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1930s
1930
Jan January
"Star" of the International Automobile Shows

"Star" of the International Automobile Shows

01 Jan 1930

Our Story

"Star" of the International Automobile Shows

The 'Volkswagen' is the star attraction of the International Automobile Shows in Berlin during the early 1930s, as a vehicle classi…

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The 'Volkswagen' is the star attraction of the International Automobile Shows in Berlin during the early 1930s, as a vehicle classification, not a brand name. BMW, Mercedes, Opel, Ford, Adler and Hanomag, all premiere cheap-to-run models suitable for mass production and present them to the public as 'volkswagens' (people's cars).
Feb February
Mar March
Apr April
May May
Jun June
Jul July
Aug August
Sep September
Oct October
Nov November
Dec December
First car design office established

First car design office established

01 Dec 1930

 0039 Layer 27

First car design office established

Ferdinand Porsche opens his own "Design Office for Engines and Road Vehicles, Aircraft and Marine Vehicles".

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Ferdinand Porsche opens his own "Design Office for Engines and Road Vehicles, Aircraft and Marine Vehicles".
1930
1931
Jan January
Feb February
Mar March
Apr April
May May
Jun June
Jul July
Aug August
Sep September
Oct October
Nov November
Dec December
1931
1932
Jan January
Feb February
Mar March
Apr April
May May
Jun June
Jul July
Aug August
Sep September
Oct October
Nov November
Dec December
1932
1933
Jan January
Feb February
Mar March
Apr April
May May
Jun June
Jul July
Aug August
Sep September
Oct October
Nov November
Dec December
1933
1934
Jan January
Volkswagen as a classification

Volkswagen as a classification

01 Jan 1934

Trivia

Volkswagen as a classification

BMW, Mercedes, Opel, Ford, Adler and Hanomag all presented cheap-to-run models, suitable for mass production in 1934, that were mar…

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BMW, Mercedes, Opel, Ford, Adler and Hanomag all presented cheap-to-run models, suitable for mass production in 1934, that were marketed to the public as Volkswagens.
Ferdinand Porsche begins design process

Ferdinand Porsche begins design process

17 Jan 1934

 0039 Layer 27

Ferdinand Porsche begins design process

Ferdinand Porsche submits an "Exposé on the Construction of a German People's Car" in which he proposes drawing a vehicle design.

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Ferdinand Porsche submits an "Exposé on the Construction of a German People's Car" in which he proposes drawing a vehicle design.
Ferdinand Porsche

Ferdinand Porsche

17 Jan 1934

 0039 Layer 27

Ferdinand Porsche

Ferdinand Porsche was an Austrian automotive engineer and honorary Doctor of Engineering. In 1906 he became Head of Development and…

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Ferdinand Porsche was an Austrian automotive engineer and honorary Doctor of Engineering. In 1906 he became Head of Development and Production at the Austrian Daimler-Moteren Gesellschaft. By 1922 he was Managing Director of his own company. In 1930, he resigned from Daimler-Benz AG and went on to open his own 'Design Office for Engines and Road Vehicles, Aircraft and Marine Vehicles'. He is best known for creating the first hybrid vehicle (gasoline-electric), the Volkswagen Beetle. Porsche received a contract from Hitler to build three prototypes from designs Porsche already had, such as the 1931 Type 12 car designed for Zündapp. The three cars were completed in the winter of 1936. However, the original car designs followed from the innovative ideas of Hans Ledwinka, which resulted in a lawsuit by Tatra against Porsche and his collaborators which was eventually settled by Volkswagen, but only several years after WWII. Daimler-Benz was contracted to build an additional 30 prototypes. A new city, "Stadt des KdF-Wagens", near Fallersleben, was founded for the factory.The city is named Wolfsburg today and is still the seat of Volkswagen.
Feb February
Mar March
Hitler weighs in for the German People's Car

Hitler weighs in for the German People's Car

07 Mar 1934

 0046 Layer 20

Hitler weighs in for the German People's Car

In his opening address at the German International Motor Show in Berlin, Adolf Hitler calls for a car to be developed for the masse…

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In his opening address at the German International Motor Show in Berlin, Adolf Hitler calls for a car to be developed for the masses. The term "volkswagen" ("people's car") becomes popular, and appears in the newspaper "Leipziger Neueste Nachrichten", whose headline on Hitler's speech runs, "Build the German People's Car!". Hitler required a basic vehicle capable of transporting two adults and three children at 100 kph. The "People's Car" would be available to citizens of the Third Reich through a savings scheme, or Sparkarte (savings booklet), at 990 Reichsmark, about the price of a small motorcycle.
Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler

