Volkswagen celebrates the 75th anniversary of Beetle production
Volkswagen is celebrating the 75th anniversary of one of the most important dates in its history. Despite all adversities, on December 27, 1945, it started series production of the Type 1, which we know as the Beetle.
Before that date, the Wolfsburg plant and the Beetle faced a bleak future. Although the car was developed before World War II, only 630 units were built during the conflict when the factory turned its attention to the war effort. As a result, it was bombed several times by Allied forces in 1944. When peace returned it would have been a lot easier to line up the factory, scrap the Beetle, and do something else with the site.
It almost happened, but the British government, which controlled the zone Wolfsburg was in after the war, was in dire need of vehicles for their personnel to get around. After examining an early Beetle, officials ordered a batch of 20,000 cars from the plant in August 1945 and doubled that number a few weeks later. The original goal was to produce 1,000 cars per month, which means that order processing should take more than three years. It was probably not lost on officials that the sizable order would keep workers in jobs until at least 1948. Starting production was easier said than done; Raw materials and fuel were hard to come by, and finding ways to house and feed the workers was a logistical nightmare.
Despite the hurdles, Volkswagen started series production of the Type 1 two days after Christmas 1945 and built a total of 55 cars by December 31. Most of the cars were assembled by hand, so the factory didn't reach the 1,000 car mark. Monthly target by early 1946. At this point in time it was not possible to exceed this number due to the bottlenecks mentioned above, but production increased significantly as the situation improved. The introduction of the Beetle to the United States in 1949 increased its popularity dramatically and helped make the model an icon.
Wolfsburg wasn't the only factory that built the Beetle; Production also took place in several other German plants, including one in Audi's hometown of Ingolstadt, in Australia, in Brazil, in Mexico and in South Africa. Your author owns a model built in Belgium in 1972. While the model was gradually replaced by the first generation Golf in Europe and North America, it remained relatively popular in other global markets and did not retire until July 30, 2003. The last original-style Beetle was built in Mexico, where VW also produced the New Beetle 1998-2010 and the 2012-2019 Beetle (news editor Joel Stocksdale owns one of the latter). A total of 21,529,464 units were built over a period of 56 years, a number that is nothing short of exceptional considering that the first looked very similar to the last. Volkswagen made thousands of changes to the car, but never changed the basic design or tweaked the mechanical layout.
Happy 75th Beetle!
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