Volkswagen is one of the biggest car manufacturers in the world. The company was founded in 1937 by the German Labour Front.
In 2016, Volkswagen became the biggest car manufacturer in the world in terms of sales. The word "Volkswagen" is a German word that means "the peoples' car." Before the 1930s, cars were very expensive and were seen as a luxury for the rich. Most of the cars on the road at that time were luxury models which were beyond even a middle-class family.
In 1934, Adolf Hitler commissioned the production of vehicles that could accommodate two adults and three children. He was of the opinion that all German citizens were entitled to own a car. The KdF-Wagen was one of the earliest cars to ever be produced by Volkswagen.
The Second World War had a devastating effect on the company since the government could only focus its resources on war artillery. 1949 saw the first Volkswagen vehicle being sold in the United States. The Beetle was a commercial success and went on to become one of the most iconic vehicles from the car manufacturer.
Volkswagen has been manufacturing and selling vehicles for more than 70 years now and has completely revolutionized the auto industry. Like any other company, they also have their own set of scandals.
Here are 20 little known facts about Volkswagen.
20 Ferdinand Porsche Played A Big Role
Volkswagen's success wouldn't have been possible without the mastery and talent of Ferdinand Porsche. He was one of the most talented designers and engineers during his time.
Porsche's legendary status in the automobile industry is well documented. According to Wikipedia, it only took him 10 months to come up with a working prototype of the first Volkswagen vehicle.
This car was called the Type 1, more commonly referred to as the Beetle. It has become the foundation for Volkswagen's success. It is approximated that there have been over 25 million Beetles sold worldwide. It is one of the highest selling vehicles in the world, all thanks to Ferdinand Porsche.
19 The Beetle wasn't always the Beetle
The VW Beetle epitomizes the term "people's car," which is the translation of its title. However, the car has had several names in the 65 years it was on the assembly line. The first ever people's car was called the type 1. It was the model that brought Volkswagen to life.
The Beetle name is extremely popular the world over and is one of the best sellers, with about 25 million units sold. It held the world record for bestselling car for the better part of the 20th century. The car is highly revered by car enthusiasts, as it is possible to find models from the past that are still in good condition and are running just fine. The car was known for its fuel economy and became a best-seller because of its affordable price, among other things.
18 A dictator's brainchild
This is not something that Germans are proud of, but Adolf Hitler was one of the major contributing factors to the founding of Volkswagen. Volkswagen was founded when the majority of Germans did not own a car. Hitler wanted an affordable mode of transportation that could be enjoyed by a family.
According to The BBC, Hitler wanted a vehicle that was big enough to accommodate 2 adults and 3 children which was typical of a German set up.
The car was also supposed to have a minimum of 60mph. Hitler instructed that the vehicle should not cost more than a motorcycle which was the mode of transport for many Germans at the time. Meeting all these conditions was a tremendous challenge but it set a strong foundation for the success of the company.
17 They Don't Only Make Cars
It is not always about cars for Volkswagen. According to MSN, Volkswagen has heavily invested in engine technology. They produce marine diesel engines for motor boats. The company also manufactures chemical reactors, steam turbines, gas, and turbochargers.
They have also invested heavily in Wolfsburg FC, a football (soccer for Americans) club out of the Bundesliga. The club has been struggling but they still have the backing of this multi-billion dollar conglomerate.
Volkswagen's main business, however, is still cars and they have been shrewd and ruthless when it comes to buying off competitors. There are not a lot of small players remaining in the auto industry and this can be heavily attributed to Volkswagen's acquisitions over the years.
16 Beetle Advertisement
The Beetle Ad copy was one of the best ever produced in the advertising industry. According to DesignShack, this ad copy revolutionized the advertising industry forever.
The campaign was dubbed 'Think Small' which could be interpreted literally. The 60s marked a time when a car wasn't just a means of transportation, but also a status symbol and a fashion statement.
Volkswagen was trying to sell to an American market that still had the memory of war fresh in its collective mind. What did the company do? They were honest with their product offering, and went into great detail about what to expect from their vehicles. The title of the copy read "Presenting America's Slowest Fastback." This punchy headline was enough to grab anyone's attention.
15 From the ashes of the Beetle came the Golf
The Golf came into existence because of the declining revenues of the Beetle. The name was adopted from the Gulf stream. The car first hit the assembly line in 1974 and is still in production today.
According to the company, the Golf is Volkswagen's most successful vehicle to date with more than 29 million copies sold worldwide.
