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Volkswagen - History (1)

It is an almost unreal story which often enough dangles on a string and, to a large extent, can be finished successfully only with tough determination. One person on her own can only start things, but for the development - and management buisiness different people are necessary, from the high ranking government member up to the simple workman who will be mentioned here as much as he deserves it.

So to say, the Beetle has two fathers whom only the winding paths of reality can bring together as a ‚team. One of them may truely call himself an engineer, although he has never acquired this title by the standard means. Nevertheless, due to his extraordinary capabilities he rather early achieves eminence which may happen to others at end of their professional lifes only. He is conferred two honoris causa doctorates and is additionally admitted to the community of graduates. As far as skill is concerned, he belongs to them already since long.

The last statement can easily be proved. Ferdinand Porsche, who we are talking about, has made his way, not only as a vehicle designer at different important car plants. Before that, he already made a remarkable carreer in the field of electric drives (picture), aircraft engines and fire pumps and on the Paris World Exhibition 1900 he was rewarded special commendation for his highly noiseless wheel hub engine.

Besides all this he is considered inventor of a serial hybrid propulsion, an idea topical again nowadays. He also contributes to higher mobility of the military in the First World War (1914-1918). Being of small size, he is dynamical and sometimes quite hot-tempered. He can easily oblige people but is hard to be ruled by someone else. This is the wood big ‚leaders are carved from!

The other father of the Beetle must be named here as well, however without pleasure. It is Adolf Hitler, the dictator responsible for the destruction of Germany and half of Europe. Admittedly, not only him, but let`s not discuss partition of guilt! Judging from all we know today we have to call him a determined sponsor of the VW Beetle.

How do both men get together? Not at all in the beginning. When Hitler still was a workless painter in Vienna before the First World War, he might have heard about Porsche`s fame. Reality often plays tricks, more mad than men can imagine. Not facing any kind of success up to that time, Hitler and his 'National Socialists' are made leaders of the german state departement, presumably as a result of the disastrous economical and political situation.

Now he has the power and within months he becomes sponsor of the german automobile industry. Meanwhile Ferdinand Porsche experiences a quite different development, turning from a successfull chief of construction to the owner of an automobile company with a not quite easy customer acquisition. What qualifies him for a conversation with Hitler? Primarily his involvement in the successful Mercedes-Benz race cars and the construction of an absolutely new model for the newly founded 'Auto Union'.

Hitler, although having no driving licence, is a true admirer of Mercedes. This does not change after his determined campaigne for Volkswagen as it is still called at this time still. Porsche and his company are connected to Auto - Union and he agrees with Hitler that the new state subsidies also flow into their pots.Together with Porsche`s newly created race car an exciting Porsche-against-Porsche-competition starts which makes the former successful foreign competitors play a subordinate role.

Typical for the national-socialist dictatorship: 'Germany, Germany above all' - propaganda in racing sports, the war before the war. According to Hitler`s plans the future Beetle should refer to the ‚'socialist' part. Indeed, his demands are so high that experts turn away, first of all the newly founded society which represents (almost) all German car manufacturers. The dictator falls back on a single designer with his relatively small company and forces all the competitors into the not clearly defined role as financier, producer and referee at the same time.

Everybody knows this will see no happy ending, considering the required conditions: a highway-proof four-seat car with very moderate fuel consumption for less than 1000 RM. In spite of this, Porsche accepts order. (After the war he will be held accountable for the part he played in the Third Reich.) One thing becomes apparent : he is by far more obsessed with technical questions than with political ideologies. He and his team start working at the Beetle and almost right away end up where difficulties were to be expected. 02/19

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