1937–1945: People's Car project becomes Kübelwagen
Volkswagen was originally founded in 1937 by the Nazi trade union, the German Labour Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront). In the early 1930s German auto industry was still largely composed of luxury models, and the average German rarely could afford anything more than a motorcycle. Seeking a potential new market, some car makers began independent "peoples' car" projects – Mercedes' 170H, Adler's AutoBahn, Steyr 55, Hanomag 1,3L, among others. The trend was not new, as Béla Barényi is credited with having conceived the basic design in the middle 1920s. Josef Ganz developed the Standard Superior (going as far as advertising it as the "German Volkswagen"). Also, in Czechoslovakia, the Hans Ledwinka's penned Tatra T77, a very popular car amongst the German elite, was becoming smaller and more affordable at each revision. In 1933, with many of the above projects still in development or early stages of production, 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).
Despite heavy lobbying in favour of one of the existing projects, Hitler chose to sponsor an all new, state owned factory. The engineer chosen for the task was Ferdinand Porsche. By then an already famed engineer, Porsche was the designer of the Mercedes 170H, and worked at Steyr for quite some time in the late 1920s. When he opened his own design studio he landed two separate "Auto für Jedermann" (car for everybody) projects with NSU and Zündapp, both motorcycle manufacturers. Neither project come to fruition, stalling at prototype phase, but the basic concept remained in Porsche's mind time enough, so on 22 June 1934, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche agreed to create the "People's Car" for Hitler.
Changes included better fuel efficiency, reliability, ease of use, and economically efficient repairs and parts. The intention was that ordinary Germans would buy the car by means of a savings scheme ("Fünf Mark die Woche musst Du sparen, willst Du im eigenen Wagen fahren" – "Five Marks a week you must put aside, If in your own car you want to ride"), which around 336,000 people eventually paid into. Prototypes of the car called the "KdF-Wagen" (German: Kraft durch Freude – "strength through joy"), appeared from 1936 onwards (the first cars had been produced in Stuttgart). The car already had its distinctive round shape and air-cooled, flat-four, rear-mounted engine. The VW car was just one of many KdF programs which included things such as tours and outings. The prefix Volks— ("People's") was not just applied to cars, but also to other products in Europe; the "Volksempfänger" radio receiver for instance. On 28 May 1937, the Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH (sometimes abbreviated to Gezuvor) was established by the Deutsche Arbeitsfront. It was later renamed "Volkswagenwerk GmbH" on 16 September 1938.
Erwin Komenda, the longstanding Auto Union chief designer, developed the car body of the prototype, which was recognizably the Beetle known today. It was one of the first to be evolved with the aid of a wind tunnel, in use in Germany since the early 1920s.
The building of the new factory started 26 May 1938 in the new town of KdF-Stadt, now called Wolfsburg, which had been purpose-built for the factory workers. This factory had only produced a handful of cars by the time war started in 1939. None was actually delivered to any holder of the completed saving stamp books, though one Type 1 Cabriolet was presented to Hitler on 20 April 1938 (his 49th birthday).
War meant production changed to military vehicles, the Type 82 Kübelwagen ("Bucket car") utility vehicle (VW's most common wartime model), and the amphibious Schwimmwagen which were used to equip the German forces. As was common with much of the production in Nazi Germany during the war, slave labor was utilized in the Volkswagen plant. The company would admit in 1998 that it used 15,000 slaves during the war effort. German historians estimated the that 80% of Volkswagen's wartime workforce was slave labor. Many of the slaves were reported to have been supplied from the concentration camps upon request from plant managers. A lawsuit was filed in 1998 by survivors for restitution for the forced labor. Volkswagen would set up a voluntary restitution fund.
1945: British Army, Major Ivan Hirst, unclear future
The company owes its post-war existence largely to one man, British Army officer Major Ivan Hirst, REME. In April 1945, KdF-Stadt, and its heavily bombed factory were captured by the Americans, and subsequently handed over to the British, within whose occupation zone the town and factory fell. The factories were placed under the control of Oldham-born Hirst. At first, the plan was to use it for military vehicle maintenance. Since it had been used for military production, and had been in Hirst's words a "political animal" rather than a commercial enterprise – technically making it liable for destruction under the terms of the Potsdam Agreement, the equipment was in time intended to be salvaged as war reparations. Hirst painted one of the factory's cars green and demonstrated it to British Army headquarters. Short of light transport, in September 1945 the British Army was persuaded to place a vital order for 20,000. The first few hundred cars went to personnel from the occupying forces, and to the German Post Office.
Some British Service personnel were allowed to take their VW Beetles back to the United Kingdom when they were demobilised, and one of the very first Beetles brought back in that way (UK registration number JLT 420) is still owned by Peter Colborne-Baber, the son of the original proprietor of the UK's first official Volkswagen Importer, Colborne Garages of Ripley, Surrey.
By 1946 the factory was producing 1,000 cars a month, a remarkable feat considering it was still in disrepair. Owing to roof and window damage, rain stopped production and new vehicles were bartered for steel required for more production.
