1950 to 1960 – Internationalisation and Mass Production in the Era of Germany’s Economic Miracle

Chronicle 1951: Grinding work on car bodies

Volkswagen was already considered a symbol of West Germany’s Economic Miracle, or “Wirtschaftswunder”, even by its contemporaries. The company’s success matched that of the Beetle itself. The factory’s capacity as well as the rationalisation initiative introduced in 1954 created the technical preconditions for mass production of the Volkswagen Saloon and the Transporter. Volkswagen was able to shape its long-term growth strategy by combining mass production, global market orientation and the integration of its workforce. In 1950, the Wolfsburg company exported one third of its car production to 18 countries, most of them in Europe. The main export markets were Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland. By exporting 1,253 vehicles to Brazil for the first time, South America emerged as a second important focus of the company’s activities, especially at a time when the import of US models there almost came to a complete stop because of a shortage of dollar reserves. Volkswagen gave priority at an early stage to supplying this key future market.

Europe’s economic recovery and the emerging industrialisation of many countries outside Europe created a favourable situation for the export of Volkswagens. International trade based largely on bilateral agreements proved beneficial for Volkswagen. The dollar shortage in most countries temporarily weakened the US competition, while the export prospects of German rivals were limited by their low production capacity. As a public company, Volkswagenwerk GmbH could also hope for the support of the Federal Government, which, by negotiating trade agreements, opened up export possibilities for German industry. With a share of up to 50 percent of all German car exports, Volkswagen was the most important earner of foreign currency and the leading German car exporter during the 1950s.

The systematic expansion of the export business during the first half of the 1950s was not entirely free of trouble and risk, however. Investments were at first only rewarded with narrow profit margins, because Volkswagen’s price calculations had to take into consideration the establishment of its products on international markets, and so the company exported its products at close to cost. In addition, the establishment of a production site in Brazil ran into difficulties because of political and economic instability. Problems were also encountered when a sales organisation for the US market was set up. Top American dealers were already tied to exclusive contracts with domestic manufacturers, and the standard 30 percent trade discount made competitive pricing difficult.

Despite these problems, Volkswagen was able to break into the European, American and African markets by the mid-1950s. This was thanks for the most part to its engineering attributes and the quality standards of the continuously improved saloon. The Beetle enjoyed the reputation of being an economical and reliable car, especially suited to the needs of developing countries because of its fuel efficiency and its robust design suitable for regions with underdeveloped roads. On the other hand, Volkswagenwerk GmbH was diligent when entering new markets, supporting its products with a sales and service network. The company’s management believed that long-term success would only come from an organisation that included a close-knit network of service centres equipped with special tools and well-trained personnel, and capable of supplying the required replacement parts. Volkswagen’s excellent reputation in this regard provided a key competitive edge on international markets. Volkswagen demanded high levels of investment from its dealers in order to guarantee professional customer service. In the strategically important Canadian and US markets, Volkswagenwerk GmbH set up its own sales network. At the same time, production sites were established in Brazil, South Africa and Australia. The Wolfsburg company moved onto the international stage early in its development, laying the foundations for a worldwide production network.

Volkswagen celebrated its greatest triumphs on the domestic market, where the saloon became a symbol of Germany’s Economic Miracle during the 1950s. The dream of mass motorisation that emerged around 1900 as the new technological age was born, and which was later misused by the Nazis for their own political ends, was finally being realised – and at a rapid rate. The Volkswagen saloon was the best-selling car of the decade, achieving a market share of around 40 percent. The model’s engineering and design imbued it with the sense of a “classless” product, embodying the self-confidence of an emerging consumerist society and reflecting the car’s transition from a luxury item to an essential part of daily life for broad segments of the population. The Transporter, built from 1950 onwards, was no less successful, dominating the van market with a share of about 30 percent. The sales potential for Volkswagenwerk GmbH on the domestic market was, nevertheless, limited. During the first half of the 1950s, backlogged demand from business users resulted in steadily growing sales, but the private customer base grew only slowly. Despite rising incomes, for most car-enthused West Germans the Beetle remained an unaffordable dream. Individual mobility was provided predominately by the motorcycle, and it was only in 1955 that new car registrations surpassed those of two-wheelers. The intensified restructuring of production to create a Fordist mass production system in 1954 appeared promising because international successes were making up for the limitations of the domestic market. Factory automation made possible the production volumes which were now needed to meet the demands of the recently entered international market and especially the boom in demand in the USA from 1954 onwards.

The workforce shared in the company’s economic success, earning high salaries and receiving a package of voluntary benefits which, against a background of generally peaceful industrial relations in the 1950s, engendered a co-operative working climate. There was a high degree of flexibility in work assignment. The Works Council and management worked together in an attempt to keep employee turnover to a minimum and solve the shortage of skilled workers. A generous pay and benefits system gradually helped to create a stable core workforce, with company employees considering themselves part of the Volkswagen family. Volkswagen’s pay rates were the best in the German car industry, and the company was a ground-breaker beyond its own sector too. Volkswagen’s policy of allowing employees to share in the company’s success was criticised by employers’ organisations, as well as by the Federal Government, which saw its anti-inflationary efforts as being endangered by such wage increases. Nevertheless, the company’s cautious public administration and excellent balance sheet gave the management of Volkswagenwerk GmbH enough leeway to steer its own course in terms of pay and working hours policy. In October 1955, the Works Council, the IG Metall metalworkers’ union and Volkswagen’s management agreed to a two-stage reduction in working hours, providing a 40-hour working week for most of the company’s employees from 1957 onwards.

