Volkswagen – How Big?! {They own Lamborghini, Bentley, Bugatti, Porsche..}

Volkswagen, pretty much everyone on the planet knows that name, but the thing is this company is a bit of a dark horse – they actually own a lot of car brands which you’ve heard of, in fact every fourth car sold in Europe is from the Volkswagen group. In this Post we’ll know about the intriguing origins, size and some Interesting facts about VW.
Volkswagen translated from German to English means “The People’s Car” and that’s exactly what the company was created for – back in 1937, To make a car for the people of Germany. In order to understand and really appreciate the history of VW, we must know where it all started, with a man named Ferdinand and a car called the Beetle. The beetle was the brainchild of Ferdinand Porsche, who was the son of a master panel beater. Porsche was born in 1875 in Northern bohemian or modern-day Czech Republic. From a young age he was a nonconformist and a free thinker, but possessed a brilliant mind for design. In 1900 as a teenager he designed the world’s first front-wheel drive car, the Lohner-Porsche. His unorthodox front-wheel drive concept won him many design awards and even got accepted into the high echelon of society. Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand owned one of Porsches’ early cars. over the next decade, the acclaimed designer would leave his mark in automotive racing, civilian cars, and even aircraft engines, which he designed for Austrian during World War I. it doesn’t stop there though, during this time he even created the first gasoline-electric hybrid car. while this would be a lifetime’s work for most, his real passion lay in the vehicle for the common man. you see.. at the time in the early 1900s cars in Europe was seen as a toy for the very rich, but Ferdinand had seen what Henry Ford had done in America with the “Ford Model T” and he thought he could do the same for Europe. With this idea he tried to convince a number of European companies to take on his idea of a small rear-engined affordable car, but he was let down each and every time. From this he decided to just start his own company. Now, he was free to do as he pleased. Ferdinand noted that the cars of the day were too tall and not aerodynamic enough. He wanted to build a car that was slick, yet affordable. While trying to get financial backing for this new project Porsche was once again let down numerous times, this was until 1933, It was in this year that a friend in the industry brought him into contact with a man named Adolf Hitler, he was the freshly elected Chancellor of Germany and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party, otherwise known as the Nazi Party. For some context, in the early 1930’s Hitler was seen as a man who could lift Germany out of a terrible economic situation and restore strength to a demoralized population, of course as history tells us he turned out to be something quite different in the end. At this time, Hitler was looking to show how advanced Nazism was – to the world. One way of showing this superiority was through engineering. Hitler proposed that “any German company that could build a Race car for the upcoming Grand Pre-season, would win 250,000 rush marks. Ferdinand Porsches’ engineering designs dominated the 1934 racing season, and because of this he was contracted to make three Prototype cars – by the German government. In part, these new cars were to be designed for sustained high speeds on the newly revived Autobahn project the outcome of this contract would be the Volkswagen Beetle.

First Beetle

 strangely the beetle was originally going to be called the “strength through joy car”, strength through joy, that’s a bit of a strange name you might be thinking. Well strength through joy was the title of the leisure branch within the Nazi Party. this branch was in charge of making the middle class leisure activities affordable and available to the masses after the brutal economic slump of the 1920’s. These state sponsored activities included concerts, plays, libraries, day trips, and Holidays. They also built large cruise ships and wanted to encourage tourism to Germany. The people’s car was just a small part of this vision. The beetle wasn’t to be built for speed or beauty with a top speed not far above 100 km/hr and a market price of 390 US dollars {$6,000 today}. It was built to do just one thing – move people reliably and economically. The car was to be built by a new firm created by the German labor front in 1937, Volkswagen.
If you want to see something interesting take a look at this photo  from 1938. This is Adolf Hitler laying the cornerstone for the original VW factory the unassuming sullen character to the far right is Ferdinand Porsche. it’s moments like this, in history that could be called simultaneously fascinating and frightening.
The strength through joy prototype car was on track for 300,000 orders. but at that moment the world was about to be shocked by the biggest conflict in world history up to that day. In 1939, Hitler invaded Poland and world war II break out. At this stage only a handful of cars were complete and none were delivered to customers. Germany went into full crisis mode and diverted all attention towards the war effort. The Volkswagen factory began manufacturing military vehicles including an amphibious version of the beetle prototype and the infamous v1 flying bomb. This manufacturing of military equipment made the factory a major bombing target. In 1945, when the war ended and peace enveloped the world like most of Europe the VW factory lay in ruined. In an extremely strange twist of fate, an undetonated bomb was found lodged between the factory’s main power generators. If it had exploded, that would have marked the end of Volkswagen. Meanwhile, Ferdinand Porsche was imprisoned in France for working for Hitler. At 72 years old, it was looking like Porsche’s dream of the small car for the masses may not come to reality. But he didn’t give up. Upon his release from prison he spent countless hours on the manufacturing floor listening to what workers had to say and absorbing their ideas. At this time the situation in Germany was dire and some citizens were even on the brink of starvation. There needed to be a revival of jobs for the middle class. Enter major Ivan Hirst of the British Army. He took control of the bombed VW factory and restarted production. Now finally the first Beatles began to roll off the production line. These first Beatles were made for the German Postal Service. interestingly around this same time, the Ford Company was given the opportunity to have VW free of charge. But they declined because they thought the company was worthless. By 1948, Ferdinand was no longer directly involved in the beetle but went on to work on another project, the Porsche 356. It was the car that began the Porsche legacy!
In 1950 Ferdinand took one last tour of the factory and was happy to finally see his vision being realized. He would die one year later at the age of 75. the early success of the beetle was limited only to Europe, In America the car was a hard sell. Large powerful cars were the state of what 1950’s America stood for.
The bigness of the fast-moving modern America, The Americans used top-end cars, with Large space to store luggages, with pull down make-up mirror for women, and so on,.
how would you convince the Americans to buy such a small under-powered trundle mobile. clever honest advertising would prove to be a charm! but the initial gateway was made through a deal where US car retailers had to buy three Beatles for every Jaguar, A car which was very much in demand at the time. As it turns out, after the Americans got a taste for the beetle they actually ended up loving it. And the Jaguar became a sideshow.