The car, and its town changed their Second World War-era names to "Volkswagen", and "Wolfsburg" respectively, and production was increasing. It was still unclear what was to become of the factory. It was offered to representatives from the British, American and French motor industries. Famously, all rejected it. After an inspection of the plant, Sir William Rootes, head of the British Rootes Group, told Hirst the project would fail within two years, and that the car "is quite unattractive to the average motorcar buyer, is too ugly and too noisy. If you think you're going to build cars in this place, you're a bloody fool, young man". In an ironic twist of fate, Volkswagen would manufacture a locally built version of Rootes's Hillman Avenger in Argentina in the 1980s, long after Rootes had gone bankrupt at the hands of Chrysler in 1978—the Beetle outliving the Avenger by over 30 years.
Ford representatives were equally critical: the car was "not worth a damn," according to Henry Ford II, the son of Edsel Ford, although he did reportedly look at the possibility of taking over the VW factory, but dismissed the idea as soon as he looked up Wolfsburg on the map and found it to be too close for comfort to the East German border.
In France, Citroën started the 2CV on a similar marketing concept. Meanwhile, in Italy, the Fiat 500 "Topolino" was developed.
1945 to 1948: survival in Allied-occupied Germany
In Occupied Germany, the Allies followed the Morgenthau Plan, to remove all German war potential, by complete or partial pastoralisation. As part of this, in the Industrial plans for Germany, the rules for which industry Germany was to be allowed to retain were set out. German car production was set at a maximum of 10% of the 1936 car production numbers.
As mentioned above, the Volkswagen factory at Wolfsburg came under British control in 1945; it was to be dismantled and shipped to Britain. Thankfully for Volkswagen, no British car manufacturer was interested in the factory; "the vehicle does not meet the fundamental technical requirement of a motor-car … it is quite unattractive to the average buyer. To build the car commercially would be a completely uneconomic enterprise". The factory survived by producing cars for the British Army instead. Allied dismantling policy changed in late 1946 to mid 1947, although heavy industry continued to be dismantled until 1951. In March 1947 Herbert Hoover helped change policy by stating: "There is the illusion that the New Germany left after the annexations can be reduced to a 'pastoral state'. It cannot be done unless we exterminate or move 25,000,000 people out of it". Thanks to the protection of British Army Major Ivan Hirst, Volkswagen survived the perilous times, and became part of the German economic recovery.
1948 onwards: icon for the West German regeneration
From 1948, Volkswagen became a very important element, symbolically and economically, of West German regeneration. Heinrich Nordhoff (1899–1968), a former senior manager at Opel who had overseen civilian and military vehicle production in the 1930s and 1940s, was recruited to run the factory in 1948. In 1949 Major Hirst left association with the company, as it had now been re-formed as a trust, controlled by the West German government, and the government 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, Nordhoff pursued the one-model policy until shortly before his death in 1968.
Volkswagens were first exhibited and sold in the United States in 1949, but only sold two units in America that first year. On its entry to the U.S. market, the VW was briefly sold as a "Victory Wagon". Volkswagen of America was formed in April 1955 to standardise sales and service in the United States. Production of the Type 1 Volkswagen Beetle increased dramatically over the years, the total reaching one million in 1955.
Volkswagens in Canada – VW Canada ordered their first cars on 10 July 1952. (shipping order 143075) The order consisted of 12 vehicles, (3) model 11C, a black, green, and sandcolor (3) 11GS, a chestnut brown and two azure blue, (2) 24A-M51 in red, (1)21A in blue, (1) 23A in blue, (1) 22A beige color, and one Ambulance. Volkswagen Products were seen in Canada for the first time at the Canadian National Exhibition in August 1952 and were accepted enthusiastically. The first shipment of cars reached Toronto in December 1952. By 1955 sales were on a basis that warranted the building of the fine Volkswagen plant on a 32-acre (130,000 m2) site on Scarboro's Golden Mile. To this, a 60,000-square-foot (5,600 m2) building with administration, showrooms, service, repairs and parts, an addition of 60,000-square-foot (5,600 m2) was built in 1957, with storage for $4,000,000 of parts. (See 1959 Canadian Register of Commerce & Industry held in the Western Libraries at the University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario.)
Sales soared—thanks in part to the famous advertising campaigns by New York advertising agency Doyle, Dane Bernbach. Led by art director Helmut Krone, and copywriters Julian Koenig and Bob Levinson, Volkswagen advertisements became as popular as the car, using crisp layouts and witty copy to lure the younger, sophisticated consumers with whom the car became associated. Even though it was almost universally known as the Beetle (or the Bug), it was never officially labelled as such by the manufacturer, instead referred to as the Type 1. The first reference to the name Beetle occurred in U.S. advertising in 1968, but not until 1998 and the Golf-based New Beetle would the name be adopted by Volkswagen.
Although the car was becoming outdated, during the 1960s and early 1970s, American exports, innovative advertising, and a growing reputation for reliability helped production figures surpass the levels of the previous record holder, the Ford Model T. On 17 February 1972 the 15,007,034th Beetle was sold. Volkswagen could now claim the world production record for the most-produced, single make of car in history. By 1973, total production was over 16 million.
