One must probably start the history of Volkswagen with Ferdinand Porsche. He works for Daimler in Austria and Stuttgart, before he opens in 1931 his own design engineering buro, first in Austria, later on in Stuttgart. Obviously he has - being a top designer - also some ideas for small cars. Later on it will be doubted whether all plans concerning the Beetle stem only from him. In a court procedure with the defenders of the Ledwinka patents it even comes to a settlement.
In the year 1936 by order of the imperial NS government, 3 prototypes are build, and submitted to quite extensive testing. After their successful rounding-up, 30 more models originate in 1937, partly build by Daimler-Benz, the employer Porsche left some years earlier in rage. Though Hitler does not like the Beetle particularly and rather prefers Mercedes cars, he supports the project because it is probably useful for his purposes. At least, there are in 1938 already 3000 km of imperial highway and the VW factory is founded in Wolfsburg, but the products of the company are not determined, in the end, for the German consumer. Though they pay 5, - RM per week, they do not receive a car.The Beetle is presented in many German towns, nevertheless, amphibious cars, jeeps and predominantly weapons are in fact being produced. (WW II)
After the war the few remaining workers have to make do with a factory that is destroyed by roughly 2 thirds. The English occupying power permits and supports the production, first beginning with the utilisation of the production leftovers. The engagement of the people is gigantic; they work for very little wage and for a long time without sufficient food. In 1948 Heinrich Nordhoff joins the company as the new president, having gained experience before the war among other things with the very successful sales of the Opel Blitz.
From now on slowly but surely success is acquired. The Beetle is known at that time as a product with still a lot of problems. They are removed meticulously one after the other. This strategy marks the success of the Beetle. Another factor is the starting export and the currency reform in 1948. Thereafter production and growth of the factory go hand in hand. At the same time a van is designed with which in contrast to the Beetle the number of variations grows constantly. Its production is moved in 1956 to Hannover. Due to the expansion of the world export additional factories originate in Germany, in Brunswick, Kassel, Salzgitter and Emden, abroad, e.g., in Gent (Belgium), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Puebla (Mexico) and later on also in Nigeria. In spite of worldwide sales the service to the customer remains very important. One of the arguments to buy a Volkswagen!
With the model variations VW makes a lot of compromises. The model 3 is basically an improved Beetle with quite clearly changed car body and sedan, fastback and estate car rear as variations. Every year after the Summer factory holidays the fans are looking forward to the new Beetle-innovations. The conservative was always a strength of VW, but slowly the competition becomes oppressive. Quality is not everything. Countless prototypes are developed and rejected. By the end of the sixties it becomes slowly hectic. The large VW is introduced(as type 4), this time even with four doors, but still with air-cooled rear engine. In petto VW works on a liquid-cooled engine, situated under the rear seat bench.
It was almost too late for the VW factory. Only when the new manager, Rudolf Leiding, in 1971 ceases all prototypes developed thus far and takes over almost the complete technology from the Auto Union (Audi), acquired in 1965, a feasible solution is in reach. The Audi 80 is taken over with fastback as a VW PASSAT, the Golf receives in front transverse mounted Audi engines and later there is the VW Polo as variation of the Audi 50. Even if corrosion takes away quite a few of these early VW variations, they are decisive for the company. The Golf develops in similar numbers like once the Beetle, the Passat develops away from the Audi 80, only the VW Polo seems to have troubles to find its own design feature.
The company recovers and manages to solve the corrosion problems before e.g. Opel does. The success is such that Seat, Skoda, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti are added to the group. Unfortunately, one fails trying to takeover the name 'Rolls Royce'. The top brands should set up VW besides Audi in the top segment. The conception of the different hats is valid primarily for the small cars. Underneath the body, VWs, Seats and Skodas are quite similarly. Even to Audi similarities are maintained in the lower segment. And the top brands share some parts, making the production more efficient, e.g., 12 cylinder engines.
It cannot be derived from its history: 'Volkswagens' for clearly more than 100,000 euros. The different brands cover almost all design directions. Niches are filled constantly. Within the group there is a car that makes more than 400 km/h top speed. Nevertheless, the production is not used to capacity (2005). 6 million cars per year could be built, however, 5 million are only demanded. Now the distribution fight within Europe starts. And also German employees must make immense compromises.