07 Mar 1934

Adolf Hitler Icon

Adolf Hitler

In his opening address at the German International Motor Show in Berlin, Adolf Hitler calls for a car to be developed for the masse…

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In his opening address at the German International Motor Show in Berlin, Adolf Hitler calls for a car to be developed for the masses. On 01 June 1938 Adolf Hitler coins the name "KdF-Wagen" (from "Kraft durch Freude" meaning 'Strength through Joy') for the automobile developed by Ferdinand Porsche.
Apr April
May May
Jun June
Porsche chosen to design Volkswagen

Porsche chosen to design Volkswagen

22 Jun 1934

 0039 Layer 27

Porsche chosen to design Volkswagen

The "Reichsverband der Deutschen Automobilindustrie" (RDA) (Reich Association of the German Automobile Industry) commissions Ferdin…

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The "Reichsverband der Deutschen Automobilindustrie" (RDA) (Reich Association of the German Automobile Industry) commissions Ferdinand Porsche to design a 'volkswagen' on 22 June 1934. Porsche's designs were influenced by the automobiles produced by the company Tatras, whose chief designer was Hans Ledwinka.
Jul July
Aug August
Sep September
Oct October
Nov November
Dec December
Porsche builds prototypes

Porsche builds prototypes

07 Dec 1934

 0039 Layer 27

Porsche builds prototypes

Ferdinand Porsche is commissioned to produce three prototypes. The first of Porsche's experimental engines are twin piston two-stro…

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Ferdinand Porsche is commissioned to produce three prototypes. The first of Porsche's experimental engines are twin piston two-strokes, but work on a four-cylinder, four stroke unit begins in parallel as the two-stroke lacks strength when run at full throttle. Although a gifted designer, Porsche cannot complete the work within the ten-month deadline as development of the car proves complex. Porsche believes the car should be a 'fully adequate and reliable automobile, with a light construction'.
1934
1935
Jan January
Feb February
Mar March
Apr April
May May
Jun June
Jul July
Aug August
Sep September
Oct October
Nov November
Dec December
1935
1936
Jan January
Hans Ledwinka

Hans Ledwinka

01 Jan 1936

 0030 Layer 36

Hans Ledwinka

Both Hitler and Porsche were influenced by the automobiles produced by the company Tatras, whose chief designer was Hans Ledwinka. …

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Both Hitler and Porsche were influenced by the automobiles produced by the company Tatras, whose chief designer was Hans Ledwinka. Hitler was a keen automotive enthusiast, who had ridden in Tatras during political tours of Czechoslovakia. He had also dined numerous times with Hans Ledwinka. After one of these dinners Hitler remarked to Porsche, "This is the car for my roads". Tatra produced the V570 which was coined with the words 'Peoples Car'. Porsche admitted "Well, sometimes I looked over his shoulder and sometimes he looked over mine" while designing the Volkswagen. Tatra launched a lawsuit prior to the second world war after Porsche's development of the 'Beetle', but this was stopped when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia. Tatra, who had started production of the T97 in 1936, was forced to stop producing the T97 when the Nazis took over the running of the factory. The matter was re-opened after World War II and, in 1961, Volkswagen paid Ringhoffer-Tatra 3,000,000 Deutsche Marks in an out of court settlement.
Feb February
Prototypes inspected

Prototypes inspected

24 Feb 1936

 0039 Layer 27

Prototypes inspected

Ferdinand Porsche invites the members of the "Reichsverband der Deutschen Automobilindustrie" (RDA) (Reich Association of the Germa…

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Ferdinand Porsche invites the members of the "Reichsverband der Deutschen Automobilindustrie" (RDA) (Reich Association of the German Automobile Industry) to inspect two prototypes; a saloon and a convertible. Their response is positive, but doubts are raised as to whether the car can be realistically produced within the budget of 1,000 Reichsmarks.
Mar March
Apr April
May May
Jun June
Jul July
The birth of Volkswagenwerk

The birth of Volkswagenwerk

27 Jul 1936

 0039 Layer 27

The birth of Volkswagenwerk

In Koblenz, a meeting of the Automobile Industry Federation is held along with the Adler, Daimler-Benz, Auto Union, BMW, MAN and Dr…

