May 28, 1937: Volkswagen is established
What would the world be like if Volkswagen never existed? Thankfully, we don’t have to answer that question, because Volkswagen has been around since May 28, 1937. On that day, the world was graced with the cutest and most durable car ever. Find out how Volkswagen is still making an impact 82 years later.
The first bug
In 1937, Germany was ruled by Adolf Hitler and his vicious Nazi party. It was his idea to establish a government-owned car company. He originally named it “Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH.” By the end of the year, the automobile was renamed “Volkswagenwerk,” which is German for “The People’s Car Company.”
Since Volkswagen was controlled by the German Labor Front, the company was under Nazi control. Located in Wolfsburg, Germany, Hitler’s passion project aimed to create an inexpensive and efficient vehicle for his people. Selling for the equivalent of $140, the “people’s car” was designed by Austrian car engineer Ferdinand Porsche. At a 1938 rally, Hitler waxed poetic about his new creation, stating that “it is for the broad masses that this car has been built. Its purpose is to answer their transportation needs, and it is intended to give them joy.” Soon afterward, World War II erupted and halted VW’s production. However, the allies actually resurrected the car company after the war to revive Germany’s car sector.
Although most of the world embraced VW’s creation, the United States was skeptical at first. That’s because of the vehicle’s blatant Nazi ties, in addition to its small stature and strange shape. By 1959, the company had a public relations makeover, and marketed its adorable little car as the “Beetle.” Since then, the Beetle became a bestseller in America. The government of Germany sold 60 percent of VW shares to the public, which helped to remove its Nazi status. After almost 70 years of production, the last Beetle was manufactured on July 30, 2003.