The marque: From unpromising origins has risen to be one of the greats and the core of a vast transnational group.
The history: The "people's car" was famously designed by Ferdinand Porsche on the orders of Adolf Hitler. The aim was to provide a cheap and durable product capable of seating a small family and cruising around Germany's new network of autobahns. It's name was the "KdF - Wagen" (Kraft durch Freude - Strength Through Joy car). The war intervened and military versions of what we now know as the Beetle were made at the VW factory. Post-war, the VW works were offered to Ford and the British Rootes Group, who were dismissive about the car's future. The Beetle went on to out-sell the Model T Ford and only ceased production - in Mexico - this year. VW's early attempts to reduce reliance on their main products - the Beetle and the Type 2 van/bus/ hippy camper - were unsuccessful and by the 1970s the firm had come close to collapse. But the front-wheel drive Passat, Scirocco, Polo and, especially, Golf laid the foundations for later success. VW Group now owns Audi, Seat, Skoda, Lamborghini, Bugatti and Bentley but has been troubled by high labour costs and lukewarm reaction to models such as the flagship Phaeton and Golf V.
Defining model: The Beetle.
They say: "Strength through joy."
We say: VW Golf: the default choice of the undiscerning.
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