The Rise Of a Global Volkswagen

As the river of production increased, The Beetle began gaining worldwide recognition for its reliability due to a higher standard of engineering and quality control. By 1955, Volkswagen had produced 1 million Beetles. The late 1950’s and early 60’s saw the peak of the Beatles popularity with some customers having to wait 12 to 18 months to receive their order. It was even becoming an icon of the counter-cultural revolution happening in 1960’s America. The success of the Beetle allowed VW to acquire Audi in 1965. Always looking bright for Volkswagen at this time, but the beetle fever wouldn’t last forever and sales began to decline in 1973. As a reaction to this, VW came out with an all new generation of cars, out of the decision came the Passat, Golf and polo. In the 1980s they would acquire a 75% stake in the Spanish car manufacturer SEAT. In 1998 VW would add Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti to its portfolio. two years later, they would also take Skoda on board. 2010 saw VW acquire the Italian automotive design house Italdesign Giugiaro. This was a pretty big deal as a tail design is credited with the aesthetic creations of a wide variety of cars for various companies including Alfa Romeo,  Aston martin,  BMW,  Chevrolet,  Fiat,  Ford,  Ferrari,  Hyundai,  Lexus,  Lotus,  Mitsubishi and several others. their designs always stood out as classically futuristic. The most famous of them is the DeLorean DMC-12 in 1981. It was of course the car used in ‘the Back to the Future’ series. In 2012, VW subsidiary Audi would purchase Italian motorbike maker Ducati. Further increasing VW stature in the automotive industry.

Present Day

Today VW has turned into one of the largest and most valuable companies. It is ranked 7th in the 2016 fortune global 500 list. It has maintained the largest market share in Europe’s automotive market for the last two years. VW is responsible for producing thirteen percent of all passenger cars globally. In 2015 it produced 9.93 million motor vehicles, this translates roughly to 19 cars every minute! this is the second largest number of any manufacturer on the planet behind Toyota. In addition to the other car brands mentioned earlier, VW also owns man trucks and Porsche. In total they have approximately 340 subsidiaries. The company has over 610,000 employees. For perspective, Ford and General Motors have combined workforce of 448,000 and VW s biggest competitor toyota has about 346,000 nearly half the amount that Volkswagen has. Volkswagen’s employee force is a figure larger than the armed forces of Australia, Italy, Croatia and Norway combined. The company has a 121 production facilities, in twenty European countries, and a further 11 in the Americas, Asia and Africa. VW operates in a total of 150 countries. They do more than just manufacture cars though. Volkswagen Financial Service operates in 51 countries and specialized in loans, investment, insurance, for both private and business enterprises. Ok so we’re nearing the end of this post, but first let’s take a look at a few fun facts about Volkswagen:
Number 6: The classic VW Beetle was built from 1938 to 2003. During this period 21,529,464 Beatles were built. It is the longest-running production model of any car and VW claims that it is the best-selling car in history since it did not change substantially during its production run.
Number 5: On 18th September 2015, VW was caught cheating on a machine test, via a software code that detected when a machine tests were being conducted and altered machine controls for better results. Affected car’s machines were 35 to 40 times the legal levels. This incident known as diesel gate, led to a drop in the market value of Volkswagen by 30 billion dollars. it was a shameful period for the VW Group. But the fallout from this incident has mostly passed.
Number 4: Volkswagen name some of its cars after wind currents across the world. For example: The Polo is named after the northern polar wind. The Passat is named after a German trade wind. The Jetta is named after the jet stream in subtropic to middle latitudes.
Number 3: Three Volkswagen cars were named in the list of the top 10 best-selling cars ever, the Volkswagen Passat, Golf and Beetle.
Number 2: an entire town was built to accommodate for the workers of the first VW cars, it would become Wolfsburg the 5th largest city in the German state of Lower Saxony. The local football team is owned by VW and is ranked 30th just behind Liverpool in the UEFA league standings. The wolfsburg VW plant is still the largest car factory under a single roof in the world.
Number 1: in 1932 Stalin invited Ferdinand Porsche to the Soviet Union. Stalin wanted to advance industrial development in the Soviet Union with the help of experts from capitalist countries. He offered Ferdinand the position of general director of development for the Soviet auto industry. According to Porsche’s son, after much consideration Porsche refused; the reason: not the fact that it was the Soviet Union, but more say the language barrier. How could he manage such a colossal engineering task if he couldn’t even communicate in the native tongue. so in a quirk of history, if Porsche accepted the beetle could have been a symbol of the Soviet Union.
so with that-that brings us to the end of this Post, but there’s one question remaining: so without a doubt Porsche was a genius engineer and designer, the one in a lifetime kind but the shadow of the night see legacy still hangs over his work. so the question is and historians still debate was Porsche purely into the technical details of building a car for the masses and like many people of the day didn’t comprehend the political climate? or was the actually fond of Hitler? some even say that he had no choice in the matter and would have been put to death by Hitler if he had refused his offer. Regardless, everybody can currently appreciate the engineering prowess VW Group has under its belt today.
okay so that’s enough for me, hope you enjoyed this post about the history, size and some fun facts about the VW Group. If you want to see more posts like this or other cool stuff, feel free to Follow Us.
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