To commemorate its passing the Ford Model T's record sales mark and its victories in the Baja 1000 Mexican races from 1967 to 1971, Volkswagen produced its first limited-edition Beetle. It was marketed as the "Baja Champion SE" in the United States and the "Marathon" Superbeetle in the rest of the world. It featured unique "Marathon Blau" metallic blue paint, steel-pressed 10-spoke 15-inch (38 cm) magnesium-alloy wheels, a commemorative metal plate mounted on the glovebox and a certificate of authenticity presented to the original purchaser. Dealer-installed options for this limited-edition Superbeetle included the following: white stripes running the length of the rocker-panel, a special shifter knob, bumper overriders, tapered exhaust tips, fake walnut inserts in the dashboard (behind the steering wheel and the glovebox cover) as well as Bosch fog lights mounted on the front bumper.
1961 to 1973: product line expansion
VW expanded its product line in 1961 with the introduction of four Type 3 models (Karmann Ghia, Notchback, Squareback) based on the new Type 3 mechanical underpinnings, and again in 1969 with the larger Type 4 (411 and 412) models. These differed substantially from previous vehicles, with the notable introduction of monocoque/unibody construction, the option of a fully automatic transmission, electronic fuel injection, and a sturdier powerplant. Volkswagen added a "Super Beetle" (the Type 113) to its lineup in 1971. The Type 113 differed from the standard Beetle in its use of a MacPherson strut front suspension instead of the usual torsion bars. Also the nose of the car was stretched 2 inches (51 mm) to allow the spare tire to lie flat, and the combination of these two features significantly increased the usable front luggage space. Despite the Super Beetle's (marketed outside North America as the VW 1302, later 1303) popularity with Volkswagen customers, purists preferred the standard Beetle with its less pronounced nose and its original torsion bar suspension. In 1973, Volkswagen introduced the military-themed Type 181, or "Trekker" in Europe and the UK, "Thing" in America, recalling the wartime Type 82. The military version was produced for the NATO-era German Army during the Cold War years of 1970 to 1979. The US Thing version only sold for two years, 1973 and 1974, thanks at least in part to Ralph Nader's automobile safety campaigns.
In 1964, Volkswagen succeeded in purchasing Auto Union, and in 1969, NSU Motorenwerke AG (NSU). The former company owned the historic Audi brand, which had disappeared after the Second World War. VW ultimately merged Auto Union and NSU to create the modern day Audi company, and would go on to develop it as its luxury vehicle marque. However, the purchase of Auto Union and NSU proved to be a pivotal point in Volkswagen's history, as both companies yielded the technological expertise that proved necessary for VW to survive when demand for its air-cooled models went into terminal decline as the 1970s dawned.
1974: from Beetle to Golf/RabbitVolkswagen 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-based K70 also failed to woo buyers. Beetle sales had started to decline rapidly in European and North American markets. The company knew that Beetle production had to end one day, but the conundrum of replacing it had been a never-ending nightmare. VW's ownership of Audi/Auto Union proved to be the key to the solution – with its expertise in front-wheel drive, and water-cooled engines which Volkswagen so desperately needed to produce a credible Beetle successor. Audi influences paved the way for this new generation of Volkswagens, known as the Passat, Scirocco, Golf and Polo.
First in the series was the Volkswagen Passat (Dasher in the U.S.), introduced in 1973, a fastback version of the Audi 80, using many identical body and mechanical parts. Estate/wagon versions were available in many markets. In Europe, the estate/wagon version dominated in market share for many years.
In spring 1974, the Scirocco followed. The coupe was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro. Based on the platform of the not yet released Golf, it was built at Karmann due to capacity constraints at Volkswagen.
The pivotal model emerged as the Volkswagen Golf in 1974, marketed in the United States and Canada as the Rabbit for the 1st generation (1975–1985) and 5th generation (2006–2009). Its angular styling was designed by the Italian Giorgetto Giugiaro). Its design followed trends for small family cars set by the 1959 Mini – the Golf had a transversely mounted, water-cooled engine in the front, driving the front wheels, and had a hatchback, a format that has dominated the market segment ever since. Beetle production at Wolfsburg ended upon the Golf's introduction. It continued in smaller numbers at other German factories (Hanover and Emden) until 1978, but mainstream production shifted to Brazil and Mexico.
In 1975, the Volkswagen Polo followed. It was a re-badged Audi 50, which was soon discontinued in 1978. The Polo became the base of the Volkswagen Derby, which was introduced 1977. The Derby was for all intents and purposes a three-box design of the Polo. After a second model generation, the Derby was discontinued in 1985.
Passat, Scirocco, Golf and Polo shared many character defining features, as well as parts and engines. They built the basis for Volkswagen's turn-around.
