On this day in auto history – May 28th

Fri 28th May 2021

It was on this day in 1937 that Volkswagen was officially founded, initially as ‘Volkswagenwerk’ or “The People’s Car Company”.

Established by the German Labour Front to meet Adolf Hitler’s long-held vision of creating a “people’s car” for ordinary German citizens, the company was headquartered at a purpose-built factory in the German town of KdF-Stadt, which has since become modern-day Wolfsburg.

Renowned engineer Ferdinand Porsche was commissioned to design a car which, under Hitler’s orders, had to be capable of carrying two adults and three children, yet at a cost of no more than a motorbike. The end result was the VW Beetle.

Though some 336,000 Germans subscribed to a monthly savings plan to buy the car, the outbreak of World War II saw production cease before any vehicles were delivered to customers.

VW switched to producing vehicles for the German army during the war, even using slave labourers from nearby concentration camps, but fell under British military control after hostilities ceased in 1945.

It was saved from being dismantled after intervention from British Army officer, Major Ivan Hirst, who saw its potential and, within a decade, sales of VW’s within West Germany had topped one million as it embarked on a trajectory which would see it eventually become the world’s biggest carmaker.