For Love of the Automobile – The Volkswagen Group
When I was growing up, my father drove a pale yellow 1967 Volkswagen Beetle. He taught three out of my four brothers how to drive in it–it was named Her bier or “the Bug.” My whole family has a lot of fond memories of that car, so when it was unexpectedly stolen out of a local parking lot, we were all devastated. My fondness for German engineering has continued since then. There are a surprising number of brands that come to us out of the Continent, with some of the most famous names in the auto industry specifically being imported to the United States from Germany.
Names such as Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, BMW (which stands for Bayerische Motormen Worked–yeah, I like it shortened, too), Smart, and the old-timer Opel all come from Germany, along with Volkswagen Group (which is technically called Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft). Audi, Bentley Motors, and Lamborghini are all names which are covered by the umbrella company that is the Volkswagen Group, and they are soon to be joined by the Porsche line. This automotive powerhouse is based in the city of Wolfs burg in the province of Lower Saxony.
But despite all of these luxury brands integrated into the Group, the Volkswagen brand itself has the highest sales by volume. The translation of “Volkswagen,” is “people’s car,” and their current slogan–“das auto”–simply means “the auto mobiles bourgon ,” in German. I am particularly fond of a former catch phrase which read “Aus Liege zoom Automobile,” which means, roughly translated, “For Love of the Automobile,” but admittedly, the shorter phrase is the catchier of the two. The history of the Volkswagen Group is a particularly interesting one. The infamous Adolf Hitler had an intense interest in motor vehicles, though he avoided driving himself.
After he ascended to his leadership position in Germany in 1933, he developed a relationship with Ferdinand Porsche in order to make some crucial design changes to Porsche’s original 1931 model to make it friendlier to the common man. By 1938, the Volkswagen Beetle was born! In German, it is called the Volkswagen Type 1 or the VW Chafes–which is, of course, the German word for beetle. The major improvements from Porsche’s initial design included better fuel economy (yes, they were concerned about it even then), better reliability, and more efficient parts and cheaper repairs. Today, VW offers a wide variety of new models that boast high fuel economy and efficiency. The Toured is a luxury mid-sized SUV which burns on clean diesel; there are even hybrid models now. This is not to mention all of the other popular import models produced by the VW group–and it’s all for the love of the automobile!
The Volkswagen Beetle
What does The Beatles, hippies, and Adolf Hitler all have in common? They all have something to do with the Volkswagen Beetle. If you’re one of the people who have lived through the psychedelic and groovy era which is the 60’s, you’ve probably seen a Volkswagen Beetle. It can be pretty hard not to see one, it is the car which has the most units sold (20 million Beetles were manufactured, and some are still running today).
One of the proudest moments of the Volkswagen Beetle was when one was featured on the cover of coincidentally, the Beatles album cover for “Abbey Road”. The Beetle on the cover instantly became a huge hit among the fans of The Fib Four. The car’s license plate was stolen multiple times and went through different hands. The license plate became as popular, if not more popular than the car itself. That original Beetle in fact, became almost like an icon that represented the era of the hippies. It is such a popular car that when it came up for auction in 1986, it was sold for an eye-popping amount.
Now while the Beetle with its air-cooled Boaster engine may not be have a lot of horsepower to spare, it more than makes up for it with its charming looks and versatility. The Volkswagen Beetle, or “Bug” as it is more affectionately called has a front bumper that seems to resemble a smiling face. And this feature is what made the Bug the hippies’ car of choice. This friendly-looking car is used by the hippies not just to get from place to place; they also paint their Bugs with vibrant colors, in an effort to bring their message of love and peace to the masses.
But the Bug’s history isn’t all love and happiness. Most people don’t even know that the Volkswagen Beetle’s design was actually thought of by none other than Adolf Hitler himself. Hitler wanted a car that could be manufactured relatively cheap so that the masses could afford to buy one. This is where the company got its name; Volkswagen literally translates into “the People’s Car”.