Volkswagen, which translates as the 'people's car', was founded in 1937. At this time luxury cars were the most common type of vehicle produced, which obviously put ownership beyond the reach of most people. VW was a state-sponsored project that was intended to produce an affordable car, via a savings scheme, which could transport a family at a top speed of 100km/h. The designer chosen for the project was Ferdinand Porsche.
Although several Volkswagen cars were produced before the outbreak of the Second World War, none was ever presented to an individual with a completed savings book. The war saw production change to military vehicles, but once hostilities ended a British Army officer by the name of Ivan Hirst was placed in control of the remaining factories. He persuaded the British Army to order a number of cars, due to a shortage of light transport, which saved the factories from closure.
The company was eventually reformed as a trust and by 1955 over one million Type 1 Volkswagen Beetles had been produced, with international sales starting to grow around the world. Volkswagen sales increased dramatically, thanks to some clever marketing campaigns targeted at younger consumers. The car was affectionately known as the Beetle or the Bug, even though it was not officially part of its name. Although slightly outdated the Beetle continued to sell and by 1972 over 15 million Volkswagen sales had been achieved, making it the best-selling single model of car ever, surpassing the Ford Model T.
Other Volkswagen cars came into production, including the Passat, the Polo and the Golf. These cars helped the company overcome difficult times, with the Golf becoming the mainstay of its range of cars to this day.
However, it is for the Beetle that Volkswagen is best known. A used Beetle is still an extremely common sight around the world. The model even featured in its own series of films with the character of Herbie, an anthropomorphic car.