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  • Writer's pictureTim Jackson

Volkswagen – People’s Car for the World

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

Volkswagen is one of the most recognizable auto manufacturers in the world, known for producing reliable and efficient vehicles that are accessible to people from virtually all walks of life. The company was founded in Germany in 1937 during a time of significant political and economic upheaval and turmoil in Europe. Though despite this challenging environment, a group of key people came together to establish Volkswagen as a corporation and automaker. Their efforts would create a meaningful and lasting impact on the transportation and mobility industry for Germany, Europe and the world.

The founding Volkswagen can be traced back to the early 1930s when the German government began to explore the possibility of building a People’s car that would be affordable and accessible for the masses, literally anyone and everyone. At the time many, even most, new cars were expensive and mostly out of reach of the average consumer of the day. The German government intended to address this by creating a car that would be reliable, inexpensive and super easy to repair when necessary.

In 1934, the German Labor Front (GAF) appointed Ferdinand Porsche to serve as the designer for the People’s car. Porsche, a respected engineer and designer, had worked for several automakers. He was tasked with creating a car that could be produced on a large scale and sold for a price that almost everyone could afford.

Porsche‘s design for the People’s car was completed in 1936 when the first prototype was produced. The following year the Volkswagen factory was converted to produce military vehicles instead of cars. After the World War, the British army took control of the Volkswagen factory, handed it back to the German government in 1949. The German government recognized the potential of the Volkswagen as a potentially popular brand and began to develop plans to help turn it into a highly successful auto manufacturer.

Heinrich Nordoff was a successful engineer who worked for Opel before being appointed to the managing director position of Volkswagen in 1948. Under Nordoff‘s leadership, Volkswagen produced the Beetle sedan or People's car Volkswagen which was also called internally “Type 1.” Apart from the introduction of the Volkswagen Type 2 commercial vehicle (van, pickup and camper), and the VW Karmann Ghia sports car, Nordhoff generally pursued the one-model policy until shortly before his death in 1968.

Nordoff was known for his commitment to quality and innovation, and he oversaw a number of important developments at Volkswagen during his tenure as managing director. Nordoff introduced new manufacturing techniques and streamlined production processes which helped increase efficiency and reduced costs. Nordoff also invested heavily in research and development which led to the creation of new models and features that would set Volkswagen apart from its competitors.

Another key figure in the founding Volkswagen was Ivan Hurst, a British army officer responsible for overseeing the Volkswagen factory after the war. Hurst recognized the potential Volkswagen brand and worked tirelessly to ensure the factory was able to produce high-quality vehicles that could compete with other automakers. Hurst was instrumental in getting the Volkswagen factory back up and running after the war and he played a key role in ensuring that the Beetle became a global phenomenon. He was also responsible for introducing new marketing strategies that helped increase the visibility of the Volkswagen brand and attract new customers.

The two highest impact cars from Volkswagen were the Beetle (People’s car) and the VW Bus. They both ended up in popular movies.

The Volkswagen Beetle became a popular car in the United States during the 1960s, and it was often seen as a symbol of counterculture and rebellion. In the movies, the Volkswagen Beetle was often portrayed as a lovable and quirky car with a personality of its own.

In the movie The Love Bug and its sequels, the Beetle was given a name (Herbie) and was portrayed as a sentient car with a mind of its own. Herbie was a mischievous and fun-loving car that would often get into humorous situations, and the movies were generally lighthearted and comedic.

In the Transformers movies, the Volkswagen Beetle was used as a nod to the original Bumblebee character from the Transformers franchise. Bumblebee was a Volkswagen Beetle in the original cartoon and comic book series and the filmmakers decided to pay homage to this by including a yellow Volkswagen Beetle in the movies.

Overall, the Volkswagen Beetle was often used in movies as a symbol of fun, quirkiness and nostalgia. Its unique design and history made it a popular choice for filmmakers looking to create memorable and iconic cars on screen.

· The Love Bug – 1968

· Herbie Rides Again – 1974

· Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo – 1977

· Herbie Goes Bananas – 1980

· Transformers – 2007

· Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – 2009

· Transformers: Dark of the Moon – 2011

· Transformers: Age of Extinction – 2014

· Avengers: Age of the Ultron – 2015

· Transformers: The Last Knight – 2017

The Volkswagen Bus was not as popular in the film industry during the 1980s as in the 1960s and 1970s. However, it did make appearances in some movies during the 1980s, such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) and Little Miss Sunshine (2006). The popularity of the Volkswagen Bus as a cultural icon and symbol of the counterculture movement of the 1960s and 1970s may have contributed to its continued use in films and TV shows as a representation of a certain era or lifestyle. The Volkswagen bus has been featured in several famous movies and television shows over the years, including:

· The Love Bug – 1968

· Herbie Goes Bananas – 1980

· Fast Times at Ridgemont High - 1982

· Forrest Gump - 1994

· That 70s Show, TV series - 1998-2006

· Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me -1999

· Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed - 2004

· Little Miss Sunshine – 2006

· Zombieland - 2009

· Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - 2019

· Zombieland - 2009

The positive impact that Volkswagen had on transportation and mobility cannot be overstated. The company’s commitment to quality and innovation has led to the development of some of the most reliable and efficient vehicles in history. Volkswagen’s extremely iconic vehicle images are etched in the counterculture and folklore for the ages.


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