Despite the utilitarian and economical nature of its most famous and successful car, the Volkswagen brand is currently positioned as a more upscale and pricey alternative to its mid-range competition. Because the parent company manufactures the more expensive Audi line and the stratospherically priced Bentleys and Bugattis, Volkswagen is able to draw on vast technical and design resources. As a result, the brand has developed a reputation as a marketer of sophisticated and stylish automobiles.
- Founded : May 28, 1946
- Founder : German Labour Front
- Headquarters : Wolfsburg, Germany
- Website : http://en.volkswagen.com/en.html
Following the war, the Volkswagen plant came under the control of the British military. Because they had a need for light-vehicle transportation, the British allowed production of some automobiles. Although the factory had originally been slated for dismantling, post-war policy evolved before any action was taken, and by 1948 the damaged VW plant was producing cars in considerable numbers. By 1949 the little Volkswagen Beetle had made its way to America.
In the 1950s, Volkswagen added the Bus and Karmann Ghia sports car to its product line. But the Beetle remained the star of the show, eventually becoming the best-selling car of all time. Derivative models with more conventional body styles introduced in the 1960s failed to capture the Beetle's magic, and by 1973, the future looked bleak.
The purchase of Auto Union and its Audi brand in the early 1970s improved the financial picture. VW rebadged the Audi 50 as a Polo and the Audi 80 as a Dasher/Passat.
Soon thereafter, VW introduced the Golf/Rabbit. With a transversely mounted water-cooled engine up front, this little machine turned the tide for VW and popularized a configuration that would soon become a standard throughout the automotive world.
The brand had its ups and downs in following years, with both quality problems and product mistakes taking their toll. But the introduction of a Beetle lookalike helped spur the U.S. market, and recent vehicles have been objects of critical acclaim at both ends of the market. For example, the 2009 Tiguan is a viable contender among moderately priced crossovers, while the V-8-powered, luxuriously outfitted Touareg 2 competes with high-end SUVs and carries a hefty price tag. As the first decade of the new millennium draws to a close, Volkswagen seems well-positioned for the future.