Volkswagen is one of the largest auto manufacturers in the world. It is certainly one of the more popular – only General Motors makes more global sales than this Wolfsburg, Germany-based producer of cars such as the Beetle and the Golf. The car has built up these impressive sales metrics by being a car that has a reputation for reaching out to the population and connecting on their level. Hence, it makes a lot of sense that the company’s name translates to “people’s car” in its native German language.
Volskwagen was launched in 1937 by the German Labour Front as a means to figure out a way to produce a car that the average German citizen could afford. The initial prototype that was designed by engineer Erwin Komenda was roughly the same design that was used later on for the company’s most recognizable car, the Beetle. Since the company was initiated by the German government, it nearly collapsed at the end of World War II. However, the Allies – specifically, the UK – played an instrumental role in transforming the company from one that was government-owned to one that was run as a commercial enterprise. Eventually, the car became a symbol for German recovery; when Volkswagen of America was formed in 1955, the Beetle model became a highly sought-after vehicle, with sales reaching one million that year.
Volkswagen purchased the German automotive collective Auto Union in 1964, which allowed them to enjoy ownership of the Audi brand. By the early 1990’s, Volkswagen as a whole started to expand its reach to a more upscale market, a move best highlighted by the company’s acquisition of Lamborghini, Bently/Rolls-Royce, and Bugatti. Today, the company still walks the fine line between producing vehicles that are approachable for the average consumer and creating cars for the high-end luxury set.
Volkswagen’s current flagship vehicle is the Touareg. The mid-size luxury crossover SUV has been produced by the company since 2002. It boasts a 5-door SUV body style and features all-wheel drive and a longitudinal front engine.
Now in its second generation, most Touaregs feature a 3.6-liter VR6, a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6, or a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6. The car also comes standard with an eight-speed auto. It has a reputation for being fuel efficient and capable of handling tough terrain. It also has solid technology-based features such as adaptive cruise control, a pre-crash accident-prep system, and adaptive high beams.
Volkswagen currently has 20 different models on the market. These models are split into three different classifications, although the lion’s share of the vehicles made all fall into the passenger classification.
In addition to the Touareg, the passenger vehicles include the Beetle (compact, hatchback), Up! (city car, hatchback), Fox (supermini, hatchback or estate/wagon), Polo (supermini, hatchback, saloon/sedan, coupe, or estate/wagon), Golf (small family car, hatchback, estate/wagon, cabriolet/convertible), Golf Plus (compact MPV), Jetta (small family car or saloon/sedan), Passat (mid-size family car, saloon/sedan, estate/wagon, or alltrack), CC (mid-size extuctive car, comfort coupe saloon/sedan), Scirooco (compact sports car, coupe), Tiguan (compact crossover SUV, SUV), Eos (compact sports car, convertible), Touran (compact MPV), Sharan (large MPV), and the Phaeton (full-size executive car, saloon/sedan).
The company also has two cars in their GTI classification: The Polo GTI (supermini, hatchback); and the Golf GTI (small family car, hatchback).
Finally, Volkswagen currently produces two cars for their R classification: The Golf R (sports car, hatchback); and the Scirocco R (sports car, coupe).
The first major commercial vehicle that Volkswagen produced other than the Beetle was the Karmann Ghia, which was created by the company between 1955 and 1974. The vehicle officially known as the Volkswagen Type 2 was unofficially known as the VW Bus and became a drivable symbol of the counterculture movement of the 1960s. Even though an iteration of the model still exists, the iconic “bus” designed ceased assembly in 1979. The company also produced an updated version of the Beetle dubbed the New Beetle in 1998; it was replaced by an updated version of the car, which ironically went back to simply just being referred to as the Beetle.
The first attempts at creating an affordable Volkswagen for the German populace were originally going to be produced at a brand-new, state-owned factory using a design that was originally designed by Ferdinand Porsche. And since the company was run in part by the German government, it ended up building various military vehicles for the German war efforts during World War II. Among these vehicles were the Type 82 Kubelwagen and the Schwimmwagen. The former was a utility vehicle which was also the company’s most common wartime model. The later was an amphibious four-wheel drive off road supply vehicle which still holds the record as being the most mass-produced amphibious car in the history of automotives.