The Volkswagenwerk (people’s car) company was originally founded in 1937 by the German Labour Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront) under Hitler’s Third Reich. Until the early 1930’s, the German automotive industry was largely producing costly luxury models with the average German rarely being able to afford anything more than a motorcycle. As a result of this, roughly only one German out of 50 owned a car at this time. Identifying a potential gap in the market, some car makers began independent “people’s car” projects including the Mercedes 170H, the Adler AutoBahn, the Steyr 55 and the Hanomag 1.3L among others.
Designed by Ferdinand Porsche, the KdF (Kraft Durch Freude) Wagen (Strength Through Joy car) was unveiled at the Berlin Motor Show in 1939. The war stopped production. From 1948, Volkswagen became an important symbol of West German economic regeneration. In 1959, a landmark advertising campaign renamed the KdF the “Beetle”.
Heinrich Nordhoff (1899-1968), a former senior manager at Opel who had overseen both civilian and military production in the 1930’s and 40’s was recruited to run the VW factory from 1948. Then in 1949, Major Ivan Hirst of the British Army, who had effectively revived post-war production of VW cars during the Allied occupation of West Germany, left the company, which had now been re-formed as a trust controlled by both the West German government and that of the State of Lower Saxony. Apart from the introduction of the Volkswagen Type 2 commercial vehicle (van, pick-up and camper) and the VW Karmann Ghia sports car, a one-model policy was pursued by Nordhoff until shortly before his death in 1968.
Volkswagen was in serious trouble by 1973. The Type 3 and Type 4 models had sold in much smaller numbers than the Beetle and the NSU had also failed to find a market. However, Volkswagen’s ownership of Audi proved beneficial to enable the company to produce a credible successor to the Beetle. Audi influences in terms of front-wheel drive and water-cooled engines paved the way for the next generation of Volkswagens: the Passat, Scirocco, Golf and Polo.
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We stock a number of classic Volkswagen vehicles for hire around London and the UK. Take a look at our selection below. All come with a FREE DOORSTEP DELIVERY & COLLECTION SERVICE, as well as a GUARANTEED GOLD VIP SERVICE. We are OPEN 24/7, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.