Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Remembering an Icon

Text from Channel4.com. Photo from Volkswagen AG.
Volkswagen is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the restarting of Beetle production after World War II, and the effective birth of the company as a commercial car-maker.

The first post-war Beetle came out of the Wolfsburg factory on December 27 1945; it was one ordered by the British military government for use in their work reconstructing the country and its industry.

British motor industry executives had been invited over to Wolfsburg (a purpose-built development around the factory formerly known as the KdF-Stadt, or 'Strength-through-joy town') with a view to producing the KdF-Wagen, as the Beetle was first known, in the UK. However, they dismissed it as a funny-looking joke - and continued making the Morris Minor and Austin Seven. Major Ivan Hirst, however, in charge of the factory, believed that the odd-shaped, rear-engined and air-cooled car could play a vital role in restarting German industry, and commissioned over 20,000 saloons, special-bodied vehicles and trailers for the peace-keeping troops. The restarting of production also created over 6,000 jobs in Wolfsburg.

Exports of the Beetle started - to the Netherlands - in August 1947 and, in 1955, the millionth Beetle was built. Beetle factories were opened in South Africa and Brazil and production continued in Puebla, Mexico, long after it ceased in Europe. The final Beetle - the 21,529,480th - was built at the end of July 2003.

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