Founded as a state-owned enterprise in 1937, Volkswagen was developed to provide a “people’s car” to the German masses. Years after World War II the company was denationalized and is now one of the largest automotive brands in the world.
In 1933, Ferdinand Porsche started to discuss the creation of the first people’s car (Type 1), which later became known as the Volkswagen Beetle. Prior to World War II, the German government built limited copies of the car and a military use variant was also built during the war.
Volkswagen’s factory was partially destroyed during the war and controlled by the British occupying forces until the operation was turned over to the German government in 1949. Production of the Type 1 had already resumed and soon variants were produced, including a microbus known as the Type 2.
During the 1950s, Volkswagen began to expand rapidly abroad. Volkswagens were originally imported to the U.S. by a private company in the early 1950s before the automaker itself established the Volkswagen Group of America in 1955.
Volkswagen quickly became the largest automotive importer in the U.S., based largely on demand for its low-cost Beetle. Other models such as the Volkswagen Transporter or Bus and the Karmann Ghia were available during the 1960s.
In 1974, VW introduced the Volkswagen Golf, which was also known as the Volkswagen Rabbit. The automaker discontinued the Beetle a few years later. It also sold the Volkswagen 181, a Jeep-like model simply known as the VW Thing in the U.S. market. Further, the Volkswagen Scirocco was introduced.
In 1979, the Volkswagen Jetta arrived on the market. The Jetta was initially sold as a two- or four-door sedan that was based on the Volkswagen Golf. The Jetta soon became the best-selling Volkswagen in America and was followed a few years later by the Quantum, the forerunner to today’s midsize Volkswagen Passat.
The 1980s also brought the Volkswagen Fox to America, which was a Brazilian-built compact model. GTI versions of the Volkswagen Golf (Rabbit) were also released and the company shipped its Vanagon minivan to America as well.
In the late 1980s, the Volkswagen Corrado succeeded the Scirocco and remained in production until the mid-1990s when it was canceled for the U.S. market. Just before the millennium came to a close, the Volkswagen New Beetle was introduced. This compact model is underpinned by the Golf’s platform and based on the original Beetle’s styling cues.
The new millennium brought several new models to the market, including the Volkswagen Phaeton, a large and luxurious sedan closer in size and amenities to an Audi than a Volkswagen. The company also introduced its first SUV, the Volkswagen Touareg, followed by the Tiguan. A Volkswagen EuroVan, Eos and CC were also introduced. In cooperation with Chrysler the Volkswagen Routan minivan arrived on the market in 2009.
In the 2010s, Volkswagen introduced its first hybrid models, including the Touareg Hybrid and the Jetta Hybrid. An electric Volkswagen Golf was presented in limited numbers.