Further disharmony between the company’s management and the German Federal Government surfaced on the privatisation issue, which the German parliament had been debating since the summer of 1956. Volkswagen’s management saw no urgent need to change the legal form of the successful business. The Works Council and the workforce, on the other hand, were interested in protecting the financial and fringe benefits they had received, and fought against the government’s privatisation plans. They received the support of the opposition SPD Social Democrat party, which raised its voice in parliament against the sell-off of national assets. Volkswagen’s management realised, however, that the privatisation of Germany’s most important car-maker was inevitable in the medium term. Volkswagenwerk GmbH was basically a company without an owner, administered by the State of Lower Saxony on behalf of and under the supervision of the Federal Government. In addition, public trusteeship did not conform to the free-market economy policies of the coalition government headed by the Christian Democrat CDU party.

The Federal Government and the company’s management agreed that shares in Volkswagen should be sold widely as a “people’s stock”, so preventing large blocks of shares from being concentrated in a small number of hands. The proposed initial capital of DM 600 million provoked some opposition. With future investments in mind, Heinrich Nordhoff voted for cutting the share capital in half, but he could not push his commercially motivated position through. Volkswagenwerk AG, which was entered in the Register of Companies on August 22, 1960, was able to continue its successful development after privatisation. However, it was not the high share capital that caused the company difficulties during the 1960s, but rather the issues of mass production and model policy.


March 4

Chronicle 1950: March 4
An annual bonus of up to DM 120 is introduced for employees to mark the occasion of the 100,000th Volkswagen manufactured since the end of the war. In 1954, bonuses are raised to 4 percent of gross income.

March 8

Chronicle 1950: March 8
Mass production of the Transporter begins in Wolfsburg. The model is used for transporting goods and as a minibus, as a fire department vehicle, as a police car, a postal delivery van, and later also as a camper-van. Planned as an “uncompromising van”, the three-quarter tonne vehicle adds a second model series to Volkswagen’s portfolio which, with its 4.6 cubic metre load space, appeals primarily to business users. While the Transporter adopts some technical features from the Volkswagen saloon, such as its air-cooled rear-mounted engine developing 25 hp, it is provided with a reinforced chassis. Prices start at DM 5,850 ex-factory. Because of its many uses, the Type 2 is in great demand in Germany as well as overseas.

Rear view of the export sedan

Chronicle 1950: Rear view of the export sedan
Rear view of a budding export best-seller: in 1950, 27,816 sedans are sold in 17 countries. Five years later the Volkswagenwerk is already selling 147,319 Beetle in 45 countries.


Chronicle 1950: Transporters
The workhorse of the economic miracle conquers the road. 8,001 Transporter find their way to customers in 1950. Prices range from 5,850 DM for the delivery van model to 6,950 for the minibus version of the Transporter.

Brunswick plant

Chronicle 1950: Brunswick plant
The Brunswick facility is integrated in the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg, first commercially, then in terms of organizational structure. From now on, the Brunswick departments report to the relevant departmental managers in Wolfsburg. The manufacturing programme includes jigs and fixtures, specially designed machines, tools, single and spare parts. For the Volkswagen sedan, Brunswick mainly supplies thermostats, windscreen-wipers and sliding-roof components; the production of the Transporter begins in March 1950 and here Brunswick supplies various single parts, front axles, along with hand and foot lever systems.

Axle assembly in Wolfsburg

Chronicle 1950: Axle assembly in Wolfsburg
High precision for mass production: the axles for Volkswagen sedans are assembled in largely reinstated halls. 30 million DM invested between 1945 and 1950 lay the foundation for mass production in later years.

Wolfsburg assembly line

Chronicle 1950: Wolfsburg assembly line
The Type 1 becomes a best-seller: the 81,979 sedans built in 1950 represent a phenomenal 96 percent increase compared with prior-year production. Over the same period the workforce grows by 46 percent to 14,966 employees.

October 11

The first two CKD (completely knocked down) saloon kits are shipped to Motor Distribution Limited in Dublin, which assembles 48 of the vehicles by the year-end.

December 30

Chronicle 1950: December 30
The Export department records its “first successful year of overseas business”, with 179 saloons sold to Egypt; 10 saloons to Ethiopia; 123 saloons and 5 Transporters to Uruguay; 328 saloons and 2 Transporters to the USA; and 627 saloons and 302 Transporters to Brazil. A further 324 saloons are shipped in kit form and assembled by Sao Paulo-based Brasmotor starting in January 1951.

Statistics of the Year

Chronicle 1950: Statistics of the Year


January 4

Bruno Gründel becomes Chairman of the Works Council.

March 29

Chronicle 1951: March 29
The Korean War increases international demand for raw materials and leads to a temporary acute coal shortage, causing Volkswagen problems in acquiring body panels. Car production in Wolfsburg has to be shut down for a few days. Aside from short periods in the Summer of 1951, material shortages force the factory into short-time working until March 1952.

May 9

Chronicle 1951: May 9
Hugo Bork is elected Chairman of the Works Council, a position he holds until 1971.