1974 to 1990: entering the mainstream
While Volkswagen's range of cars soon became similar to that of other large European automakers, the Golf has been the mainstay of the Volkswagen lineup since its introduction, and the mechanical basis for several other cars of the company. There have been six generations of the Volkswagen Golf, the first of which was produced from the summer of 1974 until the end of 1983 (sold as the Rabbit in the United States and Canada and as the Caribe in Latin America). Its chassis also spawned the Volkswagen Scirocco sport coupe, Volkswagen Jetta saloon/sedan, Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet convertible, and Volkswagen Caddy pick-up. North American production of the Rabbit commenced at the Volkswagen Westmoreland Assembly Plant near New Stanton, Pennsylvania in 1978. It would be produced in the United States as the Rabbit until the spring of 1984. The second-generation Golf hatchback/Jetta sedan ran from late 1983 to late 1991, and a North American version produced at Westmoreland Assembly went on sale at the start of the 1985 model year. The production numbers of the first-generation Golf has continued to grow annually in South Africa as the Citi Golf, with only minor modifications to the interior, engine and chassis, using tooling relocated from the New Stanton, Pennsylvania plant when that site began to build the Second Generation car.
In the 1980s, Volkswagen's sales in the United States and Canada fell dramatically, despite the success of models like the Golf elsewhere. The Japanese and the Americans were able to compete with similar products at lower prices. Sales in the United States were 293,595 in 1980, but by 1984 they were down to 177,709. The introduction of the second-generation Golf, GTI and Jetta models helped Volkswagen briefly in North America. Motor Trend named the GTI its Car of the Year for 1985, and Volkswagen rose in the J.D. Power buyer satisfaction ratings to eighth place in 1985, up from 22nd a year earlier. VW's American sales broke 200,000 in 1985 and 1986 before resuming the downward trend from earlier in the decade. Chairman Carl Hahn decided to expand the company elsewhere (mostly in developing countries), and the New Stanton, Pennsylvania factory closed on 14 July 1988. Meanwhile, four years after signing a cooperation agreement with the Spanish car maker SEAT in 1982, Hahn expanded the company by purchasing a majority share of SEAT up to 75% by the end of 1986, which VW bought outright in 1990.
Volkswagen had entered the supermini market in 1975 with the Volkswagen Polo, a stylish and spacious three-door hatchback designed by Bertone. It was a strong seller in West Germany and most of the rest of Western Europe, being one of the first foreign small cars to prove popular in Britain. The second-generation model, launched in 1981 and sold as a hatchback and "coupe" (with the hatchback resembling a small estate car and the coupe being similar to a conventional hatchback), was an even greater success for Volkswagen. It was face-lifted in 1990 and was still selling well after 13 years, when it was replaced by the third-generation Polo in 1994.
1991 to 1999: moving upmarket
In 1991, Volkswagen launched the third-generation Golf, which was European Car of the Year for 1992. The Golf Mk3 and Jetta arrived in North America just before the start of 1994 model year, first appearing in southern California in the late spring of 1993. The sedan version of the Golf was badged Vento in Europe, but remained Jetta in the U.S.
The late 1990s saw a gradual change in perception of the company's products – with Audi having elevated itself into same league as BMW and Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen moved upmarket to fill the void left by Audi; with SEAT and the further addition of the Czech car maker Škoda being acquired in the late 1990s, now occupying what was once VW's core market.
This move upmarket was continued with the Golf Mk4, introduced at the end of 1997 (and in North America in 1999), its chassis spawned a host of other cars within the Volkswagen Group—the Volkswagen Bora (the sedan called Jetta in the U.S.), New Beetle, SEAT Toledo, SEAT León, Audi A3, Audi TT, and Škoda Octavia.
The other main models have been the Polo, a smaller car than the Golf, and the larger Passat for the segment above the Golf. The Scirocco and the later Corrado were both Golf-based coupés.
In 1994, Volkswagen unveiled the J Mays-designed Concept One, a "retro"-themed concept car with a resemblance to the original Beetle, based on the platform of the Polo. Due to a positive response to the concept, a production version was developed as the New Beetle, based on the Golf's larger platform.
Volkswagen's fortunes in North America improved once the third-generation Golf and Jetta models became available there. Marketing efforts included Trek bicycles with accompanying bicycle racks on the 1996 Jetta sedan. The introductions of the New Beetle and the fifth-generation Passat were a major boost to the brand.
In the UK, Volkswagen's market share grew throughout the 1990s. In 1990, the Golf was Britain's 12th most popular car with nearly 50,000 units sold. The Mk3 Polo achieved similar success in the mid 1990s, but in 1999 the Mk4 Golf was Volkswagen's first ever entrant in Britain's top 10 list of most popular new cars.
In the late 1990s Volkswagen, under CEO Ferdinand Piëch, acquired the three luxury brands Lamborghini (through Audi), Bentley, and Bugatti. Audi's plans for Lamborghini included a small supercar later to be named the Gallardo, and a new halo vehicle, the Murciélago, and later the Reventon limited edition halo car. In late 2008, a 4-door saloon for the Lamborghini brand was shown in the form of the Lamborghini Estoque concept.
For Bentley, its future within the Volkswagen Group seemed bright as the launch of the Bentley Continental range helped Bentley post record-breaking sales of 10,000.
Bugatti, after Volkswagen purchased the rights to use the name, showed three concept cars, the Bugatti EB110 (coupé and saloon) and the Bugatti Chiron. Bugatti then launched the Veyron, with a top speed of 252 mph (406 km/h).
