The History Of The Volkswagen Beetle
It is thought that the history of the Volkswagen Beetle goes back to pre Second World War Germany when Ferdinand Porsche came up with the idea of designing a mass produced vehicle that would be affordable for the average German person. It is thought that although Adolf Hitler played a large part in making the Volkswagen Beetle a reality, the original design was Porsche’s.
Hitler was a car fanatic and was apparently influenced by the production lines of Henry Ford. He became chancellor in 1933 and a year later at the Berlin auto show he announced that his government would support the development of a ‘people’s car’ in Germany. Hitler believed that a car should not be an exclusive privilege of the rich and enlisted the help of the car designer Ferdinand Porsche. Hitler described him as ‘the most famous designer of all time’ and in 1933 had already acquired legendary status within the car design world.
Volkswagen literally means the ‘people’s car’ and it is thought that the brief that Hitler gave Porsche was that he should design and produce a car that would carry two adults and three children at a speed of 60mph with at least 33 mpg. This was the sort of thing that Porsche was looking to produce. Hitler set the price at 1000 Reichmarks, the equivalent of 250 dollars in 1933 which was about the price of a motorcycle at the time. It seemed an unrealistically low price to Porsche, but nevertheless he accepted the challenge and the Volkswagen Beetle was born.
In 1936 three prototypes were created and a factory was built in the vast zone of the Low Sassonia, in the surroundings of the castle of Wolfsburg of Earl Von Schulenberg. It became is and still is the biggest car factory of automobiles in the world.
Hitler called the new car the ‘KdF-Wagen’- literally meaning the ‘Strength Through Joy Car’ after the Nazi-led KdF (Kraft durch Freude) movement that was supposed to look after working people in Germany. However, the name would not last and neither would Hitler’s reign. Porsche preferred the original name of the Volkswagen which he thought was less informal. During 1938 the car was already being referred to by the nickname ‘beetle’ which related to the size and shape of the car. So naturally the name Volkswagen Beetle stuck.
The Beetle survived into the 21st century and is easily by far the longest production run of any single car design ever. The car would see many evolutions over the year but the original shape and size of the car would remain the same. The nickname ‘Beetle’ given by the public and the media will always stay with the car even though it was never its official name.
It is thought that the most significant thing about the entire Volkswagen project was that Hitler actually did not care whether the car went into production or not. It was thought that the Volkswagen was a political tool, a desperate attempt for Hitler to gain supporters for his military plans. Two days after the cornerstone ceremony for the new factory, he signed orders for the invasion of Czechoslovakia. The Volkswagen was then forgotten.
It wasn’t until after the war that the Volkswagen would realise Hitler’s original dream. The Wolfsburg plant was located in the British zone of occupation and hundreds of workers and refugees came there to work. And this is when Volkswagen really came alive. The people were able to put the Volkswagen into production and the dream car finally became a reality.