Volkswagen Beetle

1948

  • Launched around the time of Hitler's rise to power, Ferdinand Porsche’s work on the design of a ""people's automobile"" gave birth to the Volkswagen.
  • With more than twenty one million sold in over 150 countries, this really was the people's automobile.
  • Even before the Disney film productions, the Beetle’s ambition was to win over the everyman.

Affectionately to become known as the "Beetle", this "people's car" and its singular looks would be met with the approval on every level - even conquering the United States, where it was to become most sold European automobile. With a record production of twenty one million, it has enjoyed an exceptionally long lifespan.

Its story began in the early thirties, when creative engineer Ferdinand Porsche started work on a project for a small popular automobile. In 1932, a prototype was produced for project n° 12, for the Zündapp firm, but this would go no further. This embryo of the Beetle already had a backbone chassis and rear-mounted engine. The following year, he oversaw the Type 32 study for NSU, powered by an air-cooled flat 4 cylinder engine, but the project was soon dropped. Then, with Adolf Hitler's rise to power in 1933 the "people's car" project would be launched, later to become known as the Volkswagen.

In a push to achieve its vision of modernism and prosperity, the Third Reich resolved to accelerate industrial development, with the automotive industry considered as key to the success of its strategy. Hitler met Porsche in 1934 to submit his project for an automobile that would cost no more than a thousand Reichsmarks, and that would be accessible to everyone. German constructors were hesitant in the wake of the Führer's demands - producing such a cheap automobile seemed impossible. Porsche did however succeed in building three examples of the VW3 prototype, to be road-tested in 1936.

To be continued...