Volkswagen, Europe's largest automaker, is known for being truly representative of its name, which means the "people's car" in German. Volkswagen has many subsidiary companies, including Bentley, Lamborghini, Bugatti, SEAT, Audi, and ?koda auto brands, as well as the Scania truck manufacturing company. Though Volkswagen vehicles often have a higher price than the company's competitors (such as non-luxury brands General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Honda, and Toyota in the world's largest auto marketplace, the U.S.), but the company manages to garner sales due to its fantastic reliability reputation and unique, upgraded style. Across Europe, VW's competitors are different, and include Fiat, BMW, Audi, and Porsche.
The Volkswagen, or VW (for short), company began in 1934 when Ferdinand Porsche began to build an inexpensive, small car, per Adolph Hitler's request. Two years later, a sedan debuted, and Hitler had an entire town built to produce the vehicle. Hitler even named this beetle-shaped car, which he called the KdF-wagen. This was short for the Nazi's motto, "Joy Through Strength," when translated to English. Porsche was not happy with this decision, as he was not a politically-driven person.
This Nazi-named vehicle was delayed by WWII, and the newly-built factory was almost completely destroyed during the battles. Eventually, this factory was even occupied by the British Army. At this point, the Volkswagen name came into play, and the factory also changed its name (to Wolfburg, after a man who had been forced to surrender his land for its completion). The factory was completed and mass production began in the late 1940s, and the Beetle made its first appearance in America in 1949. It has since become the best-selling automobile (under one design platform) ever built. Manufactured from 1938 until 2003, the Volkswagen Beetle also holds the honor of being in production the longest. For the 2012 year, the Beetle has been redesigned and revamped for today's generation.
In the 1950s, VW extended its product range by adding the Type 2 Volkswagen Bus to its offerings. The Bus was very popular due to its flexibility of character. Volkswagen also offered the Karmann Ghia sports car around the same time, a two-seater that feature a lustrous Italian design perched atop a VW Beetle body. In the 1960s, the VW Beetle's popularity continued to grow, and by the decade's end, over one million had been sold. By 1972, the Beetle topped the famous Ford Model T in sales numbers.
In addition to the Beetle, another one of Volkswagen's great accomplishments during the 1970s was its front-wheel-driving water-cooled engines that were mounted in the front. The first Volkswagen to use this system was the Volkswagen Passat, a very popular mode that is still in production today. It was soon joined by the (also popular) VW Golf. These models were originally named the Dasher and Rabbit in the U.S., but have since been changed. Other sporty new vehicles also joined during this decade, but the Beetle was discontinued in the U.S. for several years. Volkswagen continues to grow with each year and commands a powerful place in the global market for non-luxury, but well appointed, vehicles.