Posts Tagged ‘Beetle’

Volkswagen: When Greed meets Technology

Monday, October 26th, 2015

In 1937, Adolf Hitler formed a state-owned automobile company in Germany to produce a reliable, low-cost “People’s Car” (Volkswagen). The car was to be called KdF (Kraft-durch-Freude)-Wagen (Strength-Through-Joy car). Full-scale production was scheduled to begin in 1939. But when World War II broke out production had to be halted. http://www.fastcompany.com/1512941/history-volkswagen After U.S. forces bombed and captured the Volkswagen plant in 1945, they handed it over to the British occupation forces, which in turn offered it free of charge to American, British, and French motor companies. All three declined.

Our family Volkswagen Beetle

Soon after the war, the British occupation forces began to use the cars for military purposes. And when the vehicles had reached the end of their useful military life, the Brits sold them. My father purchased one of these cast-off Beetles in 1951. I had many fun experiences in that car when I was a little girl in Berlin, Germany, during the post-war years. (Read the full story in my memoir: Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom).

Our family Volkswagen Beetle - purchased second-hand from the British occupation forces, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015

Our family Volkswagen Beetle – purchased second-hand from the British occupation forces, photo © J. Elke Ertle. 2015

Heinrich Nordhoff leads Volkswagen to success

Following World War II, General Motors-trained Heinrich Nordhoff had hoped for a leading position at GM’s newly rebuilt Opel plant in West Germany. But GM declined. In fact, GM told Mr. Nordhoff that he should consider himself lucky if he landed a job sweeping the street http://walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/mr-volkswagen-heinrich-nordhoff/. When the British occupation forces offered him a management position at the badly damaged plant, Mr. Nordhoff took it and went to work.

Conditions at the plant were bad. They were so bad that production had to stop when it rained because the roof and windows had been severely damaged during the war. The company even had to barter new vehicles to obtain steel for production. After Heinrich Nordhoff became managing director of Volkswagen in 1948, production increased from 12,000 vehicles in 1946 to 20,000 in 1948. By 1950, the company produced 100,000 and by 1955 one million Volkswagens. Mr. Nordhoff also began exporting the cars to the USA. Initially, customs agents just laughed at his promotional drawings. “That thing will never sell,” they hooted. But when the advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach launched a clever campaign in 1959, dubbing the pint-sized car “the Beetle” and encouraging consumers to “Think Small,” sales began to soar. By the 19960s, Beetle-production exceeded that of Ford’s Model T. Eventually, Volkswagen became the top-selling auto import in the United States, the largest automaker in Germany and – behind Toyota – the second-largest one in the world.

The Volkswagen Beetle’s Decline

Heinrich Nordhoff continued to improve the car’s underpinning while retaining its humpback styling. In the early 1970s, Beetle sales grew sluggish. Volkswagen introduced various other models (Golf, Passat, Jetta, Polo, Karmann Ghia – to name a few), but after nearly 70 years and more than 21 million Beetles produced, the last one rolled off the line in Puebla, Mexico in 2003. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/volkswagen-is-founded

When greed meets technology

In September 2015, the news spread that Volkswagen had deliberately installed emissions defeat software in its 2009-2015 diesel cars at home and abroad. The software was designed to decrease emissions during tests. During normal driving conditions, however, emissions control software was programmed to shut off. Then the cars polluted up to 40 times more than allowed by law. After having denied for 15 months that emissions defeat software was deliberately installed, Volkswagen finally acknowledged to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) that their diesel cars’ emission controls systems were rigged.

Between 2009 and 2015, Volkswagen sold close to 500,000 diesel automobiles in the U.S. and 11 million worldwide. Following the news of defeat software installation, Volkswagen stock declined 20% on the first day and another 17% the following day. United States federal penalties may include fines of up to $18 billion and possible criminal charges. Legions of potential buyers will never purchase another Volkswagen. And, no doubt, there will be other consequences.

Looking at corporations, financial institutions, churches or politicians – worldwide – have moral integrity and ethical conduct been replaced by greed? Why else did Volkswagen executives conspire to defraud the public? And what made them think they would get away with it? (Also visit http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/mr-volkswagen-heinrich nordhoff/ and http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/those-tough-little-beetles/

Now, Volkswagen is hoping to make a comeback with the production of an all-electric, fully integrated e-generation bus. The vehicle should hit the market by 2022 and is intended to make Volkswagen a worldwide bestseller once again. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/volkswagen-comeback-e-generation-bus/

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

Mr. Volkswagen: Heinrich Nordhoff

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Heinrich Nordhoff was born in Hildesheim, Germany, in 1899. As a young man in 1930, he left BMW (Bayerische Motorenwerke) to accept an executive position at the competition, the Opel AG. General Motors (GM) had become the majority stakeholder in Opel the year before. During World War II, most of Opel’s factories were shut down. The exception was their truck manufacturing division in Brandenburg, managed for GM by Nordhoff. At the end of the war, the truck division fell into the Russian zone of divided post-war Germany. The plant was dismantled and shipped to Russia. Nordhoff fled to the West. Having been trained by GM, he hoped for a leading position at the newly rebuilt Opel plant in Ruesselheim in the West. But the Americans told him that he would never again build cars. He should consider himself lucky to get a job sweeping the street.

