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Volkswagen, or ‘People’s Car,’ was established in 1937. Originally known as ‘Geselschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagen mbH,’ the company was renamed ‘Volkswagenwerk GmbH’ a year later. The idea behind the company was conceived by Adolf Hitler, who desired a dream car for the average German. Hitler contracted Ferdinand Porsche to design the vehicle, which was approved in 1933, with the town of Wolfsburg allocated to factory workers.Although production was to go ahead in 1939, the outbreak of WWII halted production. Instead, workers were made to create armaments and military vehicles, with over 12,000 prisoners of war also involved in repairing aircraft and making bombs. In 1945, Allied forces took control of the plant at Wolfsburg, returning it to automobile manufacture with the Type 1, or the Beetle. Initially, export sales were poor, but the retargeting of the Beetle towards a younger demographic with the ‘Think Small’ ad campaign results in success.The longevity of the Beetle is attributed to its combination of reliability, simple maintenance and fuel economy, causing it to remain a best-seller throughout the 60’s and 70’s. In 1969, Volkswagen revitalises the owner of the defunct brand Audi, Auto Union, by merging them with NSU Motorenwerke, creating the modern day Audi brand as Volkswagen’s luxury marque. This acquisition also helped to expand their automotive expertise, which in turn was used to create the VW Golf, which was released in 1974. The Golf was an immediate success, followed by the Scirocco in the same year, and the compact Polo in 1976, which did well throughout Western Europe.The eighties consisted of Volkswagen improving their product range with newer versions of previous models, as well as acquiring automotive manufacturers Seat and Skoda. VW’s influence made their Audi brand a direct competitor for Mercedes and BMW during the nineties, which Volkswagen supplemented by trying to secure the niche in the general consumer market. New luxury models, such as the Touareg, have been released to try and achieve this. Following their acquisition of Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini in 1998, Volkswagen have focused on setting automotive records, particularly in terms of creating efficient engines with low emissions.
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