Automotive giant Volkswagen's has had a remarkable 75-year run
The trusty 'bug' has been championed throughout the years by everyone from hippies to homemakers
The Volkswagen, at first a most unremarkably plain car began life with
little prospects. Its innate solid craftsmanship, however, endeared it
to everyone - from hippies to housewives to the ambitious urban
professional. As the Volkswagen celebrates its 75th anniversary, the
German car maker now has a solid shot at dominating the automotive
Volkswagen AG has become an industry powerhouse covering every segment of the market, from such high-mileage 'econo-boxes' as the VW Up! to sports cars for the very rich with models like the Lamborghini Aventador and Bentley Mulsanne.
This is hard to imagine when the company was founded by the legendary Ferdinand Porsche in May 1937. Better known for his high-performance sports cars, Porsche was charged by Adolph Hitler to develop a small, affordable car for the German masses. Volkswagen translated to English literally means "People's Car." It wasn't until several decades later that the original model came to be known as the Beetle.
In spite of its identification with Hitler, if it hadn't been for British Army Maj. Ivan Hirst, the Volkswagen would have been lost to the sands of time when Germany's industry was turned towards the war effort.
Hirst was assigned to the devastated town shortly after the war ended and given the task of trying to put the VW plant back to work. Hirst found a surviving Beetle buried underneath the rubble, painted it green and convinced British occupation forces to place an order for 20,000. Demand was booming within a few years. The newly privatized Volkswagen started shipping some of the little cars abroad in a bid to gain some international funds.
First reaching the U.S. in 1949, the Volkswagen was a sort of "anti-car." America at that time was obsessed with big, heavy and gas-guzzling models. Yet "the Beetle" resonated with a small community and by the 1960s it became a symbol of the American counter-culture.
U.S. sales were nudging a half-million annually. The German maker was about to face some new competition from Japan and, unable to match the mileage and quality of makers like Toyota and Honda, Volkswagen was unwilling to design products specifically for the States. Sales steadily dwindled even as the VW line-up expanded. Volkswagen seriously considered abandoning the U.S. market in the Nineties.
It decided to stick it out but shifted attention to other markets, including China where it is today locked into a bitter battle for dominance with General Motors. It also went on a buying spree, adding new brands like Spanish Seat and Czech Skoda, as well as Italy's Lamborghini and Britain's Bentley.
Volkswagen today has one of the broadest line-ups in the automotive world, including what is only the third-generation Beetle. The little coupe will never again match the demand of decades past, company officials admit, but it is an iconic symbol of VW's unlikely success and ability to rise from the ashes.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Volkwagen, Hitler, Beetle, automotive
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