May 4, 2015 By Mike Lee
Last updated on July 14, 2021

VW LogoBrief History About Volkswagen

Volkswagen was founded in 1937 in Germany by the German Labour Front, a National Socialist trade union. Volkswagen basically means “people’s car” in German.

In 1931 Ferdinand Porsche wanted to build a car for families in Germany to drive and built the ‘Volksauto’. In 1933 Hitler had a factory built to get the project going, which eventually led to what we now recognise as the VW Beetle being built by 1938. There is also much controversy as to how the cars were made, with regards slave labour by the Germans at the time.

After WW2 and with Germany in ruins, including the bombing of the factory, British army officer Ivan Hirst, who was tasked to dismantle and salvage the contents of the factory, actually painted one of the cars in green and presented it to the British Army headquarters for consideration as use for the forces abroad. The decision was then made to build the cars and the factory was saved and put back to work. Many other car makers from around the world had a chance to purchase the VW brand, but many thought it was an ugly car and economically unviable. In fact Ford was offered the factory for free, but turned it down.

In 1949 Hirst left the company to the West German government and soon they started to export cars to the USA and Canada.

During the 60’s and early 70’s VW expanded its model line up and with increased sales, also bought Auto Union in 1964 and NSU Motorenwerke AG in 1969. These two new companies were then merged to create the new Audi brand (the historic Audi was once part of Auto Union). However by 1973 sales plummeted and with the oil crises also in play, VW needed to change its game. With help from its purchase of the Audi brand, they set about building the next generation of VW cars, introducing the Passat, Scirocco, Golf, and Polo. Also during the 60’s, with strong connections with Porsche, they collaborated with the production of the VW/Porsche 914 and then later in the 70’s the 924 and to a much lesser degree the 944.

In 1978 VW got involved in the World Rally Championship, which lasted until 1990 and then restarted again in 2013 with the Polo R WRC. Other rally events were also entered, such as the Dakar Rally from 1980.

During the 80’s VW, like many other car makers started to concentrate on delivering more economy from its cars, as dictated by demand. Also in 1982 VW and SEAT start a co-operation, followed by VW acquiring 51% of SEAT in 1986.

In 1990 VW took shares in Skoda and gradually increased its shares in Skoda over a number of years. The 90’s were quite successful for VW, winning many awards for best cars in numerous classes. In the mid 90’s they had also agreed a partnership with Proton and by the late 90’s and into the new millennium, VW UK acquired Rolls Royce Motor Cars (Bentley Motors Limited and not the Rolls-Royce name or logo, which belongs to BMW), Lamborghini and then Bugatti Automobiles.

In 2005 Porsche increased its shares in VW gradually over the years until finally in 2009 the 2 companies decided on a merger, which by 2011 sees both companies with near enough an equal share in each other. The shares/merger bought by Porsche and VW were to protect the companies from any potential foreign/hostile takeover.

Also in 2009 a partnership was agreed with Suzuki, followed by a 90% stake in Italdesign in 2010.

VW Golf GTi Mk1
Golf Mk1 1974-1984

VW Golf GTi Mk2
Golf Mk2 1984-1992

VW Golf GTi Mk3
Golf Mk3 1992-1998

VW Golf GTi Mk4
Golf Mk4 1998-2004

VW Golf GTi Mk5
Golf Mk5 2004-2009

VW Golf GTi Mk6
Golf Mk6 2009-2013

VW Golf R
Golf Mk7 2013-2019

VW Scirocco Mk1
Scirocco Mk1 1974-1981

VW Scirocco Mk2
Scirocco Mk2 1982-1991

VW Scirocco Mk3
Scirocco Mk3 2008-2017

VW Corrado
Corrado 1989-1996

VW Polo GTi
Polo GTI 2009 on & Polo R WRC