It is also one of three cars to have been voted European car of the year twice, once in 1992 and again in 2013. It was basically a transition from the Beetle to the new world. Volkswagen had to adapt to the changing times and that was being reflected in the sales of the Beetle. There have been 7 generations of the Volkswagen Golf, with many different models.
14 They're the biggest car manufacturer in the world
Volkswagen is the biggest car manufacturer in the world in terms of sales. According to statista.com, Volkswagen sold 10.7 million cars in 2017. That's 300,000 more vehicles than Toyota, which has been dominating the world car market for the last decade or so.
In Germany, Volkswagen contributes to about 36% of the cars sold, which is a big achievement given the number of car manufacturers from the country. Volkswagen can only get bigger.
The car producer had a strong 2017 despite the recalls and the emission scandal that threatened to destroy their business in the United States. (More on that later.) It looks like the company may yet recover from the scandal because of the sheer strength of their brand.
13 They still struggle in America
Despite being a big success globally, the US market still remains a big challenge for the German car manufacturer. According to statista.com, Volkswagen only controls 1.7% of the US market. These are disappointing numbers given the fact that the US market is one of the biggest in the world.
The now two-year-old emission scandal erased much of the progress they had been making over the years. It will take a lot of convincing for Americans to trust Volkswagen, despite its global success.
Volkswagen controlled 3% of the American market in 2012 but the curve has been on a steady decline, with 2017 being the all-time low. There is, however, a big contrast, as 2017 saw Volkswagen being the biggest car producer in terms of sales globally.
12 Wolfsburg is home
Wolfsburg is home to a couple of German car brands, but it is Volkswagen that stands out from the rest. The largest car manufacturing plant in the world is in Wolfsburg and it is where the majority of the company's cars are produced.
The majority of the inhabitants of Wolfsburg also happen to be employed either directly or indirectly by Volkswagen. The plant has produced over 45 million cars since it was established, over 73 years ago.
It is also the biggest plant in the world for producing electric vehicles. Over 70,000 units of the E-Golf have been produced in the plant. You can never talk about Volkswagen without mentioning the city of Wolfsburg. The car manufacturer also owns the Wolfsburg FC soccer club which plays out of Bundesliga.
11 Their cars are named after oceanic currents
Volkswagen has had a long history of naming their vehicles after oceanic currents, which may be something even diehard followers of the brand are not aware of. Several of the names have a connection to a natural phenomenon that occurs within the oceans.
Examples of such names include the Jetta, the Corrado, the Vento, the Passat, the Santana and the Scirocco.
If you own the Passat, here's an extra fun fact to impress your friends with: did you know that the Passat is a German name that refers to the trade winds? It is always good to know the history behind the vehicles you are driving or interested in. One of the easiest places to start is to research the name. You will be surprised with the information you can find.
10 The Beetle Holds A Surprising World Record
What comes to mind when you hear talk of the Beetle? It's compact size is definitely one of the first things. This car might have broken several records, but it's record for the highest number of people crammed into a single vehicle has to be the most interesting.
According to mydriftfun.com, the highest number was at 36 for a very long time. This is by no means a small achievement which it took such a long time before someone was able to break that record. A team of climbers decided to accept the challenge. The car was able to accommodate 57 people. How is it even possible when they're known for barely being able to accommodate five people? You can never underestimate the power of the Beetle!
9 The Beetle and the Island of Nauru
The Beetle has been sold in many places across the world. There was an interesting case in 1967 where the company sold three units in the Island 0f Nauru. This was a 300% increase in revenue for an Island that was not very well known at that time.
Volkswagen saw the potential in this new market and decided to come up with a marketing strategy. This led to another 200% increase in revenue with just a simple advertisement.
The car was already basically selling itself, but a little bit of marketing did wonders for the brand. It is highly likely there was an exponential growth because of the cars that were initially brought to the Island. The same level of uptake was witnessed in other parts of the globe.
8 China Is Volkswagen's Largest Market
Things have been tough for Volkswagen in the American market. The logical thing to do in such a situation would be to look at alternatives, and the Chinese market is the perfect example.
According statista.com, China has one of the largest concentrations of middle-class households in the world. These families generally have enough disposable income to be able to afford to pay for new cars.
These numbers make up the biggest chunk of Volkswagen's sales. The car manufacturer sold 3.18 million cars in China in 2017 which makes up for almost half of their global market. The car producer would truly be a force to be reckoned with if only it could completely conquer the American market. Still, the Chinese market can only get bigger, which is good news for Volkswagen.
