Before the rise of Tesla, Germany has always been recognised for building the most technologically advanced cars. Today for our tech throwback, we look at Volkswagen’s origin.
On 28th May 1937, Adolf Hitler founded a new automobile company called Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH. Since Hitler was of the Nationalist Socialist (Nazi) Party, the government of Germany owned the company. Later in 1937, the executives renamed the company as Volkswagenwerk, which meant “The People’s Car Company”.
Volkswagen headquarters was in Wolfsburg, Germany. According to a history-focused website, Hitler was interested in mass-producing affordable and fast vehicles that people could buy for 1,000 Reich marks (this was an equivalent of $140 at the time). As of now, this could be worth around $2,700 to $2,900 from a DollarTimes estimation.
Hitler had offered Ferdinand Porsche, an Austrian-German engineer, the contract to build Volkswagen vehicles earlier in 1934. By that time, Porsche had already founded his car company named after himself. He was already a popular name in the car manufacturing industry. However, it was after he renounced his Czechoslovak citizenship and joined the German Nazi party, that he was officially tagged; Great German Engineer.
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The first car that Volkswagen displayed at the Berlin Motor Show in 1939 was the KdF Wagen. The name is roughly translated as “Kraft-Durch-Freude Strength-Through-Joy car”. Word War II started not quite long after the car launched and production stopped until after the war in 1945. The war had destroyed Volkswagen’s factories and the whole country came together to rebuild it and use it as a way to bring Germany’s economy back to life.
It worked and not quite long after, Volkswagen vehicles began gaining popularity in many parts of the world. However, its sales in the United States met oppositions because of its Nazi roots. It took the legendary campaign for Volkswagen Beetle from advertising agency, Doyle Dane Bernbach, to break this duck in 1959.
Not surprisingly, Volkswagen became the highest-selling auto-import in the United States. Germany also sold 60 per cent of the company’s stock to members of the public.
The Volkswagen Beetle sold 21.5 million units and was produced actively between 1938 and 2003. It is also the first car to reach twenty million sales and remains the bestselling single design in history.
In recent years, Volkswagen has to catch up and it is designing its own electric cars to compete against Tesla and others.
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