Ferdinand Porsche began thinking up a small popular car after setting up his own design bureau in 1930 and developed several prototypes. Chancellor Adolf Hitler, who wanted a people’s car, set out his ideas, which were close to what Porsche had created as a prototype in 1933 for NSU. Starting work on January 17, 1934, Porsche began work on Typ 60, which he called a Volkswagen, with prototypes later constructed by Daimler-Benz. With the Third Reich having announced a purchase plan for the cars, which Hitler called the KdF-Wagen (for Kraft durch Freude), production was meant to go ahead in 1939, but Germany invaded Poland of that year, and only 630 were built between August 1940 and the end of World War II.
Post-war, the occupying British forces established a workshop at KdF-Stadt, which they renamed Wolfsburg from a nearby castle. Under Maj Ivan Hirst, the Volkswagen was brought back into production. Hirst obtained an order for 10,000 cars from the British Army and by 1947, Volkswagen had exported its first cars.
The Käfer, as it was known in Germany, or Beetle in English-speaking countries, gradually evolved, but it really found favour in the United States in the 1960s, going to buyers who wanted not only a sensible economy car but one that would not be as subject to fads as their own country’s, with their annual model changes.
Volkswagen, however, tried to replace the Käfer on many occasions, but it was not till the 1970s that the boxy Volkswagen Golf proved to be a worthy successor. Käfer production wound down in Germany, but it continued in México, Brazil and Nigeria. By the time Mexican production ended, Volkswagen had built 21,529,464 examples, far exceeding the Ford Model T and, to date, it holds the production record for a single type of car.
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