May 22

Chronicle 1951: May 22
An Advisory Board of Volkswagenwerk GmbH is formed under the chairmanship of Heinz M. Oeftering. Pursuant to the Works Constitution Act passed in 1952, the Advisory Board is replaced by a Supervisory Board on August 28, 1953.

Grinding work on car bodies

Chronicle 1951: Grinding work on car bodies
New machines stabilize production in the reinstated halls, but many production steps are still manual. In January, it still takes 127 hours to build a Beetle, but this is cut back to 116 hourts by the end of the year.


Chronicle 1951: Transporter
The Volkswagen Type 2 enjoys growing popularity one year after its market launch: in 1951, 11,943 vehicles are delivered worldwide.

Apprentice workshop

Chronicle 1951: Apprentice workshop
In 1951, a total of 376 apprentices are employed at the main plant in Wolfsburg and the Brunswick facility. Their monthly pay is 78.33 DM.


Chronicle 1951: Sedan
The standard version of many Germans’ dream car costs 4,600 DM. With monthly wages averaging 346 DM, it takes a worker over 13 months to save up for the automotive dream.


Chronicle 1951: Transporter
The multi-talented VW Transporter – Type 2 is available as a passenger van, “Kombi”, pickup truck, ambulance or delivery van.

New Year’s ad

Chronicle 1951: New Year’s ad
“Werk und Wagen der grosse Erfolg” (“Plant and car a great success!”): Swiss commercial artist Hans Looser designed the first Volkswagen advertisements.


Chronicle 1951: Commercial
The commercial “Volkswagen Geschichten” (“Volkswagen stories”) turned the Beetle and Transporter into stars of the silver screen.

Statistics of the Year

Chronicle 1951: Statistics of the Year


Production in Wolfsburg

Chronicle 1952: Production in Wolfsburg
Production stabilizes and grows. While 105,712 Beetle and Transporter left the assembly line in 1951, annual production in 1952 grows 28 percent to 136,013 vehciles. Producing a larger number of vehicles needs more space, so new buildings are constructed. Tool engineering, wheel rim manufacture and the spare parts department move into new premises in 1952.

Volkswagen Export

Chronicle 1952: Volkswagen Export
Export is an essential pillar for the Volkswagenwerk. When there is a chronic shortage of materials, export revenue from the 46,881 vehicles sold in 43 countries is invaluable, particularly for purchasing raw materials abroad.


Chronicle 1952: Foundry
At the beginning of the year steel and coal are in short supply in Wolfsburg as a result of the Korean crisis. Nevertheless, vehicle production increases 28.7 percent year-on-year.

Sedan interior

Chronicle 1952: Sedan interior
Nothing but the essentials: the interior of the Volkswagen sedan, the best-seller from Wolfsburg.

Volkswagen sedan

Chronicle 1952: Volkswagen sedan
Technical changes and innovations lead to a continuous improvement in product quality and vehicle safety. In 1952, the Beetle is given a triangular rear quarter window and a new tire size.

Cockpit with vase

Chronicle 1952: Cockpit with vase
The automobile living room. The vase in the Beetle cockpit becomes a legendary and much-coveted accessory item. Interestingly enough, the vase is never included in Volkswagen’s sales program, but is only available from accessory suppliers.

September 11

Chronicle 1952: September 11
With the founding of Volkswagen Canada Ltd. in Toronto, Ontario, Volkswagen begins expanding its sales and customer service network into international markets. This step is necessary because the duty free import of British products puts Volkswagen at a disadvantage, making penetration of the Canadian market difficult. A total of 94 Volkswagens are sold by the end of the year.

Brezel Beetle

Chronicle 1952: Brezel Beetle
The Beetle changes its appearance. Two brake lights combined with taillights and reflectors, a partially-synchronized gearbox and improved suspension make up the initial improvements aimed at increasing safety and comfort. The split rear window of the “Brezel Beetle” is replaced in 1953 by a larger oval-shaped window which gives the “Ovali Beetle” its name. Single-compartment rear lamps with integrated brake lights, a double exhaust and a PVC sunroof are added in 1955. The rectangular rear window and an enlarged windscreen improve driving conditions from 1957 onwards; a large wing mirror is added one year later.

October 1

Chronicle 1952: October 1
The Volkswagen saloon is fitted with a new instrument panel and two brake lights combined with tail lights and reflectors. A partially synchronised gearbox and improved suspension mark the start of a number of improvements aimed at increasing safety and ride comfort. The split rear window of the “Pretzel Beetle” is replaced on March 10, 1953 by a larger oval-shaped window which gives the “Ovali Beetle” its name.

New Year’s ad

Chronicle 1952: New Year’s ad
The New Year’s ad designed by Hans Looser announces the latest record figures.

Volkswagen ad

Chronicle 1952: Volkswagen ad
The Volkswagen ad ”Schnell und wendig” (fast and agile) puts the Beetle in the hearts – and garages – of Volkswagen customers.

Statistics of the Year

Chronicle 1952: Statistics of the Year


January 28

Chronicle 1953: January 28
In order to ease the chronic housing shortage in Wolfsburg, the non-profit community housing corporation VW-Wohnungsbau-Gemeinnützige Gesellschaft mbH is established, and builds 1,400 apartments by the end of the year. The rapid growth of the workforce makes the creation of new housing an urgent task, especially because public funds for these activities are limited. More than half of Volkswagen’s employees live outside Wolfsburg and have to commute to work from their homes, often up to 80 kilometres away. Building company housing becomes an important instrument in creating a permanent core workforce.

