Volkswagen is a German automaker that was founded in 1937. It is the largest component of Volkswagen AG, which itself is one of the top three automakers in the world by volume. Although it is best known for the exceptionally long-lived Volkswagen Beetle, Volkswagen actually spends more on research and development than any other automaker in the world.
History of Volkswagen
The history of Volkswagen is closely tied both to the genesis of Porsche and to the Nazi party. Volkswagen came about in 1937 as the result of an initiative to create a “people’s car” that the German everyman could afford. At the time, less than one in 50 German citizens could afford to own an automobile, and all of the German automakers of the day were engaged in the business of producing luxury vehicles.
In 1937, the German Labor Front established the Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH. This was later shortened to Volkswagenwerk GmbH in 1938, and work began on building the first Volkswagen based on Ferdinand Porsche’s designs.
Although Volkswagen managed to produce a handful of vehicles prior to the start of World War II, production ceased at that time. Its factory at Wolfsburg was used to produce the Type 82 Kubelwagen and an amphibious version called the schimmenwagen.
After the end of the war, much of the German industrial complex was slowly dismantled. However, Volkswagen’s production facilities were retained and used to produce vehicles for the occupying forces. The British Army alone placed an order for 20,000 Volkswagen Beetles, which were used for anything from outfitting the German postal service to various personnel from the local British occupying force.
Volkswagen’s production facilities were offered to a number of automakers from the Allied nations, but it was ultimately left to rebuild itself during and after the occupation. It would go on to become a driving force in building the West German economy.
The first Volkswagen Beetle was offered for sale in the United States in 1949. Although sales were initially slow, over one million vehicles had been sold within six years. The Volkswagen Beetle would go on to be one of the most successful automobiles in history. In 1972, it surpassed the venerable Model T Ford for total production of a single automobile make.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Volkswagen started to expand its product line. It was during this time that Volkswagen first used monocoque construction techniques, rather than traditional body-on-frame construction. The “superbeetle” also appeared in the 1970s, using MacPherson struts rather than torsion bars.
Today, Volkswagen’s parent company, the Volkswagen Group, is one of the top three automakers in the world by volume. In addition to Volkswagen itself, Volkswagen AG also owns Audi, Bugatti, Bentley, Porsche, Ducati, and a number of other subsidiaries in both the automotive and other industries.
Vital Volkswagen Statistics
Current headquarters: Wolfsburg, Germany
Yearly production: 5,771,789 vehicles (2012)
Owner: Volkswagen Group
Volkswagen Contact Information