Volkswagen has prided itself as one of the most innovative car manufacturers in the whole world. Much of the company's success is credited to the Beetle, perhaps the most popular car up to this time. The "people's car," as translated in English, has undergone a lot of changes in its designs and manufacturing since its inception in 1937 by the German Auto Association, and it has no plans of slowing down.
Its history can be traced back to when Adolf Hitler ordered Ferdinand Porsche to make his 1931 design more appropriate for the common man. Changes, which included ease of use, better fuel efficiency and cheap automotive parts, became part of the 1938 Kdf-Wagen, later to be known as the Beetle. Hilter's plan was to manufacture a car that would serve as a saving scheme for the Germans at that time, in which the slogan "Save five Marks a week, if you want to drive your own car" was used. Porsche designer Erwin Komenda developed the car's distinct round shape and rear-mounted engine, a design which persists throughout the duration of the 90's.
Car production in KdF-Stadt factory for the workers took a hit in 1939 when the war was breaking out. The factory was heavily damaged and captured by the Americans in 1945, leaving the car production in peril. Fortunately for Volkswagen, the company was saved by one British Army officer Major Ivan Hirst, who was responsible for considering the car manufacturer as war reparations instead of a military production.
Despite its production in 1946, British, American and French automobile industries did not believe in the product because they found its design unappealing. The company was eventually picked up by former Opel senior manager Heinrich Nordhoff in 1948. This move led to the German regeneration after the war, beginning with the introduction of Type 2 commercial vehicle and the Karmann Ghia sports car. The U.S. eventually formed Volkswagen of America to standardise production of the Type 1, which was then sold as the "Victory Beetle," and reached one million total sales in 1955. Advertising campaigns courtesy of New York advertising agency Doyle, Dane and Bernbach were responsible for its success, using contemporary layouts to attract younger and sophisticated consumers at that time.
The company capitalised on their fortunes by expanding their product line, releasing Type 3 models featuring variations in Type 1's body styles. 1971 saw Type 113, also known as the "Super Beetle," which makes use of a McPherson strut front suspension instead of the usual torsion bars. Another feature added to the Type 113 includes the increase of the usable trunk space by stretching the nose of the car by 2 inches. Although the new models helped Volkswagen reach greater heights, the Type 1 is still the most pursued model by consumers.
Their success was not without particular disappointments when Type 3 and Type 4 failed to achieve what their previous models were able to. In order to help alleviate its misfortunes, Volkswagen hired Audi/Auto Union, an Ingolstadt-based firm which specialises in water-cooled engines and front-wheel drives, to produce car models that are worthy successors of the Beetle. Audi somehow provided car models that deviated from the usual Beetle designs such as the Passat, Polo and Golf. However, Volkswagen focused their efforts to the production of VW Golf, which is also known as the Volkswagen Rabbit in the US and Canada, in 1974. Designed by Italian Giorgetto Guigiaro, the transversely-mounted, water-cooled front engine format followed the trend of small family car models that started with Renault 5 and Mini. Suffice to say, this is unlike anything that Volkswagen has created.
However, the problems encountered with the Rabbit, such as its electrical system and oil burning, led to a drop of Volkswagen sales in the 80's. Also, Japanese and American car manufacturers were able to capitalise on the drawbacks of the Rabbit by producing improved and cheaper versions of the Volkswagen model. Still, the company's persistence enabled them to overcome the odds, producing yet another line of car models in Jetta, Golf and GTI, the latter being named Car of the Year in 1985.
The 90's say the company experience more ups and downs. The early part of the decade was highlighted by the 3rd generation Golf winning the 1992 European Car of the Year award. However, North American sales dropped below 100,000 as consumers found the products to be not worth their price tag. The company decided to make a brand new car design of the Beetle since the model sold very well in the North American market. Hence, a car model that rekindles the original Beetle but is designed with a Polo chassis was unveiled in 1994, leading to what eventually became the New Beetle.
Volkswagen continues its renaissance with the production of more car models. Despite their fame and prominence, the company continues to strive in creating better automobiles, and with such passion and determination for stretching the boundaries of excellence and quality, one simply cannot ask anything more from Volkswagen.
Original Authors: Manny
Edit Update Authors: M.A.Harris
Updated On: 10/06/2008