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The History of Volkswagen Group

A Brief Overview Of Volkswagen History

Updated September 3, 2018

Founded in 1937 by Ferdinand Porsche, Volkswagen would translate to the “people’s car” in German. The first Volkswagen was to be built to offer an inexpensive means of transportation the general public. The German Labour Front was seeking production of a vehicle they could hold two adults and three children and be able to reach a top speed of the least 100 km/h and cost around the same price as a motorcycle at that time. Though companies were working to produce an inexpensive alternative for vehicular transportation, none of the companies would be able to reach a price that low with private industry workforce. In the early 30s, Adolf Hitler would sponsor the state-owned factory in order to produce the inexpensive means of transportation. The prototype would become known as the KdF-Wagen and would be one of the first for wind-tunnel testing. By 1939 only 30 Volkswagen KdF-Wagens would be built before the factory would be converted to produce military vehicles to assist the German Military.

Volkswagen History 1

With many current auto plant workers fighting on the front lines of WWII, the manufacturing plant Wolfsburg would utilize slave labor. In 1945, Allied forces would seize control of the Wolfsburg plant and although damaged and in disrepair an engineer the name of Ivan Hirst was a Major in the British Army would save the factory and began production of Volkswagen Beatles for use in such applications as the German postal service. There would be a lack of transportation therefore leading the British military government at that time to place order for 20,000 vehicles to be produced. By 1946 the Wolfsburg plant that produces 1000 vehicle manufacturing it was still not fully operational. In 1947 the Volkswagen beetle would begin exporting to other countries as the inexpensive alternative to transportation. By 1949 Volkswagen would produce its 50,000 vehicle with 15% of its production be sold in the surrounding European market. During the same year under the hands of the British military government and the ordinance 202, Volkswagen would be handed over to GmbH. At the time of the handover Volkswagen would employ 10,000 individuals and produce four thousand vehicles monthly. Throughout the 1950s Volkswagen introduced themselves into the North American market and sales would quickly take off.

Volkswagen History 2

Volkswagen would soon start to introduce the Type II commercial vehicle that could be used in various platforms such as a van, pickup, or camper.  In 1953 the Volkswagen trademark would be created by a Porsche engine designer, Franz Xaver Reimspiess. The beginning of the 60s would lead Volkswagen to begin to diversify its product lines with the introduction of the Karmann Ghia (Type III). In 1964-1965 the subsidiary of Daimler-Benz by the name of Auto Union GmbH would be taken over by Volkswagen best creating it subsidiary to this day by the name of Audi.

Volkswagen History 3

The late 1960s and early 70s would see the introduction of the Volkswagen Type IV which would come in various different models such as a coupe, sedan and wagon. In 1973 Volkswagen would introduce the Passat which would be a successor to the VW 1600. The following year Volkswagen would introduce several new models including the Scirocco, Golf and soon after the Polo. In 1973 the oil crisis would affect auto manufacturers around the world and Volkswagen was included. In the following year Volkswagen would have to take effort to downsize its workforce and by October 1975 32,761 employees would no longer work for the company. The positive side for Volkswagen was the fact that they were producing small, affordable vehicles which would help keep sales boosted more than nearly all competitors. In the 1980s Volkswagen would continue sales slumping in the United States and Canada which would lead to the company to redirect its interest into developing countries and would end up closing its Pennsylvania factory in 1988.

By the 1990s Volkswagen was starting to see gains in the company as well as some more vehicles in the North American markets. The Volkswagen CEO at that time of Ferdinand Piech would start rapidly acquiring auto manufacturers such as Lamborghini, Bentley, and Bugatti. Through the 2000s Volkswagen would continue to struggle in the American market as their vehicles did not receive very good marks due to reliability issues. This would cause the Volkswagen company to make many different changes to their vehicles in order to improve reliability and common issues. In 2009 Volkswagen would purchase nearly 20% of Suzuki’s issued shares in the two companies would form a common strategic partnership. In 2011 Volkswagen inaugurated the Volkswagen Chattanooga assembly plant in Chattanooga,Tennessee. The company plans to produce 150,000 vehicles annually and has the ability to produce Passats as well as Audi’s specifically tailored for the US market.

Volkswagen History 4

Today Volkswagen manufactures its vehicles in over 15 countries and was named one of the world’s 25 largest companies. The company now employs around 375,000 individuals worldwide and produces over 4.5 million vehicles annually. Volkswagen is currently working on several different forms of power for its vehicles. The company is working with flexible fuel vehicles especially through its Brazil manufacturing giving their vehicles the ability to run off of petrol or ethanol. Volkswagen is introducing its first all electric vehicle by the name of E-Up! Since the early 60s Volkswagen has had a role in competitive auto racing and continues to compete in such races as the World Rally Championship and Dakar. It is also said that in 2018 Volkswagen is considering having a race team ready for entrance into Formula One.

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Uriah Nazario
About Uriah Nazario

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