market changed fast between say 89ish to 95 ish. After that, i felt that neither the Gol (nor the Uno) cut it. In our marje=ket of course.

      We had the cars you mentioned, but in so few numbers. Guess for me will always be Escort XR3, Unos and Palios.

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        “Selling old cred, on old mechanicals, wrapped in a pretty package.”

        Marcelo, if you continue going through that hole, you’ll find Alicia’s wonderland. Hint, it’s not VW’s exclusivity.

        Actually, there’s a lot to respect on VW’s effort with the bolinha. Specially with that 1.0 turbo engine, which we didn’t get.

        • 0 avatar

          Oh I see what you did there! Yes, it’s the fault of Fiat (and GM) right onto to this day except….

          The Fire engines are not as old as they may seem…The Fiat platforms were modern to begin with and do what they have to do, cheaply, until this day.

          GM engines are as old as the hills…the Celta is a dumbed down take on a modern-ish platform (quite contraire to the Fiat business)…while the GM Korea cars are quite acceptable (in spite of the old engines, considering our market, I’d take one).

          Ford is basically all new.

          In that regard, after the G5, VW is all new. Except for all the problems with the EA engine family. Up better than Uno? Sure. Gol better than Palio? Possibly. Fox better than Punto? Come again. For the prices VW wants? Hummm, that Uno looks mighty fine.

          The problem with the bolinha is: Modern design, bad packaging and hybrid 60s (!)-70s tech. Take the Corsa. Intrusive wheelwell. Fiats? Lumped together pedals. Fiesta? No problem as far as I could see except support and after market, especially after Zetec engines.

          Gol? Hard. Nothing for more money. Convaluted seating position that hurts just to remember. Everything just so hard and cumbersome.

          Enter Clio and 206….

          Game over Gol (except for all detailed in articles).

          Yes the turbo 1.0s. Great. Except they “all” broke. Gol 1.0 16v? So problamatic, killed all 16v until very recently.

          Look, all makers have sins. Especially here. VW? More than most because due to their weight, they kept pulling the market back.

          • 0 avatar
            Athos Nobile

            Is a bit subtler Marcelo, but you’re on the right path.

          • 0 avatar

            Well Athos, if I’m thinking what you are thinking, then yes and no.

            The old Uno Mille is the new Fusca. On every abandoned beach in Brazil there will be a Fusca selling coconuts. And next to it na Uno selling beer.

            For all the old Gols around, gosh I see plenty of Premios and Unos and Palios. Might be the engineering is slightly better, might be the production more exact, but those old Unos and such aren’t moving around because of a Cuban mechanic and spit.

            I think I know what you are saying, and coming from your background, and with all I ahve seen and heard in the industry I hear you. But maybe the differences are so slight it only comes up after 20+ years (talking about everything else but not engines as both APs and earliers Fiasas and Fires and EAs after changes go and go and go)?

          • 0 avatar
            Athos Nobile

            Marcelo, there are lots of CO content in any given car.

            Of the cars you mentioned, VW put that beautiful (for the time) wrapping on the old platform as they probably didn’t have much choice.

            Fiat did with the original Palio, it sits on the old European Uno bones.

            I met a Brazilian bloke once who told me 16V engines where “no no” because 1) it costed more to fix the head and 2) lack of low end torque.

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