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Volkswagen

The meaning of «volkswagen»

Volkswagen (German: [ˈfɔlksˌvaːɡn̩] (listen); English: /ˈvoʊksvɑːɡən, ˈvɒlkswɑːɡən, -wæɡən, ˈfɒlksvɑːɡən/), shortened to VW (German: [faʊ̯ ˈveː] (listen)), is a German automaker founded in 1937 by the German Labour Front, known for the iconic Beetle and headquartered in Wolfsburg. It is the flagship brand of the Volkswagen Group, the largest automaker by worldwide sales in 2016 and 2017.[2] The group's biggest market is in China, which delivers 40% of its sales and profits.[3][4]

Volkswagen translates to "people's car" in German. The company's current international advertising slogan is just "Volkswagen", referencing the name's meaning.[5][6]

Volkswagen was established in 1937 by the German Labour Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront) in Berlin.[7] In the early 1930s, cars were a luxury – most Germans could afford nothing more elaborate than a motorcycle. Only one German out of 50 owned a car. Seeking a potential new market, some car makers began independent "people's car" projects – the Mercedes 170H, Adler AutoBahn, Steyr 55, and Hanomag 1.3L, among others.

The trend was not new, as Béla Barényi is credited with having conceived the basic design in the mid-1920s. Josef Ganz developed the Standard Superior (going as far as advertising it as the "German Volkswagen"). In Germany, the company Hanomag mass-produced the 2/10 PS "Kommissbrot", a small, cheap rear-engined car, from 1925 to 1928.[8] Also, in Czechoslovakia, the Hans Ledwinka's penned Tatra T77, a very popular car amongst the German elite, was becoming smaller and more affordable at each revision. Ferdinand Porsche, a well-known designer for high-end vehicles and race cars, had been trying for years to get a manufacturer interested in a small car suitable for a family. He built a car named the "Volksauto" from the ground up in 1933, using many popular ideas and several of his own, putting together a car with an air-cooled rear engine, torsion bar suspension, and a "beetle" shape, the front hood rounded for better aerodynamics (necessary as it had a small engine).[9]

In 1934, with many of the above projects still in development or early stages of production, Adolf Hitler became involved, ordering the production of a basic vehicle capable of transporting two adults and three children at 100 km/h (62 mph). He wanted all German citizens to have access to cars.[9] The "People's Car" would be available to citizens of the Third Reich through a savings plan at 990 Reichsmarks (US$396 in 1938 dollars)—about the price of a small motorcycle (the average income being around 32 RM a week).[11][12]

It soon became apparent that private industry could not turn out a car for only 990 RM. Thus, Hitler chose to sponsor an all-new, state-owned factory using Ferdinand Porsche's design (with some of Hitler's design constraints, including an air-cooled engine so nothing could freeze). The intention was that ordinary Germans would buy the car by means of a savings scheme ("Fünf Mark die Woche musst du sparen, willst du im eigenen Wagen fahren" – "Five marks a week you must put aside if in your own car you want to ride"), which around 336,000 people eventually paid into.[13] However, the entire project was financially unsound, and only the Nazi party made it possible to provide funding.[14][Note 1]

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