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Volkswagen - History (5)






The years up until 1960 were dominated by the expansion of production and sales. In 1953 the sales figures exceeded a half a million cars, in 1955 one million, in 1957 two million and again, twice that figure in 1960. The exportation to english-speaking countries was started. One great example was the enormous North American market, where they actually succeeded in establishing a sales network including the accompanying customer service which was typical of VW. The plant in Brazil was developed, and expanded, making them the only manufacturers in South America with a design department.

During this period the customer service in Germany itself was also refined. The relatively short servicing intervals of every 2500 km was common, also for their competitors. The VW system of giving a guarantee on parts which were recycled in their own workshops, proved effective. E.g., an engine cost only DM 430 and could be replaced for a mere DM 7,50. The record time for changing an engine was approx. 10 minutes. Because at that time, all VWs had the same wheelbase, one could simply drive up to the markings on the lifting platform, no adjustments were necessary. Just as a matter of interest, at that time the front mudguard, including udercoating, cost DM 43,26 and the rear mudguard, only DM 28,90.

The 1960s saw the arrival of a new mid-range model with more space inside and much more boot space due to the now flat mounted engine. At the same time a Karmann-Ghia again appeared, indeed, due to the lack of acceptance, it never even made it to a convertible. The power of the Beetle was again increased, this time to 25 kW (34 HP), later it would be even more. The glas surfaces were enlarged step by step and the dashboard was again altered. More important was the course taken by the concern. VW became a “global player” and was converted into a public company with a special state-protection-portion of 2 * 20 against a hostile takeover. Now, anyone could buy and earn money with VW-shares, with or without voting rights.

The insides of the flat-lying engine in the Type-3 were very similar to that of the Beetle. Thus, the Beetle also profited from the bigger engines which were necessary for the mid-range cars. From now on, the cubic capacity would grow to 1600 ccm³, indeed, the performance of 37 kW (50 HP) would remain. A genuine construction-highlight was the 1967 Bus/Transporter. One might say, it was maintained for a long time, then thoroughly renovated. If their principle of rear-engines was to make any sense at all, then it was here that it was most persuasively applied.

The outlines of the difficulties could already be seen before Nordhoffs death in 1968. VWs were no longer being bought mainly because of their technical innovations but for their robust character and comparatively low repair costs. There were too many unrealised modernisation proposals. The dogma of the rear-engine became something to which they were bound. The long awaited appearance of the four-door 411 and the futuristic VW-Porsche couldn't help any more either. Even worse, was just at that time Porsche, which was actually the the VW-development department, was working on an underfloor-mid-engine.

The path to rescuing the concern was paved, of all things, by the, in the meantime, taken over companies. The first forerunner was the, almost unchanged, front-wheel drive K 70 from the, in 1969 acquired NSU-works. This was also a failure, because NSU had somewhat gambled away their good reputation with the Ro 80. The angular shape of the K 70 and their carelessness prevented it from being a real VW. In 1964 the Auto Union had already been taken over by Daimler-Benz, this subsidiary, once again called 'Audi', held ready the solution to the concern problems.

In this case, Mercedes-Benz had already done the early development work. Ludwig Kraus, who had moved to Auto Union, was instrumental in the final replacement of the outdated two-stroke technology with a modern 'mid-pressure' engine. Despite this lucky chance, Mercedes found that, presumably for image reasons, they couldn't do anything with this subsidiary and promptly sold it off. Indeed, VW was, in the beginning, also not aware of Audi's potential. Kurt Lotz, chief of the concern from 1968 to 1971, put his money on the Porsche development. 03/10

Part 6





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