By: Eric Zuidema


Germany has always been a nation known for its excellence in engineering, in fact the country has almost become synonymous with the term after German initiative enabled such projects to flourish in America including the development of rockets that propelled us into the space age and the design and development of many of our most iconic structures. Their skill for designing vehicles is no exception and became widely known throughout the world through the popularity and success of Volkswagen.

The Beginning

Volkswagen was originally founded in 1937 by the German Labor Front, a Nazi trade union. The average German automobile was comprised largely of expensive, luxury cars that were not affordable to the average German citizen. This compelled some of the major auto manufactures to begin a project with the intention to create a “people's car” or Volkswagen – the origin of the company's namesake. Ferdinand Porsche, a man famous for designing well-made vehicles and high performance race cars, designed a car with the iconic Beetle shape which he called the “Volksauto”. Adolf Hitler got involved and propelled this design into a nationwide initiative to make cars as available to German citizens as they were for the Americans. The original model sold for 990 Reichsmark, the equivalent of $396.


Following the conclusion of the Second World War, the town of KdF-Stadt, the residence of the severely damaged factory, was captured by American troops who turned it over to British control. Since the factories had been used as resources for the Third Reich, there was a movement to have it destroyed and scrapped for reparations. When this was not acted upon, Major Ivan Hirst of the British Army demonstrated a vehicle to his army who placed an order for 20,000 to be used by the occupying forces and German postal service. After more vehicles began to be produced, the company and town were renamed to Volkswagen (a nod to its founding principle) and Wolfsburg. Following the end of military occupation, the company was handed back over to the Germans who offered it to Henry Ford II. The offer was turned town after the chairman responded, “I don't think what we're being offered here is worth a damn!”.

Volkswagen’s Success

He could not have been more wrong. Volkswagen became a symbol of the rebuilding of West Germany. They were first sold in the United States in 1949, but were not immediately successful selling only two models that year. Soon after, production soared and reached upwards of a million units by 1955. The popularity caught on, and the vehicles were sold to an increasing number of nations including Canada, South American countries, and all throughout Europe. The product line was expanded to a variety of vehicles such as busses, convertibles, and sedans though the original Beetle still had not lost its fame. This success continued to grow at an exponential rate into the 21st century.


Volkswagen has come to be known as one of the most reliable automakers in the world, and the branch is now known by virtually anyone who has ever purchased a car. Staying true to their roots, the beetle is still produced, and although it has seen several design improvements over the years, its essence remains unchained as the car that began a revolution. The company has since begun producing hybrid automobiles with all the luxuries you would find in any other brand. Several additional branches of the company also exist that include the Bugatti brand, responsible for the creation of the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, the fastest production car in the world with a top speed of 254MPH and 1000HP. Germany is known for many things throughout the world, but their impact on the auto industry is recognized whenever the Beetle, or any one of their iconic cars is seen cruising down the road in style.

ger/102/2014/winter/vw.txt · Last modified: 2014/01/25 21:22 by erzuidema
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