Revving up from Beetle era to the Golf age
From very modest beginnings, the company driven by plans for a “people’s car” has just marked 70 years of existence.
Founded on May 28, 1937, in Berlin, with a meager 480,000 Reichsmark (equivalent to roughly $135,000 at the time, today worth $1.9 million), the now globalized Volkswagen has turned into a household name.
Ferdinand Porsche was commissioned to design a “people’s car” in 1934 and went on to design and develop a standard production car in 1938 with a distinct silhouette, which was to write automobile history millions of times over.
Christened the KdF-Wagen, its production was thwarted when the Second World War began and the plant was converted into an armaments factory.
In 1945, the British military turned the Volkswagenwerk plant into a civilian automotive production plant and made its first 55 vehicles public that December. In 1947, the company’s first exports made their way to countries around the world, with North America seeing its first Bug in 1949. Also in 1949, the British transferred ownership of the plant to the West German government, which continued working on the famed Beetle and Transporter models.
The year 1960 saw privatization of the company, followed by the acquisition of Auto Union Gmbh and NSU Motorenwerke in 1965 and 1969, respectively. The two companies were combined to form what is now Audi AG, and a conglomerate was born.
Some years and billions of dollars later, the thriving VW Group acquired Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Seat, and Skoda; thus forming one of the world’s largest automaking companies, with worldwide production at well more than 107 million units to date.