Volkswagen: History & Cars


Professor Ferdinand Porsche (1875-1951) had already presented his plans for a cheap car for the general public in 1922, but no one showed the least bit of interest, not even his boss at the time Austro-Daimler. 

When the Austrian started discussing his cheap dream car again at Mercedes, this meant the end of their cooperation.  Porsche started his own company and was over the moon when his friend Adolf Hitler commissioned him to manufacture a car for the general public - the Kraft durch Freude car - in 1934.  Hitler did not make it easy for him.  The car's fuel consumption had to be lower than 6 or 7 litres per 100km and was not allowed to cost more than RM 900.  Moreover, it was to have a top speed of at least 62mph.  A savings scheme was developed, whereby each German saved at least RM 5 per week for the new car. 

In 1931, Porsche had already made the drawings for a model of this type.  Zundapp had even already built three prototypes back then.  NSU was also interested in the design, but when this company was taken over by Fiat this meant the end for the NSU-Volkswagen.  Hitler's offer came right on time.

On October 12 1936, Porsche presented three running prototypes.  Each car drove 50,000km in seventy days.  When this distance was achieved without any substantial repairs, Hitler was satisfied.  Hitler then personally sought out a suitable location for the factory.

Because the only two available factories, owned by Ford and Opel, were not purely German, Hitler ordered his Arbeitsfront to construct a new factory in Wolfsburg.  Some 800,000 cars per year were to be built at the gigantic factory.  On 26 May 1938, Hitler laid the first stone for the new factory and in 1940 the first car rolled off the assembly line.

But it was not a Kraft durch Freude car (the official name) but an army vehicle designed by Porsche.  Only a few passenger cars were manufactured at the plant for the party's leaders.  In any case, the German had lost their savings.

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