7 Micro Bus Was In Production For 70 Years
The Microbus is another iconic automobile from Volkswagen. Many people associate it with the 70s and 80s, but the car was actually discontinued as recently as 2013. That may sound unbelievable, but it is true.
The car was first launched in 1949 and was on the assembly line for 70 years.
Just like the Beetle, it also went be a couple of different names. It was popularly known as the Hippie-van as it was associated with hippies. The last factory to produce the Microbus was in Brazil.
There are plans for resurrecting the nameplate in 2022. In terms of exterior design, there haven't been a lot of changes over the years and it would be hard to differentiate the first generation from the third generation.
6 They produced the fastest car in the world
The fastest production car in the world comes from a Volkswagen-produced vehicle, and that car is the Bugatti Chiron. The Chiron was first launched at the Geneva Motor Show in 2016 and was meant to be the successor to the Bugatti Veyron. The car has an 8.0-L w16 quad-turbocharged engine which can produce up to 1497 HP. The car has a limited top speed of 267 mph and can go from 0 to 60 2.4 seconds.
The Bugatti Chiron doesn't come cheap as you'd have to part with about $2.6 million to get yourself one.
Volkswagen owns almost all the fastest supercar models and competition in most cases is in-house, even if it appears otherwise for outsiders.
5 Volkswagen vs Toyota
Toyota has, for a long time, been one of the biggest car manufacturers in the world. Just a decade ago, no car manufacturer would have ever thought of overtaking Toyota. Volkswagen managed to surpass Toyota against all odds.
The company sold over 10 million units in 2016 which was slightly more than what Toyota managed to sell in the same time period.
Volkswagen probably would have had an even better year if it were not for the emission scandal. According to the BBC, Volkswagen witnessed a 3.8% increase in sales compared to 2015. Volkswagen is likely to be the market leader for the foreseeable future as they have cemented their place in the Asian market which makes up for the poor numbers in North America.
4 The Dieselgate Scandal
The Dieselgate scandal has to be the biggest challenge the car manufacturer has faced since it was founded in 1937. Volkswagen initially had denied any wrongdoing but was forced to take responsibility after it became apparent that they wouldn't get away with it.
Top executives were indicted and the company was ordered to buy back a huge number of vehicles.
A lot of consumers who had come to value the brand lost their trust in the company, and it is not something that will take only a year to rebuild. According to CNN, shares dropped by almost 30% when news about the scandal broke. The big question remains as to whether Volkswagen can ever undo the damage and restore trust with the already fickle American market.
3 For one day they were the most valuable company on Earth
For one day, Volkswagen Group was the most valuable company on earth. According to the Washington Post, that day was October 29, 2008. The publication referred to the circumstance as "abnormal."
There was a complex series of external and internal factors involving Volkswagen stock which led to the discrepancy.
The company's value on that day exceeded $350 billion. According to investment analysts, there was less stock available for purchase than the ones that had been bought.
Short sellers had anticipated that there would be plenty of Volkswagen shares floating around to be bought.
2 They Lost $5 Million With Every Bugatti Veyron Sold
The Bugatti Veyron was one of the best cars from the 2000s. It was designed for power and performance and was arguably the fastest car during its era. The car was first launched in 2005 and came with an 8.0-liter quad-turbocharged engine which could produce up to 1000HP.
The supercar had a top speed of 253 mph and could go from 0 to 60 in 2.5 seconds. It has a base price of $1.5 Million. This begs the question of how it's possible that Volkswagen could lose $5 million for the sale of Bugatti Veyron.
There was a report published by Bernstein Research which highlights that the high research and development cost was one of the main reasons. The other factor is volume, as less than 50 units were produced.
1 Volkswagen has many faces
The company has undergone a couple of changes since it was launched in 1937. It has taken a lot of work for Volkswagen to join the ranks of the top three biggest car manufactures in the world.
According to msn.com, Volkswagen is composed of over 12 main brands. These are brands associated with luxury and therefore generally don't come cheap. Porsche, Lamborghini, Bentley, Skoda, and Audi contributed to about 37% of Volkswagen's total sales in 2014, according to dw.com.
Sometimes the models interchange drivetrains. Audi has set the standards when it comes to interior luxury and ergonomics. Volkswagen's strategy of acquiring other car manufacturers has worked pretty well and has contributed to their unparalleled market dominance in the auto industry.
Sources: bbc.com; wikipedia.org; mydriftfun.com