The Volkswagen automobile company has been the creator of successful and controversial vehicles since its creation in Germany in 1937. During the early 1930's, the auto industry mainly created luxury vehicles for upper class citizens. Seeking a new market, independent industry's focused on creating a "people's car" or in German, "Volks wagen." In 1933, Adolf Hitler got involved demanding for the production of a basic vehicle capable of transporting two adults and three children at 62 mph at the cost of a small motorcycle. German industries struggled with Hitler's guidelines, especially with creating the car for such a small amount. Due to this, Hitler turned to Austrian engineer Ferdinand Porsche to aid in the design of the car. After numerous changes to the design and engineering of the vehicle, the first prototype appeared in 1936.
The factory in Wolfsburg had only generated a few models before war broke out in 1939. During the war, production focused flipped to military vehicles such as the "bucket car." After the war, no one really had any plans for the VW Company. The company owes its post-war existence largely to British Army officer Major Ivan Hirst. Although the future of the company was unclear, the factory was producing 1,000 cars a month by 1946. However, Volkswagen survived the perilous times, and became part of the German economic recovery by producing cars for the British Army instead of commercial retail.
In 1948, Heinrich Nordoff took over the company and exposed the Volkswagen to America the following year. Commercially, the car initially did not do well due to some anti- German feelings remaining after the war. Volkswagen of America was formed in April 1955 to standardize sales and service in the United States. Production of the Type 1 Volkswagen Beetle increased dramatically over the years, the total reaching one million in 1955. Soon after, advertisements for the Volkswagen became just as popular as the car. The first reference to the name "Beetle" occurred in U.S. advertising in 1968, and was deemed official by the company in 1998. In 1972 the Volkswagen surpassed Ford, and claimed the world production record for the most-produced, single make of car in history.
As years went on, the Volkswagen Company expanded to numerous model designs. A pivotal point of the company's history came around 1969 with the purchase of Auto Union and NSU (previous owners of Audi), as both companies yielded the technological expertise that proved necessary for VW to survive. VW ultimately merged the Auto Union and NSU to create the modern day Audi Company, and would go on to develop it as its luxury vehicle brand. However, in 1973 Volkswagen was in serious trouble because the Type 3 and Type 4 models had sold in much less than the Beetle. VW's ownership of Audi proved key in solving this problem with their knowledge in front-wheel drive, and water-cooled engines which Volkswagen desperately needed to produce a credible successor to the Beetle. Audi's influence paved the way for the new generation of Volkswagens, known as the Passat, Scirocco, Golf and Polo.
Over the next few years, generations of previously created vehicles fueled the VW Company. VW continued to grow and expand across the world. In 1982 Chairman, Carl Hahn, decided to expand the company elsewhere, mostly in developing countries. By purchasing a majority share of SEAT, a Spanish car maker, the company grew up to 75% by the end of 1986. By the late 1990's Audi had elevated itself into the same league as BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Through Audi, VW acquired the three luxury brands Lamborghini, Bentley, and Bugatti.
Despite a rocky journey and an open ended future, Volkswagen is still renowned as a unique and respected name in the automobile industry. It has established factories worldwide and was even named in the top 25 largest companies in the world by the Forbes Global 2000 in 2011.