March 23

Chronicle 1953: March 23
Volkswagenwerk GmbH sets up its first foreign production company, Volkswagen do Brasil Ltda., in São Paulo. The Brazilian government’s restrictive import policy, which aims at promoting the domestic car industry, means that the only way of achieving long-term success in the South American market is to manufacture directly in the country. Volkswagen has an 80 percent share in the Brazilian firm which, from July 12, 1955, is transformed into a stock corporation. Initially the imported component kits are assembled in a rented facility. At the end of 1956, assembly is transferred to a newly built factory in São Bernardo do Campo. In order to comply with the required level of domestic manufacturing, the site is rapidly transformed from an assembly plant into a production facility.

Ovali Beetle

Chronicle 1953: Ovali Beetle
Farewell to the “Brezel” split rear window: production of the sedan with a single rear window starts in March 1953.

Spot welding the car body

Chronicle 1953: Spot welding the car body
Production stabilizes further as repair work on the production halls makes progress. Nevertheless, the share of manual work in the production process remains high. In 1953, it takes 106 hours to build a Beetle. Daily capacity for Beetle production at the Volkswagenwerk is therefore 580 units.

Body shop conveyor belt

Chronicle 1953: Body shop conveyor belt
In 1953, the Volkswagenwerk invests 22.3 million DM in machinery and 17.7 million DM in new factory buildings. As a result, annual production increases to 179,740 vehicles.

Sedans ready for delivery

Chronicle 1953: Sedans ready for delivery
The Volkswagen sedan goes from strength to strength, beating one record after another: 55,449 vehicles are delivered to customers abroad and 89,045 to customers in Germany in 1953.

Transporter ready for delivery

Chronicle 1953: Transporter ready for delivery
27,349 customers in 74 countries appreciate the functionality of the Volkswagen Transporter. Belgium is the largest export market for the Type 2 with deliveries totaling 1,841 units.

November 30

Chronicle 1953: November 30
An Economic Committee based on equal representation convenes for the first time at Volkswagen, tasked with keeping the Works Council informed about management policies.

1950s “carsharing”

Chronicle 1953: 1950s “carsharing”
“Carsharing” in the 1950s: several customers often share one Volkswagen sedan. That is hardly surprising given that the standard version of the dream car is priced at 4,150 DM, beyond the means of many in the early 1950s as incomes are still at a low level.

Exhibition presenting 5 years of Volkswagen advertising

Chronicle 1953: Exhibition presenting 5 years of Volkswagen advertising
The Volkswagenwerk presents an exhibition on five years of Volkswagen advertising, taking stock of successful developments.

New Year’s ad

Chronicle 1953: New Year’s ad
In its 1953 New Year’s ad “Immer mehr und immer besser!“ (“Just keeps getting better...”) designed by Hans Looser, Volkswagen also looks back on an excellent performance.

Statistics of the Year

Chronicle 1953: Statistics of the Year


January 1

The dealership organisation in Germany comprises 66 main distributors, 239 dealers and 531 contract service centres. The central registry established at the year-end lists 63 sales managers and 1,997 sales executives in the field sales organisation.

Customer service workshop

Chronicle 1954: Customer service workshop
Sales rise to a total of 205,517 automobiles and 40,739 Transporters, a statistic that emphasizes the growing importance of the sales and customer service sectors. On January 1, 1954, the domestic sales organization encompasses 66 distributors, 239 dealerships and 531 authorized repair shops. A central file set up by the end of the year reveals that external organizations employ 63 sales managers and 1,997 salesmen. A department established in 1953 to promote domestic sales offers dealers a wide range of study courses and issues the weekly publication “Schnell-Information für VW-Verkäufer” (Quick Information for VW Salesmen) as well as the “Brief an VW-Verkaufsleiter” (Sales Manager Bulletin).

Women working in cable production

Chronicle 1954: Women working in cable production
9 percent of the 25,280 employees at Volkswagen are women. As the labor shortage intensifies, this share rises to 12.3 percent by 1962.

Efficient mass production

Chronicle 1954: Efficient mass production
An internal report on the condition of the American automobile market identifies technical deficiencies that put the company at a disadvantage in comparison to the American competition, and leads Volkswagen to increase production rationalization in order to compensate. By modifying the organizational structure, moving to conveyor-belt assembly and automating production, the company completes the changeover to large-scale standard production.

Training apprentices

Chronicle 1954: Training apprentices
Volkswagen makes sure there is plenty of skilled talent: in 1954 eight commercial apprentices and 143 technical apprentices complete their training.

Trunk with spare wheel

Chronicle 1954: Trunk with spare wheel
In the unlikely event that a Volkswagen breaks down the driver will find a spare wheel and tools under the hood of the Beetle.


Chronicle 1954: Sambabus
The version of the Transporter described in the brochures quite simply as the “eight-seater special model” became affectionately known as the famous “Sambabus“. In 2001 Volkswagen re-interprets this automobile legend in the “Microbus” study.

