In The Beginning…

“The Volkswagen”, translated from German meaning “People’s Car”, who’s name reflected the political climate of Germany in 1933. The need for an affordable car, which was fast enough to utilize Germany’s newly created Autoban, and durable enough to endure the mountainous terrain and climates contained within the country, was filled by Ferdinand Porsche.

Volkswagen was known as the KdF-Wagen in 1938 through 1945. KdF is an acronym for “Strength through Joy”, and was built in a “factory town”, KdF (seriously!), whose primary function was to produce or aid in the production of the car. During this time, KdF also produced two military vehicles based on the KdF-Wagen design. One of these, the Schwimmwagen, was amphibious.

Transitioning Into The World Auto Market:

After the war, 2/5ths of the factory at KdF was destroyed. The factory was handed over to Britain in 1945, to which, no current British manufacturer was interested in investing into KdF. The factory was handed over to the British military, who repaired the damage to the factory and began producing the KdF-Wagens again. The town was renamed from KdF to Wolfsburg and the car it produced renamed to “Volkswagen” to market the car better in an anti-German climate following the war.

The company eventually reverted back to German control after an attempted takeover by a French Auto manufacturer. Production of the small Volkswagen (Type1) increased over the next few years and surpassed 1 million produced in 1955. Sales were good until 1965, to which the car now commonly known as the “Beetle” was getting a little “long in the tooth” as far as design and function.

The Consequences Not Adapting To The Market:

VW had produced another successful model, the Transporter (or Micro Bus) in the ’50s, but struggled to produce a successor to the Beetle that caputered the American Auto market. Sales continued to slide in the ’70s, even after many attempts at redesigning both the Beetle and Bus, but also releasing other models to compete with the newley emerging Japaneese Auto manufacturers.

With some spare change, VW aquired Audi in 1974, which contributed greatly to Volkswagen’s future success through the aquistion of much needed technology, such as a reliable water-cooled engine. VW quickly turned these technology assets around and produced the “NS1″ which later became the “Golf” or “Rabbit” in the US.

Success And Expansion:

Even with Audi’s bad press in 1980, the Golf saved Volkswagen. Not only that, but the design was so revolutionary for the time, that you are probably driving a vehicle today, built by a different manufacturer, that has it’s roots in the Rabbit’s design. Sales were back up in 1979, and vehicles like the Rabbit, Jetta and Vanagon were blazing the way. Times were good again in the town of Wolfsburg.

In fact, times were so good in the ’90s that Volkswagen moved away from it’s “one shoe fit’s all” philosophy and made investments that asserted them firmly into the mainstream auto market. During these times, Volkswagen splurged (or squandered) resources on making Audi a serious luxury brand, expanding the Volkswagen and Porsche lines, and purchasing auto manufacturers such as Bently and Bugatti. Times were still good, but the cars were different somehow, transitioning from utility and durability into performance and luxury.

The “New” Volkswagen:

During the 2000′s and up to today, The Volkswagen Group hovers between the 5th and 6th largest auto manufacturer, which is pretty good. Unfortunately, “the old grey mare just isn’t what it used to be”, meaning, if you are looking for a new car with the durability and utility of the original Beetle, I recommend you purchase a Honda or Toyota.

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