A brief journey through a long history.
Volkswagen was originally founded in 1937 by the Nazi trade union, the German Labour Front. When in 1937 the company known as “Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH” was founded, no one could have guessed that it would one day be Europe’s largest carmaker. The history of the company – with all its trials and tribulations – is first and foremost a story of impressive success. On September 16th, 1938 the Company was renamed “Volkswagenwerk GmbH”.
Literally, the word “volkswagen” means “people’s car.” In Germany, the idea of a people’s car wasn’t exactly a new one. Before the 1930′s, there had been many efforts to create simple cars that everyone could afford, but none met with profound success. Almost all cars before 1930, even if they were designed to be simple enough for the average person, ended up costing more than the average worker’s yearly wage.
In 1933, Adolf Hitler declared his intentions for a state-sponsored “Volkswagen” program. Hitler required a basic vehicle capable of transporting two adults and three children at 100 km/h (62 mph). The “People’s Car” would be available to citizens of the Third Reich through a savings scheme at 990 Reichsmark, about the price of a small motorcycle (an average income being around 32RM a week). The engineer chosen for the task was Ferdinand Porsche.
Initially, Porsche designated this design the Type 60, but it was soon changed to the V1 (experimental 1). Hitler also proposed to have a convertible version produced: it was designated V2. Porsche was not able to make the deadline to finish the first two prototypes, as there was not enough time to physically design the cars and to build them. In any case, they were completed and driving by 1935. Soon, the V1 design was updated, and three cars were produced. This new design was the VW3. These cars were put through rigorous testing in 1936.
These cars looked very similar to the KdF Wagen, that was to appear later. Eventually, the VW3s had metal floors, swing axle rear transmissions, Porsche’s front independent suspensions, and backbone floor pans. Several engines were tested, and eventually a flat four cylinder air cooled four stroke engine was chosen. Surprisingly, the engine that was chosen was cheaper and more reliable than some of the four cylinder two stroke engines that were tested. This 22.5 hp four cylinder “boxer” engine was roughly the same engine that was later incorporated into the Volkswagen Beetle.
Volkswagen has become a large international corporation from where it started and expanded to different worldwide markets and countries. The world headquarters of Volkswagen are located in its home country in Wolfsburg, Germany. Volkswagen AG, owned by the Volkswagen Group, is situated with other car manufacturers including Audi, SEAT, Lamborghini, Bentley, Bugatti, Scania, and Skoda. Volkswagen is currently Europe’s largest automaker.