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The car manufacturer VW is one of the largest in the world. Volkswagen AG also owns other makes of cars such as Audi and Škoda, as well as luxury brands such as Bugatti and Porsche. The company was founded in 1937. Near the end of the 1930s, the principal factory started its operations in Wolfsburg. After WWII the British occupying powers had jurisdiction over the facilities.
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Already in 1945, the first series of the famous Beetle were produced – a car which is regarded as a symbol of the West German economic miracle until today. Ten years later, the millionth Volkswagen came out of the factory. In 1960, the company was privatized. The next decade is marked by the transition from Beetle to Golf. On the one hand, the demand for the Beetle, which was produced in its "original" form until 2003, declined at the beginning of the 1970s, on the other hand in 1972 Volkswagen broke the world-wide record of production. At the same time, the company benefitted from the acquisition of a plant by Audi-NSU-Auto-Union AG in Ingolstadt in the mid-1960s. In this way, the models Passat, Polo and Golf were developed and successfully established together with the subsidiary enterprise Audi.
The Golf, which is today in its seventh generation, is one of the world's most built cars. The VW Passat has been built as a middle class model since 1973 and in 2007 was still in the top 10 of the most-built cars of the world. At the end of 1977 another historic trade took place, in which 10,000 cars of the Golf model were delivered to the former GDR, East Germany.
In return, the planetarium in the main company’s domicil Wolfsburg received equipment from Carl Zeiss Jena.
Since the mid-1980s, Volkswagen took over large parts of Seat and in 1991 the Czech brand Škoda was bought. Since 1998 with the introduction of the VW Lupo and following models VW Fox and VW up! the company met the expactions of the “urban” and “dynamic type”, which as a short-distance driver quickly wants to slip into the free parking space. Known as microcars, the models are namely designed specifically to move around in the city. The Lupo was the first compact car introduced by VW on the market to be considered a mini-car, below the size of regular small cars.
With the VW New Beetle and its follow-up model VW Beetle, Volkwagen wanted to take up and connect with the heritage of the Beetle and its retro design. Following this spirit, the Passat model is also constantly being developed further. The limousine named VW Phaeton exceeded all expectations with its great distribution and sales especially in China, while the sales in the US and on other markets were lower than expected. China is in fact the company’s largest sales market.
Certainly in this case the company benefited from the foresighted behavior of its executives in the 1980s, when it also settled in China for the production of VW Santanas. Among enthusiasts and travelers the VW Bus, in Germany also called Bulli, is a true classic, whose first prototype rolled off the production line in 1948 and is still produced today. Its great symbolic value arose within the hippie movement and its subsequent cinematic and artistic reception, which always praised mobility and freedom.
The sporty side of driving was also never neglected by Volkswagen. The company has been involved in motorsport since the 1960s. The first racing series called Formula Vau (Formula V) had its days of glory in this and the following decade, while generally several Formula One world champions began their career with the Volkswagen series. The first brand trophy series was the Scirocco Cup, followed by the Golf and Polo Cup.
In 1978 Jochi Kleint won the Estering Cup, a precursor to the German Championship in the sport of Rally, in a VW Golf. In the same year he also took part in the Rallyecross European Championship with the same car. Other first victories include that of Freddy Kottulinsky, who won the Dakar in his VW Iltis in 1980, as well as the victory of Kenneth Eriksson in his VW Golf in the A Group of the World Rally Championship in 1986. While Volkswagen was the engine manufacturer, between 1979 and 1994, world champions such as Bernd Schneider, Joachim Winkelhock, Kris Nissen, Tom Kristensen and Michael Schumacher made numerous victories in the Formula 3 racing circuit. Volkswagen was also involved in touring car racing, most recently in the context of the Volkswagen Scirocco R-Cup as part of the German Touring Car Masters. Additionally, participation in the Dakar Rally was resumed between 2003 and 2011. In 2009, Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz won the Dakar Rally in a VW Race Touareg, the first ever victory with a diesel vehicle. Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz, as well as later Nasser Al-Attiyah and Timo Gottschalk, continued with the same success seamlessly in the two following years. With the full entry into the 2011 World Rally Championship for the 2013 season, the VW Polo went into action again. The French Sébastien Ogier and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia have since won the World Championship title four times. With the completion of the successful year 2016 with its many titles, VW will be closing down its participation in the World Rally Championship. Due to the emissions scandal, the continuation in the motorsport programs is still uncertain, but is definitely intended.