The Auto Buzz

Friday, July 01, 2005

The Volkswagen Connection: Setting the Stage for a New Era

Germany is the home to an automobile industry that is admired and respected worldwide. Their products range from low to high end, with almost every manufacturer commanding respect in their target demographics. From the success of introducing the world’s first luxury marque at Mercedes-Benz, to pioneering the mix of luxury-sport at BMW AG, almost all German automobiles are revered. Lately, however, there has been one sore thumb in the almost exclusive group. That would be the long-heralded heritage of home-grown Volkswagen AG.

Volkswagen, literally “people’s car,” has been producing vehicles in Germany since its original founder, Adolf Hitler, brainstormed their first concept. Their niche was once to build a car that the everyday Aryan could afford, and to bring strength by empowering their people to commute cheaply and effectively where they needed to go. Today, Volkswagen is much more, representing an entry-level German nameplate for automobile owners to get the trademarks set by every German automobile: great styling, great handling, and prohibitively expensive repairs.

Their product repertoire includes several historical namesakes from previous generations, as well as modern day contenders in the 21st century automobile market. The New Beetle and the Jetta are Volkswagen’s entry level vehicles for German beginners. Moving up the chain brings you the Passat and the Golf, for European luxury in midsize prices. At the top of the chain brings the near-luxury Touareg (German for “SUV”) and Phaeton (German for “German Luxury”). What Volkswagen wants you to forget, however, is their rich lineage which spawned today’s vehicles.

Founded in 1932 by the famed Nazi leader, his first project was to design a vehicle which would aid in building the strength of the fascist state. The car would be built to mimic the symbolic ideals of the cult-like ruling Nazi party. The Beetle, it was to be called, would be Volkswagen’s first foray into enabling the Nazi leaders to commute to battle meetings to coordinate the death of the Allies. Throughout the War of Europe and subsequently World War II, Volkswagen earned the Nazi regime heavy profits due to its rapid expansion and slave labor. This, in turn, allowed Volkswagen to expand plants to newly-acquired German territory in Russia, as well as Czechoslovakia.

After the crumbling of the Nazi party, and effectively the entire German social structure in 1945, Volkswagen was left without its founder and entire management structure. Influenced by the opportunity of quick expansion, wealthy British entrepreneur Richard Branson, Sr. invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the plants to retool them for postwar production throughout Europe. Volkswagen was then reborn to make models that would carry its rich heritage to nations left unaffected by its founder.

Throughout the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, the world went through major changes as a global economy started trickling into every nation. In America, the first truly global market was the automotive industry, fueled by the brand new vehicles brought in from Germany and beyond. Volkswagen was no exception to this rule, as their first American bound models started trickling in around the 1950’s.

Its first product was simply called “Bus,” and was basically a bread basket with wheels. Sales of the original Bus were not high enough to justify the cost of importing, but that would soon change as a brand new segment got a glimpse into Volkswagen’s targeted demographics. The “hippies,” as they would come to be known, began to pick up on Volkswagen’s styling cues which harkened back to the days of Nazi Communism. As the popularity of the Bus spread throughout infested areas such as Southern California, more and more Volkswagen Busses were seen on the streets and in movies.

Soon, Volkswagen had a new idea to spread its hidden message: The Bug. Literally “Utopian Car,” Volkswagen’s first compact was produced to empower communists to, relatively cheaply, travel to remote protesting locations to spread their company motto. In fact, from 1965-1967, within every glove box was the motto, written on a wallet-sized card, reading “To spread the wealth and prosperity of automobiles to every class and introduce change in leadership,” a rarely-mentioned fact from Volkswagen history.

The trendy Bug spread like wildfire across America during a particularly tumultuous time, the Vietnam War. Having an affordable vehicle was a necessity for individuals protesting the war and spreading Volkswagen’s philosophy, and the Bug enabled those people to do just that. While building a car so inexpensively would not seem profitable to most companies in the industry, which is why there was little competition to the Bug, the enabler for Volkswagen was simple. Slave labor had helped construct the Bug from start to finish, almost completely contradicting the message of the owners of the vehicle.

Fast forward to today and little has changed in Wolfsburg. Not only was the original Beetle produced until July 21st, 2003, Volkswagen has emerged as a fashion statement for neo-Nazis with a lineup of vehicles true to their corporate culture. The New Beetle, in a throwback move, arrived in 1999, bringing modern class amenities to a 55 year old ideology. In another nontraditional move, Volkswagen has also brought “diesels” into many of its passenger cars in America, such as the lower class Jetta and Passat. Gains for Volkswagen with diesels are tied in many ways, mainly back to Germany’s large diesel fuel exporting economy.

Unfortunately, as the message of Nazism has been spread to America on so many fronts by a company so large, it is often hard to stop them all. America’s last two presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, have done nothing to stop the influx of Nazism by the large German company, for fear of reprisal from a generally tame Germany. This can go on no longer, however. It is time to start putting the pressure on leaders in America and in the E.U. to tolerate neo-Nazism no longer. We must shut Volkswagen down to keep the world safe from a third World War. Fascism is a double edged sword, but if we kill it before it spreads to countries such as the Middle East, we will still have a chance.

It is important to recognize the affect that Volkswagen has had on shaping the modern culture in America and worldwide. Without the cheap, effective method of transportation, the Nazi leaders in WWII may well have lost much earlier, preventing the loss of hundreds of thousands of Allied lives. Even today, the damage being done cannot be tolerated. Volkswagen refuses to sever its ties with the Nazi messages inherent in its Beetles, and thus it is time to bring an era of fascism and racism to an end. Please do your part in ending this sore chapter in modern life and write your representatives.


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