The history of the VW
The idea behind Ferdinand Porsche’s 1930 design of the Beetle’s predecessor was that it was just what the general population needed – basic and inexpensive. In fact, the word “Volkswagen” actually means “people’s car” in German.
Hitler steps in
Porsche later was asked by Adolf Hitler to design an affordable five-person car that could accelerate to 62 miles per hour. Three prototype cars sprouted from this concept, leading to much testing and revisions.
Hitler takes over
Several versions later, Porsche saw 30 cars produced at Hitler’s command, although Porsche was not a Nazi and resented Hitler’s sense of ownership of the cars. (Hitler, in fact, pronounced the company to be under Nazi ownership and even named the automobiles “KdF Wagen” – “Kraft durch Freude” -- which translates to “Strength through Joy.”)
First VW factory
In 1938 a factory was built, and the first version of the Beetle hit the road. The company also produced war vehicles while Porsche continued to putter with ideas throughout the war. An amphibious car was even produced for the war effort.
Stepping it up
After World War II, the victorious British Army took over the factory and churned out some 10,000 vehicles within one year. They dubbed the company “Volkswagen” and tried to enlist Ford to take it over, but Ford dismissed the idea as a waste of money. The French government declined ownership, as well.
Volkswagen takes off
The British were finally able to unload the albatross in 1949 to the German government, and Heinrich Nordhoff was put in charge. Production soared thereafter, with companies springing up around the globe.
The bug is born
In 1950, Volkswagen began producing the now-famous Beetle (which was only available in basic grey at the time). The Beetle peaked in popularity in the 1960s, and now Volkswagen is the largest producer of cars in Europe.