At leisure with a Volkswagen

Chronicle 1954: At leisure with a Volkswagen
In 1954 there is still a long way to go before the automobile is associated with leisure pursuits in Germany. The Volkswagenwerk sells most of its vehicles to businesses and tradespeople. Only 13 percent of the new cars sold in 1954 find their way into private garages.


Chronicle 1954: September
Managing Director Heinrich Nordhoff submits his plan for further rationalisation and expansion of capacities to the Supervisory Board. In his submission, Nordhoff requests efficiency investments in cutting and non-cutting machining, as well as an expansion of capacities by around a quarter to a daily output of 1,250 passenger cars and 220 Transporters. By modifying the organisational structure, moving to conveyor belt assembly and automating production, the company completes the transition to large-scale mass production over the the following years.

October 1

Chronicle 1954: October 1
There are 82 sale agencies outside of Germany, including subsidiaries in Brazil and Canada. 70 percent of foreign sales are generated by the successful general importers in Europe, especially in Belgium, Sweden, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Global market orientation is profitable for both the company and its distributors.

New Year’s ad

Chronicle 1954: New Year’s ad
“Von allen Seiten besehen” (“Viewed from every angle...”): the Volkswagenwerk can indeed put the spotlight on rising production and sales figures in 1954.

Statistics of the Year

Chronicle 1954: Statistics of the Year


February 10

Chronicle 1955: February 10
Sick pay is introduced for wage-earner employees of Volkswagenwerk GmbH. The right, embedded in the collective pay agreement, is accompanied by a number of new fringe benefits that imbue Volkswagenwerk GmbH with a distinctive employment profile during the 1950s.

July 14

Chronicle 1955: July 14
The Ghia Coupe, developed in co-operation with the coachbuilder Karmann, is launched in Georgsmarienhütte, Lower Saxony. With its stylish Italian design, 30 horsepower engine, hydraulic brakes and front axle stabiliser, the two-seater is a highly sporty model. Based technically on the export model, the Ghia Coupe features indicator lights as opposed to the Volkswagen saloon’s mechanical trafficators. Priced at DM 7,500, the Type 14 sells 664 units in Germany in its first year.

Adenauer at the Volkswagenwerk

Chronicle 1955: Adenauer at the Volkswagenwerk
State visit: on April 22, 1955, German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer visits the Volkswagenwerk in Wolfsburg, which is to become a flagship of the West German economic miracle in the years to come.

Heinrich Nordhoff and the workforce

Chronicle 1955: Heinrich Nordhoff and the workforce
31,569 Volkswagen employees and Heinrich Nordhoff – the workforce and General Director of what is by far Germany’s largest car maker.

Karmann Ghia Coupé

Chronicle 1955: Karmann Ghia Coupé
The Ghia Coupé, developed in cooperation with the coachbuilders Karmann, goes into production.

July 21

Chronicle 1955: July 21
Volkswagen United States Inc., based in New York, is founded as a market research and observation instrument. On August 10, 1955, the US Volkswagen subsidiary acquires a factory in New Brunswick, New Jersey, from the Studebaker-Packard Corporation in order to begin assembly of Volkswagens in the USA. The plans are cancelled however. A study of the projected costs reveals that the high wages paid in the USA would make it impossible to manufacture a product of consistent quality at a competitive price.

The customer and the new car

Chronicle 1955: The customer and the new car
Even though only 18 percent of the 134,267 vehicles delivered in Germany in 1955 are sold to private customers, for many Germans their dream car sports the Volkswagen emblem on its hood.

August 5

Chronicle 1955: August 5
Employees and dealers from Germany and abroad celebrate the production of the one millionth Volkswagen in Wolfsburg.

October 27

Chronicle 1955: October 27
As the successor to Volkswagen United States Inc., which will later be dissolved, Volkswagen of America, Inc. is founded in Newark, New Jersey. After plans for production in the USA are cancelled, the company assumes the functions of a sales organisation. Its head office is moved to Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. With offices in New York and in San Francisco, the US Volkswagen subsidiary handles the import of  Volkswagens starting in January 1956, reorganising the dealer network based on stringent service requirements and overhauling the presentation of the brand. As most dealers also represent a number of other manufacturers apart from Volkswagen, it is impossible for them to fulfil the obligatory after-sales responsibilities to customers. In 1956, 42,884 Beetles and 6,666 Transporters are sold in the USA. The sales and customer service network, which now embraces 15 main distributors and 342 dealers, is rapidly enlarged in line with the continuously growing sales figures.

New Year’s ad

Chronicle 1955: New Year’s ad
“Präzision und Qualität in höchster Vollendung...” (“Precision and quality in the greatest perfection...”): The 1955 New Year’s ad designed by Hans Looser describes the Volkswagen Beetle as the very best in precision and quality.

Volkswagen ad

Chronicle 1955: Volkswagen ad
“Immer größer wird der Kreis...” (“More and more people...”) The circle of Volkswagen fans keeps on growing. The accuracy of this statement is confirmed in 1954 by a year-on-year production increase of 80,000 vehicles.

