If someone asked me to recommend a car that would just keep going forever and ever, I’d automatically think of Honda, Toyota and Mercedes (but only those early W series, before Mercedes starting using Paper Mache for engine components). I mean I’ve even seen a few cars from those manufacturers with near 500,000km on the clock. However a man from Soutpan, in the Freestate, just made that seem like a trip to the corner store.
After a million kilometres of fault-free motoring and accident-free driving in a South African built 2004 Volkswagen Polo, veteran salesman Gerrie Esterhuizen has had the question he has been asking for months answered.
“We always wondered what would happen when the speedometer hit the million-kilometre mark,” said 67-year-old Gerrie.
He was speaking during a visit as a VIP guest to Volkswagen’s plant in Uitenhage to mark the remarkable achievement in clocking up the huge number of kilometres in his Volkswagen Polo, with its original engine and other key parts.
“After 999999.9 kilometres, the speedometer just shows six dashes, although the trip meter carries on working,” Gerrie’s wife of 47 years, Magriet, said. She has been his constant companion in recent years as he travels as a salesman from their home is Soutpan, near Bloemfontein, over the testing roads of the Free State and parts of the Northern Cape, North West and Lesotho.
“We travel up to 800km a day from our home and back, often spending more than 10 hours on the road and seeing clients, mainly in small towns in our sales territory,” Gerrie said. “These days we average between 8 000km and 10 000km a month. In previous years we drove more than 12 000km a month.”
Gerrie and Magriet, who have three children and five grandchildren, have kept meticulous record of their million-kilometre odyssey.
“We reckon the Polo used 66 666 litres of fuel to get to the million mark. That’s an excellent figure of about 700km per 50-litre tank, or 15km a litre (6.6km/l). Working out the cost over the years at an average of R8/l, that’s about R533 000 in fuel costs.”
“But the cost of maintaining the car has been so low we can’t calculate that. We have had two new fuel pumps fitted – one at 200 000km and the other at 800 000 – but the engine has never been opened since we bought the car at Alan Hudson Motors in Nelspruit. Its clutch, starter, alternator, exhaust system, radiator and oil pump are all original. We always ensure that genuine VW parts are used when the vehicle goes for service.”
Gerrie, who has been driving Volkswagens for the past 20 years, added: “I have never experienced such outstanding reliability in any other vehicle I have driven.”
The Esterhuizens were presented with a new dashboard cluster by Managing Director of Volkswagen Group South Africa, David Powels and their vehicle was given a special overnight paint, dent removal, and general brush-up package under the watchful eye of VWSA’s Production Director Tom du Plessis.
A company spokesman said it was unusual but not unheard of for Volkswagen products to achieve such high mileage in various parts of the world.
When asked what their secret is to reaching over a million kilometres, the Esterhuizens replied: “Drive a well-maintained and reliable car like our million-kilometre Polo.”
Regardless of this incredible achievement, I still could never bring myself to buy a Polo. But if you’re a salesman from the middle of nowhere, with clients in the middle of the middle of nowhere, there couldn’t be a more suitable choice.
Extracts from VW press release on 6 August 2012