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History of Volkswagen

Germany-based Volkswagen (VW) traces its lineage to 1936 when the company’s founder, Ferdinand Porsche, designed the first “People’s Car.” During that era, luxury automobiles were the primary vehicles in the German automotive marketplace. The People’s Car was a collaborative effort between the German government and the automaker to make affordable family cars.

The Second World War hampered production of the vehicle. The manufacturing facility sustained considerable damage due to strategic air bombing campaigns. After the war, the British Army commandeered the factory and mass-produced VW Beetles for members of the occupying forces. Because of its distinctive shape, the car was nicknamed “The Beetle,” a moniker that still holds today.

In the 1950s, the company introduced the VW bus and the Karmann Ghia sports car. The VW Bus became the quintessential symbol of the 1960s counterculture. By the end of the decade, annual production of the Beetle exceeded one million units. The car also played a starring role in a series of Disney movies including Herbie, The Love Bug. Production of the original Beetle was halted in 2003. Volkswagen redesigned the car and nicknamed it the New Beetle. The New Beetle joined VW’s lineup of cars and SUVs that includes the Golf, Jetta, and Passat as well as the Touareg crossover SUV. The Beetle, Golf, and Passat are three of the top ten best-selling vehicles of all time.

VW’s commitment to technology began early in the company’s history. The Beetle was one of the first production vehicles to be developed with the aid of a wind tunnel. In the 1980s, VW pioneered the use of robotics in the automotive manufacturing process. Today, various VW models are available as clean diesels, diesel hybrids, hybrid electric, or all-electric designs. The company is dedicated to producing vehicles with advanced handling, superior performance, and refined interior cabins.

VW is headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany, the site of its original factory. The company employs more than 368,000 people worldwide and generates revenues in excess of $124 billion. Volkswagen is the world’s second largest automobile manufacturer with a global market share of more than 11 percent. Although profitable worldwide, the company opened a production facility in Tennessee to reverse its declining market share in the United States. The facility also enables VW to develop products specifically for American consumers. The automaker is a division of Volkswagen Automotive Group, which is traded on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.