Statistics of the Year

Chronicle 1955: Statistics of the Year


March 8

Chronicle 1956: March 8
After a one-year construction period, the new plant in Stöcken near Hanover starts producing the Transporter model. The Supervisory Board agreed to the decentralisation of production on January 24, 1955, because higher demands required increased capacity, which could no longer be met because of the limited pool of workers in the Wolfsburg area. By transferring production to Hanover, it was now possible to expand Beetle production in the plant at Wolfsburg, thus keeping up with increasing demand. With a workforce of 6,044 employees, yearly production of the Transporter rises from 62,500 to 91,993 vehicles in 1957. About 60,000 units are exported. In the autumn of 1957, construction of a new engine plant begins in Hanover, which starts production on March 25, 1959.

Changing shifts in Wolfsburg

Chronicle 1956: Changing shifts in Wolfsburg
Just over ten years have passed in Wolfsburg since series production of the sedan began in December 1945. Productivity has risen significantly since then: in 1946 the shortage of materials and high manpower fluctuation limited the average production output of an employee to 1.2 Volkswagen per year. With completion of the first stage of production reorganization along the lines of Ford mass production in 1956, the Volkswagenwerk increases productivity almost tenfold to 11 vehicles per employee.

Conveyor belt in Wolfsburg

Chronicle 1956: Conveyor belt in Wolfsburg
The Volkswagenwerk in Wolfsburg builds a total of 333,190 Beetles in 1956. 55 percent are delivered to 115 foreign markets, either fully finished or as CKD kits, with the USA taking pole position with 74,920 vehicles.

Bubi Scholz visits the Volkswagenwerk

Chronicle 1956: Bubi Scholz visits the Volkswagenwerk
Boxing legend Bubi Scholz visits the Volkswagenwerk on April 10 – and learns about the boxer engine.

Hubcap production

Chronicle 1956: Hubcap production
Wolfsburg accessoires: over 1.5 million Beetle and Transporter hubcaps are manufactured in 1956.

Transporter production in Hanover

Chronicle 1956: Transporter production in Hanover
62,500 Transporter leave the Volkswagen plant in Hanover-Stöcken in 1956. The pickup version of the workhorse costs 5,975 DM in 1956.

Panorama of the Alps

Chronicle 1956: Panorama of the Alps
Compared with the previous year the share of sales to private customers in Germany more than doubles to 26.6 percent. More and more Germans are using their beloved status symbol to go on holiday.

September 10

Chronicle 1956: September 10
In order to strengthen its position on the South African market, Volkswagenwerk GmbH acquires 38 percent of the shares in South African Motor Assemblers and Distributors Ltd. (SAMAD), a mainly British-owned company in Uitenhage which imports Volkswagens in kit form and then independently assembles and sells them. In 1957, the share-holding is increased to 57.6 percent.

New Year’s ad

Chronicle 1956: New Year’s ad
The obligatory New Year’s ad “Einmalig und millionenfach bewährt” (“One in a million and proven a million times over”) by Hans Looser announces the good news for 1956.

Beetle ad

Chronicle 1956: Beetle ad
“Seine bessere Häfte” (“His better half”) Design: Hans Looser. A man with a big smile and his car – the perfect symbiosis of driver and Volkswagen. Gone are the days when adverts were published in simple shades of grey. Strong colors attract the reades’ attention and convey the bright bond between man and car.

Commercial “Palette dansante”

Chronicle 1956: Commercial “Palette dansante”
The Beetle stars in the “Palette dansante” commercial.

Statistics of the Year

Chronicle 1956: Statistics of the Year


April 1

Chronicle 1957: April 1
An agreement between the Works Council and Volkswagen management reduces working hours for shift-workers to 40 hours a week, and for standard employees to 42.5 hours a week. As a result, most employees now work a 40-hour week with no reduction in pay.

April 1

Chronicle 1957: April 1
Alfred Hartmann becomes Chairman of the Volkswagenwerk GmbH Supervisory Board.

Wolfsburg storage yard

Chronicle 1957: Wolfsburg storage yard
The transformation of the German passenger car market is also visible in Wolfsburg. The changes in vehicle taxation shift the focus from businesses and tradespeople to private owners. Even though production increases to 380,561 Beetle, the Volkswagenwerk cannot keep up with the boom in demand triggered by these changes. At the end of 1957 delivery time for a Volkswagen is already eight months.

September 19

Chronicle 1957: September 19
The two-seater Volkswagen Karmann Ghia convertible is launched in Osnabrück. Built by Karmann in Osnabrück, and technically identical to the coupe, the elegant model priced at DM 8,250 is targeted at the growing number of fresh-air fans.

December 6

Chronicle 1957: December 6
Volkswagen establishes Volkswagen (Australasia) Pty. Ltd., based in Melbourne, to produce Volkswagens with locally sourced components. In 1958, the Australian Volkswagen subsidiary acquires the stock of the former authorised importer, Volkswagen Distributors Pty. Ltd., which now assumes responsibility for service. After Volkswagen Australasia begins assembling vehicles from kits in January 1959, production capacity is increased by the construction of new factory buildings. The acquisition of Allied Iron Founders Pty. Ltd. in 1959 serves the same purpose. The company is renamed Volkswagen Manufacturing (Australia) Pty. Ltd. and in 1962, together with Volkswagen Australasia, switches its operations from assembly to production. The Australian subsidiaries add reconditioning of replacement engines to their portfolio in 1963.


Chronicle 1957: Sedan
Clear view for the sedan: rear window and windscreen are now much larger.