2000 to date: model range expansion
Volkswagen began introducing an array of new models after Bernd Pischetsrieder became Volkswagen Group CEO (responsible for all Group brands) in 2002. The sixth-generation VW Golf was launched in 2008, came runner-up to the Opel/Vauxhall Insignia in the 2009 European Car of the Year, and has spawned several cousins: VW Jetta, VW Scirocco, SEAT León, SEAT Toledo, Škoda Octavia and Audi A3 hatchback ranges, as well as a new mini-MPV, the SEAT Altea. The GTI, a "hot hatchback" performance version of the Golf, boasts a 2.0 L Turbocharged Fuel Stratified Injection (FSI) direct injection engine. VW began marketing the Golf under the Rabbit name once again in the U.S. and Canada in June 2006. (The GTI had arrived to North America four months earlier). The fifth-generation Jetta, and the performance version, the GLI, are also available in the United States and Canada. The sixth-generation Passat and the fifth-generation Jetta both debuted in 2005, and VW has announced plans to expand its lineup further by bringing back the Scirocco by 2008. Other models in Wolfgang Bernhard's (Volkswagen brand CEO) "product offensive" include the Tiguan mid-sized SUV in 2008 and a Passat Coupé. In November 2006 Bernd Pischetsrieder announced his resignation as Volkswagen Group CEO, and was replaced by Audi worldwide CEO Martin Winterkorn at the beginning of 2007. Winterkorn is credited with making Audi a challenger to the dominance of BMW and Mercedes, and his design-led strategy has led to Audi being considered one of the most important brands in the world. Nevertheless, Volkswagen continues to have complicated relations with both unions and shareholders. The German state of Lower Saxony owns 20% of the stock.
In North America, VW faced many challenges. After rising significantly between 1998 and 2001, VW's North American sales began to fall sharply leading to a 2005 loss of roughly US$1 billion for its operations in the U.S. and Canada. Profitability has not been strong, and the lack of reliability of the company's cars appears to bear some of the responsibility for this situation. By 2005, its models sat near the bottom of Consumer Reports reliability ratings, and J.D. Power and Associates ranked VW 35th out of 37 brands in its initial quality survey. Attempts to enter a new market segment also compromised Volkswagen's standing in North America. In 2002, Volkswagen announced the debut of its Phaeton luxury car, which was critically acclaimed but not well received in the marketplace. VW announced its discontinuance in the U.S. market for the 2007 model year due to the disappointing sales.
Volkswagen in 2005, despite challenges, still maintained North American sales of 224,195—a dramatic increase from the low in 1993 when US sales totalled only 49,533 vehicles. Momentum continued for fiscal 2006, as VW's North American sales for the year were 235,140 vehicles, a 4.9 percent increase over 2005, despite a slump in domestic North American manufacturer's sales. In conjunction with the introduction of new models, production location of Volkswagen vehicles also underwent great change. The 2007 Eos, a hardtop convertible, is produced in a new facility in Portugal. All Golfs/Rabbits and GTIs as of 2006 are manufactured in Wolfsburg, Germany, rather than VW's Mexican factory in Puebla, where Golfs and GTIs for the North American market were produced from 1989 to 1998, and the Brazilian factory in Curitiba, where Golfs and GTIs were produced from 1999 to 2006. (The Jetta has primarily been made in Mexico since 1989). VW is also in the process of reconfiguring an automotive assembly plant in Belgium. The new models and investments in manufacturing improvements were noticed immediately by automotive critics. Favorable reviews for VW's newest cars include the GTI being named by Consumer Reports as the top sporty car under $25,000, one of Car and Driver magazine's "10 Best" for 2007, Automobile Magazine's 2007 Car of the Year, as well as a 2008 Motor Trend comparison ranking the mid-size Passat first in its class. The J. D. Power and Associates 2006 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study scored Volkswagen fourteenth overall with strong performances by its new Jetta and Passat models.
Volkswagen is recognised as one of the leading small diesel engine manufacturers, and is partnering with Mercedes and other companies to market BlueTec clean diesel technology. Volkswagen has offered a number of its vehicles with a TDI (Turbocharged Direct Injection) engine, which lends class-leading fuel economy to several models. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, four of the ten most fuel-efficient vehicles available for sale in the U.S. in 2004 were powered by Volkswagen diesel engines. They were a three-way tie for 8th (TDI Beetle, TDI Golf, TDI Jetta) and ninth, the TDI Jetta Wagon. As of 2007, VW has not yet offered a gasoline/electric hybrid powertrain such as that in the Toyota Prius (though a diesel-electric hybrid 5th generation Jetta was produced as a test vehicle). In addition, all Volkswagen TDI diesel engines produced from 1996 to 2006 can be driven on 100% biodiesel fuel. For the 2007 model year, however, strict U.S. government emissions regulations have forced VW to drop most diesels from their U.S. engine lineup, but a new lineup of diesel engines compatible to U.S. standards returned to the American market starting with Model Year 2009. These post-2009 Clean Diesel engines are limited to running on 5% (B5) biodiesel only to maintain Volkswagen's warranty.