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In Koblenz, a meeting of the Automobile Industry Federation is held along with the Adler, Daimler-Benz, Auto Union, BMW, MAN and Dr.-Ing Porsche GmbH companies. It is decided to establish the "Volkswagenwerk" as an independent company, under the sole supervision of central government. Politicians are keen for production to be underway by 1938.
Aug August
Sep September
Oct October
First road testing

First road testing

05 Oct 1936

Our Story

First road testing

A showcase of brand new test runs is designed to premiere the practical qualities of the "People's Car". Each day throughout testi…

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A showcase of brand new test runs is designed to premiere the practical qualities of the "People's Car". Each day throughout testing, three cars cover more than 600 kilometres on the new "Reichsautobahn" and further main and country roads.
Nov November
Dec December
People's Car testing concludes

People's Car testing concludes

22 Dec 1936

 0039 Layer 27

People's Car testing concludes

The test runs of the "People's Car" are complete and Ferdinand Porsche claims, with a degree of pride in his concluding report, "Th…

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The test runs of the "People's Car" are complete and Ferdinand Porsche claims, with a degree of pride in his concluding report, "The design principle has so far proved to be practicable. The experimental cars generally completed their test programme satisfactorily. Certain faults developed and a number of short-comings were identified, but none of them are of a fundamental nature and can probably be rectified without undue technical difficulty." The positive results from this initial endurance test signal the starting point for the Volkswagen as we know it today. The German Automobile Industry Federation invests a further Reichmarks for development of a new batch of 30 prototypes. Most of the expenditure for the prototypes to date had been funded by the Daimler-Benz AG company.
1936
1937
Jan January
Nazi propaganda

Nazi propaganda

01 Jan 1937

 0046 Layer 20

Nazi propaganda

This Nazi prestige project of designing a Volkswagen was aimed at improving the image of its leisure time organisation "Kraft durch…

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This Nazi prestige project of designing a Volkswagen was aimed at improving the image of its leisure time organisation "Kraft durch Freude" (Strength through Joy - KdF). KdF later becomes tagged to 'wagen' to become the first name of the people's car, KdF-Wagen.
Search begins for factory

Search begins for factory

01 Jan 1937

 0039 Layer 27

Search begins for factory

Possible sites for the new factory are explored. It has to be centrally located in Germany, with good access to transport routes an…

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Possible sites for the new factory are explored. It has to be centrally located in Germany, with good access to transport routes and adequate space not only for the plant itself but also for a whole new town. Both Hitler and Ferdinand Porsche regard this as essential, if workers are to be attracted to the project.
Robert Ley

Robert Ley

01 Jan 1937

 0000 Layer 66

Robert Ley

Robert Ley led the German Labour Front (DAF) where he pioneered the Strength through Joy (KdF) programme and its most ambitious pro…

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Robert Ley led the German Labour Front (DAF) where he pioneered the Strength through Joy (KdF) programme and its most ambitious project, the "people's car", the Volkswagen, originally a project undertaken at Hitler's request by the car-maker Ferdinand Porsche. When the German car industry was unable to meet Hitler's demand that the Volkswagen be sold at 1,000 Reichsmarks or less, the project was taken over by DAF, which brought Ley's old socialist tendencies back into prominence. The party, he said, had taken over where private industry had failed, because of the "short-sightedness, malevolence, profiteering and stupidity" of the business class. Now working for DAF, Porsche built a new Volkswagen factory at Fallersleben, at a huge cost, which was partly met by raiding DAF's accumulated assets and misappropriating the dues paid by DAF members. The Volkswagen car was sold to German workers on an installment plan, and the first models appeared in February 1939. The outbreak of war, however, meant that none of the 340,000 workers who paid for a car ever received one.
Feb February
Mar March
Apr April
May May
The GEZUVOR is founded

The GEZUVOR is founded

28 May 1937

Our Story

The GEZUVOR is founded

The "Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH" (Company for the Preparation of the German Volkswagen Ltd, GEZUVO…

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The "Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH" (Company for the Preparation of the German Volkswagen Ltd, GEZUVOR) is established in Berlin providing Ferdinand Porsche with the certainty that his "People's Car" will be built in volume. The contract absolves the German Automobile Industry Federation of its commitments, with the exception of its initial investment for the 30 prototypes which still had to be paid, and it allocates 480,000 Reichmarks as the start-up capital for the construction of the new factory.
Jun June
A site is chosen