December 31

Chronicle 1957: December 31
After the release of the last remaining site from British control, the production line in Braunschweig is modified to meet the demands of Fordist mass production in Wolfsburg and Hanover. A phase of rationalisation follows which is accompanied by an expansion of production capacities and manufacturing processes. Shed 3, covering 25,000 square metres, is completed by the end of 1957 and takes on the construction of front axles for the saloon previously located in Wolfsburg.

Annual Report

Chronicle 1957: Annual Report
According to the 1957 Annual Report, 472,554 are produced in that year and the workforce totals 43,395 employees. The Volkswagenwerk reports a profit of 7.4 million DM.

New Year’s ad

Chronicle 1957: New Year’s ad
Same procedure as last year: Hans Looser again illustrates the Volkswagenwerk’s success with the New Year’s ad “Volkswagen fand den Weg” (“VW has found the way”).

Beetle ad

Chronicle 1957: Beetle ad
Volkswagen creativity: “Wer schöpferisch arbeitet, kommt weiter mit einem VW.” (“Creative people get further with a VW.”)

Statistics of the Year

Chronicle 1957: Statistics of the Year


Assembly line in Wolfsburg

Chronicle 1958: Assembly line in Wolfsburg
In 1958, 451,526 sedans pass along the assembly line in the as yet unfinished Hall 3 in Wolfsburg. Relocation of axle production to Hanover creates capacity and accelerates the pace of production in Wolfsburg to a daily output of 1,961 vehicles.

Gearbox production

Chronicle 1958: Gearbox production
44,004 Volkswagen employees contribute to the company’s success, including those who operate the milling machines in gearbox production at the Wolfsburg plant. The share of manual production is still high and it takes 74.6 hours to build a vehicle.

June 16

Chronicle 1958: June 16
Hans Busch becomes Chairman of the Volkswagenwerk GmbH Supervisory Board.

Transporter production

Chronicle 1958: Transporter production
The commissioning of new plant sections such as engine production enlarges production capacity in Hanover. Fordist large-scale production begins; here, too, conveyor belts move bodies-in-white to the next production stage. A total of 105,562 vehicles are built by the end of the year.

June 23

Chronicle 1958: June 23
Engine reconditioning is moved from Wolfsburg to Altenbauna near Kassel. After a year of rebuilding and repairing the former aircraft engine plant bought from Henschel & Sohn GmbH, a new factory is opened to supply the Volkswagen organisation with reconditioned engines, axles and other parts. The workforce increases in 1959 to 1,124 employees, who recondition 430 engines and 130 axles a day. During the next few years, the buildings are gradually replaced by new ones. Shed 1 is built in 1959/60 for the production of gearboxes. In July 1964, shed 2 goes into operation. In addition to frame construction and a press shop, it houses the extensive parts store and packing department.


Chronicle 1958: Sedan
Although the form stays the same, details continuously improve the technology, safety and comfort of the Beetle: a larger wing mirror introduced in 1958 makes overtaking in the Volkswagen Beetle safer.

Karmann Ghia Cabriolet

Chronicle 1958: Karmann Ghia Cabriolet
Timeless elegance and an immediate best-seller: production of the Karmann Ghia Cabrios soars from 105 vehicles in 1957 to 4,392 in 1958.

Annual Report

Chronicle 1958: Annual Report
Due to the reversal of provisions, the company reports a net profit of 319.3 million DM in 1958 compared with a profit of 7.4 million in the previous year.

New year’s ad

Chronicle 1958: New year’s ad
Hans Looser’s New Year’s ad “Man bleibt ihm treu, weil er sich selber treu bleibt!” (“We stay true to it because it stays true to itself.”) announces new records for 1958.

Statistics of the Year

Chronicle 1958: Statistics of the Year


Volkswagen in Wolfsburg

Chronicle 1959: Volkswagen in Wolfsburg
The Beetle is not just a familiar sight in Wolfsburg: every third car in Germany is a Beetle. The market share is 31.5 percent, the recommended retail price for the sedan is 3,790 DM.

Final assembly hall in Wolfsburg

Chronicle 1959: Final assembly hall in Wolfsburg
With production totaling 705,243 vehicles, Volkswagen holds a 40.5 percent share of the German automobile market.

Works meeting in Wolfsburg

Chronicle 1959: Works meeting in Wolfsburg
General Director Heinrich Nordhoff informs the workforce about the discussion to privatize the Volkswagenwerk at a works meeting in the Wolfsburg plant. The employees enjoy greater social benefits as a result of the successes achieved during the current financial year.

The new office building in Wolfsburg

Chronicle 1959: The new office building in Wolfsburg
The new office building not only solves the space problem. The 13-storey building is also an expression of growing corporate success.

Final assembly line in Wolfsburg

Chronicle 1959: Final assembly line in Wolfsburg
From Wolfsburg to the world: 575,407 sedans pass through the final assembly lines in Hall 12 in Wolfsburg, representing a further 27 percent increase in annual production at the plant.

August 17

Chronicle 1959: August 17
Volkswagen of America, Inc. starts a professional advertising campaign in order to regain the market shares lost to European competitor Renault as well as to US manufacturers as a result of their compact car sales push. In co-operation with the advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach Inc., Volkswagen initiates a successful and legendary ad campaign. This produced a number of classics, such as “Think small”, “Lemon”, and “Nobody is perfect”. The market segment targeted by Volkswagen is not substantively affected by the larger US compact car manufacturers. While European competitors suffer a decline in sales, Volkswagen is able to increase its import share from 20 percent to 32 percent in 1960.

