The History of Volkswagen Cars

22nd March 2019
Volkswagen cars

Volkswagen is one of the oldest automakers in the world. Founded in 1937 by the German Labour Front and headquartered in Wolfsburg, it’s one of the largest automakers in the world and still continues to push incredible sales numbers.

But Volkswagen wasn’t always such a dominant force in the auto industry and has even had its fair share of controversies. In this post, we’ll talk a look at the past of Volkswagen cars and how they came to be such a big automaker.

VW The People’s Car

During the 1930s, cars were an incredibly expensive luxury and most Germans could not afford one. In fact, only around 1 in 50 German citizens could own a car, so car manufacturers began to branch out to offer “people’s cars”.

Even Adolf Hitler himself was involved in the production process. He wanted everyone in Germany to have access to cars, hence the “People’s Car”. Prototypes of the car were known as the “KdF-Wagen” and started appeared around 1938. By then, it already had the iconic round shape that people know as the Beetle, and Volkswagen was eventually born, its name a combination of the words “Volks” meaning “People’s” and “Wagen” which means “Car”.

Wartime Production

When World War 2 broke out in 1939, only a handful of consumer cars were produced and the workforce was switched to manufacturing military vehicles. These military vehicles were based on Beetle designed and had similar internals but were focused on coping with off-road conditions such as the harsh environments of Africa.

At the end of the war, Volkswagen factories were under British control and the cars continued to be manufactured for the German public and also to be shipped overseas.

The “Beetle”

It wasn’t until 1968 that the people’s car officially became the Volkswagen Beetle. It was during 1968 that Disney released the iconic Herbie the Love Bug movie which centred around an anthropomorphic 1963 Beetle.

The series would go on for another five movies that featured the iconic Beetle vehicle, with many of the vehicles used in the film selling for ludicrous amounts of money later in the future.

Best-Selling Car in the World

In 1971, Volkswagen released the Super Beetle, a premium model that had more trunk space and a new front suspension. To create more distinction between the Super Beetle and the regular Beetle, the older model was stripped of several features to reduce its price and make it slightly more affordable.

A year later, the Beetle would be crowned the best-selling car in the world, smashing the previous record that was held by Ford’s Model T.

The New Beetle

The Beetle didn’t get a major update until the New Beetle was manufactured in 1997. It was heavily inspired by the original Beetle but sported a major difference; the engine was in the front and drove the front wheels with luggage in the back. There were several special editions released and it marked the first major update to the car’s designed for almost 60 years.

An eccentric version of the New Beetle was featured in an Austin Powers film which helped to popularise the car once again like Herbie the Love Bug did.

The Present

Volkswagen announced in 2018 that the Beetle would no longer be in production. The last two models, dubbed “Final Editions”, would be the last Beetles available as convertibles.

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