Volkswagen is a German automaker that began in 1937. It is now the largest automaker worldwide. Volkswagen originally founded the company to give the average German a car at a time when most could barely afford a motorcycle. In fact, Volkswagen even means ‘people’s car’ in German.

History of Volkswagen

Volkswagen in America

The first VW to make its way to America was in 1949 and only two vehicles were sold. Originally, VW sold the Type 1 in the U.S. as a Victory Wagon, but that name didn’t last too long. It only took the company a few years to form Volkswagen of America in 1955 in order to help standardize U.S. sales and service. VW also celebrated the Type 1 Volkswagen Beetle production total reaching 1 million in 1955.

1949 Volkswagen Beetle

In the early 60s, VW advertising was making a huge difference in sales. The ads, put together by New York agency Doyle Dane Bernbach, were becoming as popular as the car itself. In the early 70s, Volkswagen Beetle production figures passed the record holder: The Ford Model T. On February 17, 1972, the 15,007,034th VW Beetle sold, giving VW the wold record for most-produced single make in history. It passed 16 million sold in 1973.


In the 60s and 70s, Volkswagen also expanded some of the vehicle types it produced to include the Notchback, Fastback, Squareback, SuperBeetle and the Thing. Those models weren’t proving as helpful as the company had hoped. Things were starting to look bleak for Volkswagen by 1973. Beetle sales were declining, meaning it was time to take the Bug out of the lineup. But, no one knew with what to replace it. That’s where the purchase of Audi helped revive Volkswagen. Using Audi technology and expertise, Volkswagen added the Golf to its lineup in 1974. It was known in the US as the Rabbit for the first and fifth generations (1975-1985 & 2006-2009).

2002 Volkswagen New Beetle

Volkswagen in the 80s and 90s

Adding to the VW lineup continued to help turn the company around. But, sales in the U.S. in the 80s and 90s were not quite keeping up with worldwide sales. VW took that time to evolve its model line, introducing models for short periods of time before redesigning or replacing them. It’s during these years that the Passat, Polo, Scirocco, Corrado and the reintroduction of the New Beetle were seen.

Volkswagen in the 2000s

The 2000s brought the bigger Toureg and Tiguan, as well as the decision not to sell the T5 van in the U.S. market. As of 2012, VW now sits as the second largest auto manufacturer worldwide.

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