Changing shifts in Wolfsburg

Chronicle 1959: Changing shifts in Wolfsburg
Going home across the “Wache Steg”. 36,124 employees come and go every day at the Wolfsburg factory.

November 18

Chronicle 1959: November 18
The new car factory in São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil, is officially opened. The former assembly plant is now an independent manufacturing unit, with a press shop, body shop, paint shop, an engine construction line, assembly line, and an electroplating department. Transporter production had started back in September 1957. Once the shed for mechanical production is put into operation in 1960, the share of Brazilian parts used in saloon production increases to 90 percent. One year later, Volkswagen do Brasil leads the Brazilian car industry, selling a total of 47,320 vehicles and with a 67 percent increase in sales over the previous year. Its market share grows to 41 percent, while the workforce of more than 8,000 now produces nearly 220 vehicles each working day.

Statistics of the Year

Chronicle 1959: Statistics of the Year


March 11

Chronicle 1960: March 11
Volkswagen France S.A. is founded in Paris to service the French market after the government relaxes import controls from Common Market countries. Volkswagen takes third place behind Fiat and Opel in passenger car imports to France in 1960.

Visit by Willy Brandt

Chronicle 1960: Visit by Willy Brandt
VIP visit: Willy Brandt, Governing Mayor of Berlin and front-runner in the 1961 Federal elections, visits the Volkswagenwerk in Wolfsburg on April 5.

Camping bus

Chronicle 1960: Camping bus
Home on wheels: the Transporter as a camping bus with luggage box on the roof, folding roof, gull-wing doors and bench seat and table satisfied many a dream of hobbies and holidays.


Chronicle 1960: Sedan
Almost every second vehicle in Germany is a Volkswagen: passenger car production in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1960 exceeded 1.6 million vehicles, of which 756,947 are Volkswagens.

Works meeting in Wolfsburg

Chronicle 1960: Works meeting in Wolfsburg
Dialog: Hugo Bork; Chairman of the Works Council, reports on the company’s situation to employees at a works meeting.

Pay packet

Chronicle 1960: Pay packet
In 1960, the average monthly pay packet of a Volkswagen employee is 508 DM. At 3,790 DM, the basic price of the sedan is seven months’ wages.

August 22

Chronicle 1960: August 22
Volkswagenwerk GmbH is transformed into a stock corporation, and the new Volkswagenwerk Aktiengesellschaft is entered in the Register of Companies at the District Court in Wolfsburg. On July 21, 1960, the West German parliament voted by a large majority to approve the Law relating to the privatisation of share rights in Volkswagenwerk GmbH. Pursuant to that law, 60 percent of the company’s stock is sold as so-called “people’s shares”. The remaining 40 percent is divided equally between the Federal Government and the State of Lower Saxony, thus safeguarding state influence over the company.

Annual Report

Chronicle 1960: Annual Report
The first Annual Report of Volkswagenwerk AG Wolfsburg is published in 1960. In that year, the Board of Management comprises Chairman Heinrich Nordhoff, Fritz Frank, Kurt Haaf, Otto Höhne, Julius Paulsen and Wolfgang Siebert.

Ad “Lemon.”

Chronicle 1960: Ad “Lemon.”
Agency: Doyle Dane Bernbach Art Director: Helmut Krone Texter: Julian Koenig Photographer: Wingate Paine “Lemon.” and “Think small.” marked the beginning of the legendardy Beetle campaign in the United States. The ads were based on the rules for Beetle publicity: “If there is a VW style, then it is to say what we have to say loud and clear, a style that is provocative, unusual, a style tailored to the issue.” (Helmut Schmitz, 1977)


Chronicle 1960: Commercial
The”X für U” (“Don't be fooled”) commercial appeals to potential customers to identify with the brand.

Statistics of the Year

Chronicle 1960: Statistics of the Year
The specified fuel consumption and emission data are determined in accordance with the measurement procedures prescribed by law. 1 January 2022, the WLTP test cycle completely replaced the NEDC test cycle and therefore no NEDC values are available for new type approved vehicles after that date. This information does not refer to a single vehicle and is not part of the offer but is only intended for comparison between different types of vehicles. Additional equipment and accessories (additional components, tyre formats, etc.) can alter relevant vehicle parameters such as weight, rolling resistance and aerodynamics, affecting the vehicle's fuel consumption, power consumption, CO2 emissions and driving performance values in addition to weather and traffic conditions and individual driving behavior. Due to more realistic testing conditions, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions measured according to WLTP will in many cases be higher than the values measured according to NEDC. As a result, the taxation of vehicles may change accordingly as of 1 September 2018. For further information on the differences between WLTP and NEDC, please visit www.volkswagen.de/wltp. Further information on official fuel consumption data and official specific CO2 emissions for new passenger cars can be found in the "Guide to fuel economy, CO2 emissions and power consumption for new passenger car models", which is available free of charge from all sales dealerships and from DAT Deutsche Automobil Treuhand GmbH, Hellmuth-Hirth-Str. 1, D-73760 Ostfildern, Germany and at www.dat.de/co2.