Volkswagen long resisted adding a utility vehicle to its lineup, but it finally relented with the introduction of the Touareg in the early 2000s, sharing major components with the Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q7 sport utility vehicles. Though acclaimed as a fine handling vehicle, the Touareg has been a modest seller at best. Some automotive analysts blame the Touareg's absence of a third-row seat, the relatively poor fuel economy, and the high vehicle mass. VW plans to add a compact SUV with styling influences from its "Concept A" concept vehicle. On 20 July 2006, VW announced that the new vehicle would be called the Tiguan. Since the discontinuance of the T4 in 2003 and decision not to bring the T5 to the US market, it was ironic that Volkswagen lacked a van in its North American lineup considering that VW was a major player in the development of the class with its original Transporter. The firm did however launch a rebadged DaimlerChrysler named the Volkswagen Routan for the U.S. and Canadian markets in 2008. Owing to technical difficulty adapting the Polo to meet North American vehicle regulations, VW presented in 2006 the "Iroc" as a concept of the proposed 2009 Scirocco as a potential new small model.
In September 2006, Volkswagen began offering the City Golf and City Jetta only for the Canadian market. Both models were originally the Mk4 Golf and Jetta but were later replaced with the Brazilian versions of the Golf Mk4 and Bora. The City Golf and City Jetta were introduced to compete with the Toyota Yaris and Honda Fit. Volkswagen's introduction of such models is seen as a test of the market for a subcompact and, if successful, may be the beginnings of a thriving subcompact market for Volkswagen.
When Martin Winterkorn became the eighth postwar CEO of Volkswagen, the company made several personnel changes in Wolfsburg. Though the VW Group already had their presence in India with Škoda Auto, Volkswagen introduced the Passat and Touareg with TDI engine to India's automobile market in September 2007.
The VW 1L will be available in 2010, in limited numbers. The 1L is a lightweight two-person vehicle made out of a magnesium frame covered by an unpainted carbon-fiber skin. Every component of the vehicle is intended to reduce the vehicle's weight. Aluminum brakes, carbon-fiber wheels, titanium hubs, and ceramic bearings all contribute to the vehicle's light weight of a mere 290 kg. To reduce the weight even further, and to increase the aerodynamics of the vehicle, there are no rearview mirrors. Instead, the car is equipped with cameras that display visual information to the driver through the internal LCD screen. The car is extremely fuel-efficient, each gallon of fuel will take you over 235 miles (378 km). The fuel tank holds just 1.7 gallons, making the entire travel distance capability about 400 miles (640 km) per tank. Its top speed is 120 km/h (75 mph), which although not very fast is a welcome tradeoff for the huge savings in fuel consumption.
In May 2011 Volkswagen inaugurated the Volkswagen Chattanooga Assembly Plant. The plant will produce cars specifically designed for North America beginning with the New Midsize Sedan, which will be compete with North American market leaders Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Production is scheduled to begin in early 2011 and is expected to end more than five years of losses in the world's largest auto market.
In 9 December 2009, Volkswagen AG and Suzuki reached a common understanding to establish a close long-term strategic partnership. Volkswagen will purchase 19.9% of Suzuki’s issued shares.
In February 2010, Volkswagen announced the latest Polo BlueMotion model with a 1.2 litre TDI three-cylinder common rail diesel engine rated at 75 PS and 133 ft·lbf (180 N·m) of torque from 2000 rpm. This model emits 91g/km of CO2 and has a combined cycle fuel consumption of 80.7 mpg.
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. For a long time, Volkswagen has had a market share over 20 percent. Worldwide, Volkswagen officially ranks as the 3rd largest manufacturer behind Toyota and GM as measured by OICA in 2009. In 2010, Volkswagen, posted record sales of 6.29 million vehicles, with its global market share at 11.4%. Volkswagens core markets include Germany and China. After overtaking Ford in 2008, Volkswagen became the third largest automaker in the world. Volkswagen has aimed to double its US market share from 2% to 4% for the year 2014, and is aiming to become, sustainably, the world's largest car maker by 2018.
Volkswagen is a publicly traded company, which issued ordinary shares and preferred shares. The ownership structure is complex. The following table shows the current shareholder structure. Note that neither the Porsche Automobil Holding nor the Porsche GmbH are identical with the Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, which is responsible for the production of Porsche sports cars. The Porsche Automobil Holding is owned by the Porsche family, the Emirate of Qatar, 49.9% are owned by the Volkswagen AG. The Porsche GmbH was sold to the Volkswagen AG.
Volkswagen has factories in many parts of the world, manufacturing or assembling vehicles for local markets. Volkswagen has manufacturing or assembly plants in Germany, Slovakia, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Portugal, Spain, Poland, Mexico, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and South Africa. Volkswagen also has a new plant in the United States. In 2011, it was named in the top 25 largest companies in the world by the Forbes Global 2000.
Relationship with Porsche, and the Volkswagen Law
Volkswagen has always had a close relationship with Porsche, the Zuffenhausen-based sports car manufacturer founded in 1931 by Ferdinand Porsche, the original Volkswagen designer and Volkswagen company founder. The first Porsche car, the Porsche 64 of 1938, used many components from the Volkswagen Beetle. The 1948 Porsche 356 continued using many Volkswagen components, including a tuned engine, gearbox and suspension.
