Volkswagen was created in 1937 by the German Labour Front. The first cars were predominantly luxury models most Germans could not afford at the time.
The Volkswagen badge consists of a V standing for ‘Volk’, meaning people in German and a W for ‘Wagen’, (car).
Volkswagen started as an initiative of the regime in Germany of the 1930s. The goal was to produce vehicles at reasonable prices which would allow ordinary Germans to buy a car. This resulted in the creation of the famous Volkswagen Beetle. The Beetle was the first car to be developed with a wind tunnel.
With the start of World War II, Volkswagen predominantly produced military vehicles. After the war, the Volkswagen factory first fell into American and then into British hands. Although under the Potsdam Agreements the plant could be demolished, as it has been used for the production of military hardware, it was kept open thanks to British army officer Major Ivan Hirst. The latter painted one of the cars green and then went to show it to the British Army headquarters. Having a lack of light vehicles, the army placed an order of 20 000 cars, which saved Volkswagen. At the time, army personnel was allowed to keep their cars when returning to the UK. This the first VW Beetles made their way into Britain.
By 1948, Volkswagen had become part of the German regeneration both economically as well as symbolically. Volkswagen Beetles were being exported to the US and Canada.
In 1961, Volkswagen introduced the Type 3 and in 1969 the Type 4. The Type 3 and 4 introduced a unibody construction, electric fuel injection and the option of automatic transmission. These new technologies set them apart from previous Volkswagen models.
In 1964, Volkswagen bought Auto Union and NSU Motorwerke AG in 1969, thereby becoming owner of Audi. Interestingly it was Audi which ensured Volkswagen’s survival as the former held the technological knowledge in the 1970s to produce air-cooled cars as well as water-cooled engines and front-wheel drive cars. This expertise was used to develop a new generation of Volkswagens including the Passat, Scirocco, Golf and Polo. Today, there have been 6 generations of Volkswagen Golf, the first being sold in 1974. The third generation Golf was voted European Car of the Year in 1992.
During the 1990s, Volkswagen bought Seat and Skoda. In the meantime, the cars branded Volkswagen started occupying a new place upmarket as Audi increasingly became a luxury brand competing with Mercedes and BMW.
Volkswagen in sport
Volkswagen won the Dakar Rally from 2009 to 2011. All three were held in Argentina and Chile.