Nordhoff turns to Volkwagen

Until GM had given Nordhoff the cold shoulder he had been completely disinterested in associating himself with the Volkswagen, that “Nazi car.” http://walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/those-tough-little-beetles/.However, when British occupation forces offered him the management of the badly damaged Volkswagen plant in Wolfburg, he accepted. On January 1, 1948, a day before his 50th birthday, he became managing director of Volkswagen. https://www.volkswagenag.com/presence/medien/documents/HN7+Chronik_d_k.pdf  Nordhoff never looked back. During his first year, Volkswagen doubled the production of the Beetle to 20,000 cars. By 1950 they produced 100,000, and by 1955 1 million had been built. Despite his GM training, which subscribed to multi-market marketing, Nordhoff took the opposite approach. He believed in continuous improvement of the car’s underpinnings while retaining the humpback styling. http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-46106820.html

Nordhoff and the American Market

1969 Volkswagen Beetle, Photo © J. Elke Ertle

1969 Volkswagen Beetle Photo © J. Elke Ertle

Within five years after World War II, Nordhoff exported the Beetle to the USA. When he first traveled to New York to promote the car, custom agents just laughed when they took a look at his promotional drawings. They told him that no one in the world would buy a car like that and charged him $30 in fees. The fees were levied because customs rejected Nordhoff’s claim that the drawings were promotional materials. The agents declared them to be art graphics. http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-46106820.html But Nordhoff did not give up. He had come to believe in the Beetle despite the British Officers’ warning that the Beetle “has more flaws than a dog has fleas.” As we know, the Volkswagen Beetle went on to become the symbol of West Germany’s post-World War II Wirtschaftswunder – economic wonder.

The End of the Beetle

By the late sixties, however, the Beetle was getting serious competition from Japanese, American, and other European models. With 15 million sold in 1972, production of the Volkswagen Beetle had exceeded even that of Ford’s Model T. The last Beetle was sold in Mexico in 2003. Visit also http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/those-tough-little-beetles/http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/volkswagen-when-greed-meets-technology/

Now, Volkswagen is hoping to make a comeback with the production of an all-electric, fully integrated e-generation bus. The vehicle should hit the market by 2022 and is intended to make Volkswagen a worldwide bestseller once again. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/volkswagen-comeback-e-generation-bus/

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

Those tough little Beetles

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

According to About.com, beetles live almost everywhere on the planet. They can be noisy, have a big impact on the economy, and have been around for many years. I couldn’t agree more, except that I am not talking about the insects belonging to the Coleoptera family, I am referring to Volkswagen Beetles. VW-Beetles, too, are found on every continent, are undeniably noisy, and have had a huge impact on the economy (almost 22 million Volkswagen were sold in 150 countries).

It ‘runs and runs and runs’

Er laeuft und laeuft und laeuft was the VW-advertising slogan. Indeed, Beetles can look back on a long and incredibly successful history. Those little bugs just celebrated their birthday. They are septuagenarians now (someone between the ages of 70 and 80.) On 26 May 1938, Adolf Hitler first introduced the beetle’s prototype at an auto show in Berlin. He had commissioned the German engineer, Ferdinand Porsche, to design an inexpensive, reliable, and fuel-efficient car that would cost no more than 1,000 marks (less than $250 at the time). Hitler was a fan of Porsche whose racing cars were very successful on the European racing circuits, and Hitler wanted a car that the average German could afford.

1960 Volkswagen cabriolet

1960 Volkswagen cabriolet

World War II and the Beetles

Porsche went to work, but when the Second World War broke out the following year, the Volkswagen plant was converted into an armaments factory, and beetle production came to a standstill. The war left the plant in ruins. The US Army turned it over to the British Army, and Major Ivan Hirst was placed in charge of operations. The major succeeded in interesting his superiors in putting the car to work as an inexpensive light transport vehicle. He got approval to produce 20,000 Beetles. Under his direction, the plant turned out 2,000 Beetles in 1945 and 10,000 the following year. Since the British military did not intend to remain in the car business, they offered it, free of charge, to British and French car manufactures as well as to the Ford Motor Company. But the offer was turned down by all three of these industry giants. They all agreed that the cars were too ugly and noisy and building them would be a completely uneconomic enterprise. (For additional of the story, read Walled-In, Chapter 2)

Beetles’ success story

First the Germans, then people all over the world, fell in love with this bug-shaped little car that boasted a top speed of 60 mph, 25 horsepower, a non-synchronized transmission, an air-cooled rear-engine, a basic, rudimentary heater, and a pint-sized luggage compartment. It lacked any kind of chrome embellishment. The first Volkswagens did not even have a fuel gauge. When the tank ran dry, you simply switched to the one-gallon reserve. But the car was robust, trouble-free, and easy to repair. (also visit http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/mr-volkswagen-heinrich-nordhoff/, http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/volkswagen-when-greed-meets-technology/)My first new car was a 1969 Volkswagen Beetle as well. I loved that car. His name was “Toeffi” (putt-putt), and I talked to him. I still miss the characteristic VW-noise he made when I accelerated. Our dog heard me coming when I was still half a mile down the street.

Now, Volkswagen is hoping to make a comeback with the production of an all-electric, fully integrated e-generation bus. The vehicle should hit the market by 2022 and is intended to make Volkswagen a worldwide bestseller once again. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/volkswagen-comeback-e-generation-bus/

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.