The two companies continued their collaboration in 1969 to make the VW-Porsche 914 and 914-6, whereby the 914-6 had a 6-cylinder Porsche engine, and the standard 914 had a 4-cylinder Volkswagen engine, and in 1976 with the Porsche 912E (USA only), and the Porsche 924, which used many Audi components and was built at an Audi Neckarsulm factory. Most 944s also were built there, although they used far fewer VW components.
The Porsche Cayenne, introduced in 2002, shares its entire chassis with VW Touareg and Audi Q7, which are built at the Volkswagen factory in Bratislava.
In September 2005, Porsche announced it would increase its 5% stake in Volkswagen to 20% at a cost of €3 billion, with the intention that the combined stakes of Porsche and the government of Lower Saxony would ensure that any hostile takeover by foreign investors would be impossible. Speculated suitors included DaimlerChrysler, BMW, and Renault. In July 2006, Porsche increased their ownership again to 25.1%.
On 13 February 2007 Advocate General Dámaso Ruiz-Jarabo Colomer ruled that a German law preventing any shareholder in Volkswagen from executing more than 20% of the total voting rights in the firm was illegally restricting the flow of capital in Europe. This again opened the possibility of a hostile takeover of VW and so on 26 March of the same year Porsche took its holding of Volkswagen shares to 30.9%. Porsche formally announced in a press statement that it did not intend to take over Volkswagen, but intended the move to avoid a competitor taking a large stake and to stop hedge funds from dismantling VW. As expected, on 22 October 2007 the European Court of Justice ruled in agreement with Ruiz-Jarabo and the law was struck down. On 26 October 2008, Porsche finally revealed its plan to assume control of VW. As of that day, it held 42.6 percent of Volkswagen's ordinary shares and stock options on another 31.5 percent. Combined with the state of Lower Saxony's 20.1% stake, this left only 5.8% of shares on the market most of which were held by index funds who could not legally sell. Hedge funds desperate to cover their short positions forced Volkswagen stock above one thousand euros per share, briefly making it the world's largest company by market capitalisation on 28 October 2008. By January 2009, Porsche had a 50.76% holding in Volkswagen AG, although the "Volkswagen Law" prevented it from taking control of the company.
On 6 May 2009 the two companies decided to join together, in a merger.
On 13 August, Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft's Supervisory Board signed the agreement to create an integrated automotive group with Porsche led by Volkswagen. The initial decision was for Volkswagen to take a 42.0 percent stake in Porsche AG by the end of 2009, and it would also see the family shareholders selling the automobile trading business of Porsche Holding Salzburg to Volkswagen. In October 2009 however, Volkswagen announced that its percentage in Porsche would be 49.9% for a cost of 3.9 billion euros (the 42.0% deal would have cost 3.3 billion euros). On 1 March 2011, Volkswagen has finalized the purchase of Porsche Holding Salzburg (PHS) a lucrative automobile distributor, for 3.3 billion euros ($4.55 billion).
Since 1985, Volkswagen AG has run the Volkswagen AutoMuseum in Wolfsburg, a museum dedicated specifically to the history of Volkswagen. In addition to visiting exhibits in person, owners of vintage Volkswagens anywhere in the world may order what the museum refers to as a "Birth Certificate" for a set fee of €50 -- this formal "Zertifikat" indicates basic information known at the time of manufacture (colors, options, port of destination, etc.).
Volkswagen sells a number of cars under its namesake brand, including sedans, MPVs, trucks, SUVs, and coupes. Their product range extends from the supermini Polo, to compact Golf, to mid-size Jetta and Passat, and full-size Phaeton. SUVs include the Tiguan and Touareg.
Volkswagens current model range:
- Golf Plus
- Passat CC
Volkswagen has been selling low sulphur diesel-powered engines for the European market since 2003. VW developed Turbocharged Direct Injection (TDI) technology for diesel engines, and it offers a wide array of TDI powertrains. As modern diesel fuel economy is 30 percent higher than gasoline engines, a proportional reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is achieved with clean diesel technology. Volkswagen is also developing hybrid technology for diesel-electric. A VW Golf turbo-diesel hybrid concept car was exhibited at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show, which has a fuel economy of 70 mpg (3.3 litres per 100 km).
Volkswagen of America Inc. promotes its work in developing "clean diesel", and other fuel-efficient technologies, to increase U.S. sales to environmentally conscious consumers. One of the vehicles being promoted is the 2009 clean-diesel Jetta TDI, which has a 16-valve, four-cylinder common rail direct injection engine which reduces emissions by 90 percent. Volkswagen also claims that this model has the advantage of fuel economy in the mid-50s and mid-40s in city conditions. Stefan Jacoby, CEO of America's Volkswagen, said that it will be released in a sedan and sport-wagon model in May 2008 in California, becoming the first 50-state clean diesel offering.