A site is chosen

01 Jun 1937

Our Story

A site is chosen

A new city, "Stadt des KdF-Wagens", near Fallersleben in Lower Saxony emerges for the factory. The GEZUVOR organisation is pressure…

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A new city, "Stadt des KdF-Wagens", near Fallersleben in Lower Saxony emerges for the factory. The GEZUVOR organisation is pressured into making a quick decision and therefore the first seemingly acceptable location is chosen despite numerous alternative sites with far superior infrastructures. The city is named Wolfsburg in 1945 and is still the home of Volkswagen.
Jul July
Aug August
Sep September
Oct October
Nov November
Dec December
1937
1938
Jan January
1938 People's Car

1938 People's Car

01 Jan 1938

Trivia

1938 People's Car

The only saloon model to survive from 1938 is now in the Volkswagen museum.

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The only saloon model to survive from 1938 is now in the Volkswagen museum.
The KdF-Wagen brochure misleading

The KdF-Wagen brochure misleading

01 Jan 1938

Trivia

The KdF-Wagen brochure misleading

Careful examination of the KdF-Wagen brochure shows the artists had provided more interior space than the engineers - the picture i…

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Careful examination of the KdF-Wagen brochure shows the artists had provided more interior space than the engineers - the picture implies five people would have found the vehicle comfortable, however, this was not the case.
Feb February
Mar March
Apr April
May May
Factory foundations laid

Factory foundations laid

26 May 1938

 0016 Layer 162

Factory foundations laid

The foundation stone of the factory in Fallersleben is laid. It's conceived as a vertical, primarily self-sufficient model factory …

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The foundation stone of the factory in Fallersleben is laid. It's conceived as a vertical, primarily self-sufficient model factory and is closely based on Ford's "River Rouge" plant in Detroit, considered the most modern automobile factory in the world at this time. It is a significant step nearer to producing the car which is to become the "Kraft durch Freude" (Strength through Joy) model.
Jun June
Naming the car

Naming the car

01 Jun 1938

 0046 Layer 20

Naming the car

Adolf Hitler coins the name "KdF-Wagen" (from "Kraft durch Freude" meaning 'Strength through Joy') for the automobile developed by …

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Adolf Hitler coins the name "KdF-Wagen" (from "Kraft durch Freude" meaning 'Strength through Joy') for the automobile developed by Ferdinand Porsche and the Workers' Front also wishes the vehicle to be called the "KdF-Wagen," but the public at-large settles on a name by calling it the "Volkswagen."
Naming the KdF-Wagen

Naming the KdF-Wagen

01 Jun 1938

Trivia

Naming the KdF-Wagen

Adolf Hitler coined the name "KdF-Wagen" (from "Kraft durch Freude" meaning "Strength through Joy") for the automobile developed by…

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Adolf Hitler coined the name "KdF-Wagen" (from "Kraft durch Freude" meaning "Strength through Joy") for the automobile developed by Ferdinand Porsche, but it was popularly referred to by the public at large as the "Volkswagen".
Jul July
Porsche's Beetle

Porsche's Beetle

03 Jul 1938

Our Story

Porsche's Beetle

The New York Times newspaper uses the nickname "Beetle" for the very first time.

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The New York Times newspaper uses the nickname "Beetle" for the very first time.
People's Car nicknamed the Beetle

People's Car nicknamed the Beetle

03 Jul 1938

Trivia

People's Car nicknamed the Beetle

The New York Times newspaper used the nickname "Beetle", referring to "Porsche's People's Car", for the very first time.

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The New York Times newspaper used the nickname "Beetle", referring to "Porsche's People's Car", for the very first time.
Aug August
KdF-Wagen savings plan

KdF-Wagen savings plan

12 Aug 1938

 0000 Layer 66

KdF-Wagen savings plan

The Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH (the Company for the Preparation of the German Volkswagen Ltd.) had…

