The recent news of the potential alliance brewing between Ford and Volkswagen seems like a novel idea. But what if I told you it was already tried long ago?
Come along, we’re taking a trip to Versailles.
Ford likes to use Versailles as a model name. It used Versailles in the 1950s in Europe, where the sedan was a rebadge of the Simca Vedette in places where Simca cars were not popular. Ford used the name again in the Malaise Era, when it brought forth the fantastic new Lincoln Versailles — based on the equally fantastic Ford Granada family sedan (which was just like a Mercedes, you know). Most recently, the Versailles lettering was applied to a Brazilian-market series of family cars which were actually Volkswagens.
The new Versailles model was a much-needed replacement for Ford’s Del Rey, which had been on offer in Brazil and surrounding markets since 1981. Much like the potential upcoming alliance, Ford produced the Del Rey domestically within Brazil, then decided to change course. In the late 1980s, amid a very poor Brazilian economy, Ford telephoned Volkswagen.
It was a marriage of convenience. Volkswagen, like Ford, already had large-scale production facilities within Brazil. The two companies decided it would be easier to cooperate via a joint venture rather than duke it out during struggling times, as both of them produced full lines for the same customer. AutoLatina was formed. VW’s Brazilian arm had a controlling interest of 51 percent, and Ford Brazil held the remaining 49 percent. The two companies would split responsibilities for product lines. Volkswagen took charge of the passenger cars, while Ford handled the trucks.
Headlining the Ford sedan offerings from AutoLatina was the Versailles.
Starting with the Volkswagen Quantum (which Americans called Passat), the Versailles four-door sedan was accompanied by the Royale model, which was a three-door wagon. The cars were ready for sale in 1992 after a bit of badge swapping and front- and rear-end modifications. The Versailles and others were sold at Brazilian Ford dealers, while Volkswagen dealers down the road carried their range of (nearly identical) Quantum offerings.
Despite the joint effort, both companies saw a loss of market share by the mid-90s. It just wasn’t going to work. 1996 would be the last model year for the Versailles and its brethren, as the AutoLatina partnership dissolved some time in 1995.
Today’s Rare Ride is located in Brazil. It’s a top trim Ghia model, with a 2.0-liter inline-four Volkswagen engine and an automatic transmission. With a little over 79,000 miles on the odometer, a heckblende, and lace alloys, the Versailles Ghia asks $4,368 USD.