Hitler, Volkswagen and the “Bug”

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Not many people know that the history of the prestigious Volkswagen car company is somewhat related to dictator Hitler.

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Hitler’s promise

Adolf Hitler had a hobby of collecting cars even though he didn’t like driving them. In the summer of 1933, immediately after becoming the leader of Germany, Hitler asked Ferdinand Porsche to change the design of the 1931 car to be more suitable for men going to work.

Hitler asked Ferdinand Porsche to design a small, economical car

The new model had to meet the criteria of being small, having a durable air-cooled engine, consuming only 6 liters/100km, and having a price of around 1,000 Mark (250 USD). Although Porsche knew this was a difficult task, he couldn’t refuse when Hitler made a promise to the German people about a small, affordable car at the International Auto Show in Berlin, Germany in 1934.

Hitler’s declaration to the people also meant that Porsche would have to find a solution for an affordable car that still met the requirements set by the dictator. On June 22, 1934, Ferdinand Porsche agreed to build the “Volkswagen” (people’s car) for Hitler.

The Volkswagen Beetle as requested by Hitler was born

In 1936, Porsche produced the first three prototypes. The three test versions were perfected and driven for 50,000 km in durability tests conducted from October to December 1936. These results were further tested on the next 30 prototypes in a large-scale durability test called “VW 30”. To build a complete production system, Porsche recruited experienced German engineers from American car manufacturers, and then, the car officially debuted in 1938.

Volkswagen and over 70 years of history

Volkswagen (VW) was founded in 1937, it was the property of the German Government until it was sold to Volkswagen Beetle. After World War II, the British military took control of the heavily bomb-damaged factory and restarted the production line for the Beetle.

In 1948, the British Government returned the company to Germany, when it was managed by Heinrich Nordhoff.

A lineup of Beetle cars arranged into the Volkswagen logo

In 1960, along with the sale of the German Government’s ownership stake in the group, the company was renamed Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft. The name was changed to Volkswagen AG on July 4, 1985, to reflect the global diversity with the headquarters and main factory of Volkswagen in Wolfsburg, Germany. The group also has the English name Volkswagen Group. The group is the world’s fourth-largest car manufacturer, in 2005, the company held a 9.1% global market share with 5.2 million vehicles sold.

In October 2005, Porsche acquired an 18.53% ownership stake in the group and by July 2006, it increased to 25%. The media speculated that this action was to prevent the company from being taken over by foreign investors. By the end of 2006, Porsche continued to increase its ownership stake in the group to 28% and many commentators believed that this investment was in line with Porsche’s strategy.

Currently, VW is one of the largest car manufacturing groups in the world. The company’s main market is Europe, and the famous brands under the company include Audi, Bentley, Skoda, Lamborghini, Bugatti, SEAT, Porsche, and Volkswagen.

The second-largest market for Volkswagen is China, and the second-largest joint venture in China is Volkswagen China Group.

The legend of the “Beetle”

In the mid-20th century, when most Americans preferred to drive cars with wide cabins and high speeds… the appearance of the Volkswagen Beetle was seen as a threat to the American car market. It was a very small car that looked like a beetle, could only carry 4 people, lacked modern conveniences, couldn’t go too fast or climb steep slopes… but it was a practical vehicle that could go anywhere.

More importantly, the price of the Beetle was affordable for many families. It gained the trust of consumers around the world for a long time.

Volkswagen factory during the war

In September 1939, World War II broke out, and VW switched to producing military Beetle cars that operated well in all weather and terrains. In August 1945, the British military authorities took over the factory until 1949, bringing the VW production capacity to 20,000 cars per year. In 1946, the 10,000th Beetle was completed, marking an important milestone.

Volkswagen Beetle always achieves high sales

VW began exporting the Beetle from August 1947. The Pon brothers from the Netherlands became the VW Beetle importers and received the first 56 sedans. A year later, exports expanded to Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Sweden, and Switzerland. After currency reform in Germany, the average purchasing power of all items decreased, except for the “beetle” which still achieved high sales growth.

In 1949, a Beetle officially arrived in the United States, marking the beginning of its journey to conquer the world. Continuous feature improvements were introduced. In 1952, annual production quantities exceeded 100,000 for the first time. In 1953, the 500,000th Beetle was produced, helping VW capture 42.5% of the car production market share in the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1992, the number exceeded 21 million. To this day, the Beetle is the best-selling car in the world.

Modern Volkswagen Beetle

VW Beetle is also being sold in Vietnam through the World Auto company, including both hardtop and convertible versions with a starting price of 1.3 billion VND.

 Thu Ha (TTTĐ)