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Volkswagen

Volkswagen translates to “People’s Car” in German. During WWII, the German Equivalent of the Jeep, a two-wheel drive vehicle with the same air-cooled, 4-cylinder, horizontally-opposed rear engine as all the early beetles and vans was called the Kubelwagen meaning “bucket car.”

Ferdinand Porsche, inventor of the Porsche cars and many German WWII machines, went to trade school to be trained as a factory foreman. He got the lowest grades in his class.

Ferdinand Porche and Volkswagen, his favorite car

As some of you may know, Ferdinand Porsche designed the Volkswagen Beetle, and he considered it his greatest achievement. He rated the VW higher than his winning race cars because this was a car every family could afford. It was a masterpiece of economical engineering for its time, as is evidenced by the fact that the basic design survived for so many years. Volkswagen still makes a version of it today, although it is quite different under the hood. In fact, the engine is no longer under the same hood. It used to be in the back of the car. Now it is in the front.

People often wonder how Adolf Hitler, with all his horrible ideas and rough manners could become so popular a leader. A great deal of Hitler’s appeal to the masses was that he decided to control the automobile industry. He promised them Volkswagens, cars that every family could afford at a time when there was only one car for every 211 people in Germany. (In America at that time, there was one car for every 5.7 people.)

After World War II, Henry Ford was offered the Volkswagen factory for free by the English government, then in charge of Germany’s industries. They were looking for someone who could operate the plant, thereby creating hundreds of jobs. Ernest Breech, Ford’s chairman of the board looked the plant over and said, “Mr. Ford, I don’t think what we are being offered here is worth a damn!”

Henry Ford and the Volkswagen factory

He was right in a way. At that time the factory had not yet ever produced more than a few hand-crafted prototypes and the workers could only make cars when it wasn’t raining, because large areas of the roof were missing.

One of Henry Ford’s famous quotes came from this Volkswagen offer. When Ferdinand Porsche showed him the plans for Volkswagens, and Ford was asked about his concern of competition, he said, “If anyone can build a car better or cheaper than I can, that serves me right.”

Seventeen years later, Volkswagen was producing a car every eight seconds, and Ford could have owned the company.

In 2014, Volkswagen sold more than 10 million vehicles, more than any other car company.

The Volkswagen company owns luxury carmaker brands including Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, and Porsche.

Volkswagen has more than 100 factories scattered throughout the world.

The Apollo 15 lunar rover was built on a Volkswagen beetle chassis.

Volkswagen has been exploring the use of sustainable materials in their cars, including natural fibers and recycled materials, to reduce environmental impact.

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