On December 27, 1945, the Volkswagen Typ 1 sedan began series production at the German factory in Wolfsburg. The car that will be known throughout the world as the Beetle. The history of Volkswagen also begins with it.

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Production of the Vw Typ 1 in Wolsburg in 1945
Production of the Vw Typ 1 in Wolsburg in 1945

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The origin of this model is due to the Nazis, who wanted to make it a prestigious project of the regime, but from 1939 the plant that was to build it was converted to war production. In fact, until the end of the Second World War, just 630 units had left the factory. The car, meanwhile, in 1938 had been renamed KdF-Wagen, meaning “the car of force through joy”, as its realization was managed by the Nazi recreational organization of the same name, part of the German Workers’ Front. It was under the English trust administration that the success story of the Beetle began in Wolfsburg, thanks to the strategic vision of Major Ivan Hirst (here you can see the documentary in English My brief was very simple, which tells the story of the trust management of Volkswagenwerk GmbH and contains the interview with Hirst).

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Volkswagen Beetle, history
The first steps

In Wolfsburg, series production of the Typ 1 started after the end of the Second World War, on December 27, 1945. Thanks to the trusteeship of the British Military Government in June 1945 over Volkswagenwerk GmbH, the British intended to use the Volkswagen Typ 1 for urgent transport functions needed in their occupation zone. It was British pragmatism that protected the factory from imminent demolition. Senior Resident Officer Ivan Hirst played a key role in these developments. It was his foresight and inventiveness that allowed him to start the production of cars in the years of rationing and the lack of raw materials. With his enthusiasm for technology and cars, his concreteness and determination, Hirst was able to transform a war plant into a civilian industry in a very short time.

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Major Ivan Hirst
Major Ivan Hirst

Already in August 1945, the British Military Government had commissioned 20,000 cars. The start of production was the visible sign of a new beginning and hope for a factory that had been largely destroyed at the end of the Second World War. This solution was in line with subsequent British policy in Germany, which saw material security and future prospects for the population as founding elements in the development of democratic structures.

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Farewell to the Volkswagen Beetle The story of the car wanted by Hitler
On July 10, the last day

Thus, democracy found its outlet also within Volkswagenwerk: on November 27, 1945, the Works Council elected by a democratic vote met for its constituent assembly. Nonetheless, there were many problems in providing workers with food and shelter, and production was slowed down by the scarcity of raw materials and energy supplies.

Beetle production in Wolfsburg
Beetle production in Wolfsburg

In spite of all these difficulties, the first Volkswagen sedans left the production line shortly after Christmas – a gift just eight months after the end of the war. By the end of 1945, 55 cars had been produced. Since 1946, about a thousand cars were built every month: it was not possible to make more due to the scarcity of both raw materials and the workforce. Until the autumn of 1949, the trustees laid the foundations for the subsequent growth of the company: they set up a sales system, customer service and from 1947 began exporting the car. The decision to develop a civilian factory and to start series production of the Volkswagen Typ 1 was the starting point for a unique success story.

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The thousandth Typ 1 leaves the Volkswagen factory in Wolsburg
The thousandth Typ 1 leaves the Volkswagen factory in Wolsburg

Thanks to the immediate restart, Volkswagenwerk GmbH then found itself in an excellent position when the economic recovery that followed the introduction of the German mark arrived. Under the unofficial name Beetle, the sedan has become one of the most popular car models in the world. The longevity and numbers of its production broke many records: Volkswagen stopped building it in Mexico in 2003, after 21,529,464 units manufactured, of which about 15.8 million in Germany.

December 24, 2020 (change December 24, 2020 | 11:18)

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