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The Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH (the Company for the Preparation of the German Volkswagen Ltd.) had no sales strategy for selling the Volkswagen to prospective customers. Robert Ley, the government-appointed organisational head of the German Labour Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront, DAF), presented a solution. He explained the three principles making up the projected "KdF savings scheme." 1. Every German, regardless of class, standing or possessions, would be entitled to purchase a Volkswagen. 2. The minimum savings deposit to guarantee entitlement to a Volkswagen would be 5 Reichsmarks per week. 3. Intending savers would be registered at all DAF and "Kraft durch Freude" offices. The response to this savings scheme was overwhelming - no less than 270,000 savers signed up by the end of 1938. Up to the end of the Second World War a total of 336,638 German citizens continued to save hard for their Volkswagens. However, due to a lack of widespread mass purchasing power, the ambitious production goals could not be reached. The demand from savers was not enough to cover the planned number of automobiles to be produced because the Volkswagen was in reality still too expensive for the average factory worker.
The KdF-Wagen

The KdF-Wagen

12 Aug 1938

Our Cars

The KdF-Wagen

Adolf Hitler coined the name "KdF-Wagen" for the automobile developed by Ferdinand Porsche. Accompanied by a massive advertising ca…

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Adolf Hitler coined the name "KdF-Wagen" for the automobile developed by Ferdinand Porsche. Accompanied by a massive advertising campaign, the "Deutsche Arbeitsfront" introduced a KdF-Wagen savings installment plan on August 12, 1938. Whoever paid a minimum weekly sum was soon to become the proud owner of a Volkswagen. However, due to a lack of widespread mass purchasing power, the ambitious production goals could not be reached. The demand from only 336,000 savers was not enough to cover the planned number of automobiles to be produced because the Volkswagen was, in real terms, still too expensive for the average factory worker to afford.
Sep September
Volkswagenwerk GmbH officially registered

Volkswagenwerk GmbH officially registered

16 Sep 1938

Our Story

Volkswagenwerk GmbH officially registered

The "Company for the Preparation of the German Volkswagen Ltd", or the "Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH…

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The "Company for the Preparation of the German Volkswagen Ltd", or the "Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH (GEZUVOR)" is renamed "Volkswagenwerk GmbH". Its business aims are: to carry out the instructions issued to the German Labour Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront, DAF) by the "Führer" and Chancellor of the German Reich in terms of manufacture, development and sale of the Volkswagen and to produce and sell other key products for the German economy. "Volkswagenwerk GmbH" is officially registered in October 1938.
Oct October
Training workshops begin

Training workshops begin

01 Oct 1938

Our Story

Training workshops begin

Training workshops for the workers at the Volkswagen plant begin.

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Training workshops for the workers at the Volkswagen plant begin.
Nov November
Dec December
1938
1939
Jan January
Feb February
KdF-Wagen displayed at German Motor Show

KdF-Wagen displayed at German Motor Show

16 Feb 1939

Our Story

KdF-Wagen displayed at German Motor Show

The KdF-Wagen, still popularly referred to as the "Volkswagen," is exhibited at the German Motor Show in Berlin. To commemorate the…

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The KdF-Wagen, still popularly referred to as the "Volkswagen," is exhibited at the German Motor Show in Berlin. To commemorate the occasion, the 15 October is declared the official date on which production starts, even though those responsible must have known that this date is totally impracticable. The start date is announced as a means of calming many anxious savers and ensuring that the source of zero-interest capital obtained at the expense of many German citizens does not cease. In Spring 1939 the first 1,000 employees are recruited with the intention of increasing the labour force to 3,000 over the course of the year who would assemble 10,000 cars between August and December.
Mar March
Apr April
May May
Jun June
Jul July
Aug August
Sep September
War halts People's Car production

War halts People's Car production

01 Sep 1939

Our Story

War halts People's Car production

After the outbreak of World War II, the Volkswagen plant becomes a munitions factory. The "People's Car" falls rapidly to the botto…

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After the outbreak of World War II, the Volkswagen plant becomes a munitions factory. The "People's Car" falls rapidly to the bottom of the list of priorities and the dream of mass mobility for the individual is superseded by the reality of mass mobilisation.
Luftwaffe takes over Volkswagenwerk GmbH

Luftwaffe takes over Volkswagenwerk GmbH

15 Sep 1939

The German Air Force drafts a letter to Robert Ley, the government appointed organisational head of Volkswagenwerk GmbH, proposing that "the entire plant with its workforce be made available for production of the Ju 88 aircraft". The firm is contracted by the Luftwaffe for repair work on the Ju 88 and to supply the aircraft industry with fuel tanks and wings; a line for their production is set up in Wolfsburg. The contracts to produce armaments and undertake repair work enables the company to make a small profit and secure a preferential position when raw materials are allocated allowing them to progress gradually towards the completion of the factory
Oct October
Nov November
Dec December
1939