Neat ethanol vehicles
Volkswagen do Brasil produced and sold neat ethanol vehicles (E100 only) in Brazil, and production was discontinued only after they were substituted by the more modern technology of flexible-fuel vehicles. As a response to the 1973 oil crisis, the Brazilian government began promoting bioethanol as a fuel, and the National Alcohol Program -Pró-Álcool- (Portuguese: Programa Nacional do Álcool) was launched in 1975. Compelled by the second oil crisis, and after development and testing with government fleets by the Brazilian General Command for Aerospace Technology (CTA) (CTA) at São José dos Campos, and further testing of several prototypes developed by the four local carmakers, including Volkswagen do Brasil, neat ethanol vehicles were launched in the Brazilian market beginning in that year. Gasoline engines were modified to support hydrous ethanol characteristics and changes included compression ratio, amount of fuel injected, replacement of materials that would get corroded by the contact with ethanol, use of colder spark plugs suitable for dissipating heat due to higher flame temperatures, and an auxiliary cold-start system that injects gasoline from a small tank in the engine compartment to help starting when cold. Six years later around three quarters of Brazilian passenger cars were manufactured with ethanol engines.
Production and sales of neat ethanol vehicles tumbled beginning in 1987 owing to several factors, including a sharp decline in gasoline prices as a result of the 1980s oil glut, and high sugar prices in the world market, shifting sugarcane ethanol production from fuel to sugar. By mid 1989 a shortage of ethanol fuel supply in the local market left thousands of vehicles in line at gas stations or out of fuel in their garages, forcing consumers to abandon ethanol vehicles.
In March 2003, on its fiftieth anniversary, Volkswagen do Brasil launched in the local market the Gol 1.6 Total Flex, the first Brazilian commercial flexible fuel vehicle capable of running on any mix of E20-E25 gasoline and up to 100% hydrous ethanol fuel (E100). After the neat ethanol fiasco, consumer confidence on ethanol-powered vehicles was restored, allowing a rapid adoption of the flex technology, which was facilitated by the fuel distribution infrastructure already in place throughout Brazil, with more than 30 thousand fueling stations, a heritage of the Pró-Álcool program.
Owing to the success and rapid consumer acceptance of the flex versions, by 2005 VW had sold 293,523 flex cars and light-duty trucks, and only 53,074 gasoline-powered automobiles, jumping to 525,838 flex-fuel vehicles while selling only 13,572 cars and 248 light trucks powered by gasoline in 2007, and reaching new car sales of 564,959 flex fuels in 2008, representing 96 percent of all cars and light-duty trucks sold in that year. VW do Brasil stopped manufacturing gasoline-only vehicles models for the local market in 2006, and remaining gasoline-engine sales comes from imports. The flex fuel models produced for the local market are Gol, Fox, CrossFox, Parati, Polo Hatch, Polo Sedan, Saveiro, Golf, and Kombi. By March 2009 Volkswagen do Brasil had attained the milestone mark of two million flexible-fuel vehicles produced since 2003.
Volkswagen announced it has hired Karl-Thomas Neumann as its group chief officer for electric traction. VW's Chief of research, Dr. Jürgen Leohold, said the company has concluded hydrogen fuel-cell cars are not a viable option.
The two-door E-Up! electric car concept was debuted at the 63rd Frankfurt Motor Show in 2009. The 3.19 metres (10 ft 6 in) long all-electric E-Up! is anticipated for production start in 2013, and uses a 3+1 seating configuration. It uses a 60 kilowatts (82 PS; 80 bhp) all-integrated drive electric motor, (continuously rated at 40 kilowatts (54 PS; 54 bhp)) mounted at the front and driving the front wheels.
Hybrid electric vehicles
Volkswagen and Sanyo have teamed up to develop a battery system for hybrid electric vehicles. Volkswagen head Martin Winterkorn has confirmed the company plans to build compact hybrid electric vehicles. He has stated "There will definitely be compact hybrid models, such as Polo and Golf, and without any great delay", with gasoline and diesel engines. For example, Golf is the ideal model to go hybrid as the Golf 1.4 TSI was recently awarded the “Auto Environment Certificate” by the Oko-Trend Institute for Environmental Research, and was considered as one of the most environmentally friendly vehicles of 2007. Also underway at Volkswagen's Braunschweig R&D facilities in Northern Germany is a hybrid version of the next-generation Touareg.
VW intends all future models to have the hybrid option. “Future VW models will fundamentally also be constructed with hybrid concepts,” VW head of development Ulrich Hackenberg told Automobilwoche in an interview. Hackenberg mentioned that the car based on the Up! concept seen at Frankfurt Motor Show, as well as all future models, could be offered with either full or partial hybrid options. The rear-engine up! will go into production in 2011. Nothing has been said about plug-in hybrid options.
Volkswagen announced at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show the launch of the 2012 Touareg Hybrid, scheduled for 2011. VW also announced plans to introduce diesel-electric hybrid versions of its most popular models in 2012, beginning with the new Jetta, followed by the Golf Hybrid in 2013 together with hybrid versions of the Passat.
Volkswagen first implemented its seven environmental goals in Technical Development in 1996. The plan contains themes involving climate protection, resource conservation, and healthcare, through objectives such as reducing greenhouse emissions and fuel consumption, enabling the use of alternative fuels, and avoiding the use of hazardous materials. The original 1996 goals have since been revised in 2002 and 2007. Volkswagen was the first car manufacturer to apply ISO 14000, during its drafting stage and was re-certified under the standards in September 2005.