On this day: 05-28-1937
Volkswagen is founded
The government of Germany--then under the control of Adolf Hitler of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party--forms a new state-owned automobile company, then known as Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH. Later that year, it was renamed simply Volkswagenwerk, or “The People´s Car Company.” Originally operated by the German Labor Front, a Nazi organization, Volkswagen was headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany. In addition to his ambitious campaign to build a network of autobahns and limited access highways across Germany, Hitler´s pet project was the development and mass production of an affordable yet still speedy vehicle that could sell for less than 1,000 Reich marks (about $140 at the time). To provide the design for this “people´s car,” Hitler called in the Austrian automotive engineer Ferdinand Porsche. Volkswagen sales in the United States were initially slower than in other parts of the world, due to the car´s historic Nazi connections as well as its small size and unusual rounded shape. Twelve years later, the Beetle surpassed the longstanding worldwide production record of 15 million vehicles, set by Ford Motor Company´s legendary Model T between 1908 and 1927.