After a million kilometres of motoring in an SA-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 had been his constant companion in recent years as he traveled 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 8000km 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 a 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 (6.6l/100km). Working out the cost over the years at an average of R8 per litre, 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 000km - 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 spokesperson 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."