The People’s Car: A Global History of the Volkswagen Beetle by Bernhard Rieger

By Bernhard Rieger

At the Berlin automobile express in 1938, Adolf Hitler provided the prototype for a small, oddly formed, reasonably cheap kin automobile that each one stable Aryans might take pleasure in. a long time later, that automobile-the Volkswagen Beetle-was some of the most cherished on the planet. Bernhard Rieger examines tradition and know-how, politics and economics, and commercial layout and ads genius to bare how a motor vehicle commissioned through Hitler and designed through Ferdinand Porsche grew to become a superb international commodity on a par with Coca-Cola.

past its caliber and occasional expense, the Beetle's luck hinged on its uncanny skill to seize the imaginations of individuals throughout international locations and cultures. In West Germany, it got here to face for the postwar "economic miracle" and helped propel Europe into the age of mass motorization. within the usa, it used to be embraced within the suburbs, after which prized by means of the hippie counterculture as an antidote to suburban conformity. As its recognition waned within the First global, the Beetle crawled throughout Mexico and Latin the US, the place it symbolized a robust sturdiness essential to thrive amid financial instability.

Drawing from a wealth of assets in a number of languages, The People's Car provides a world forged of characters-executives and engineers, reporters and advertisers, meeting line employees and automobile creditors, and daily drivers-who made the Beetle right into a worldwide icon. The Beetle's inconceivable tale as a failed status undertaking of the 3rd Reich which grew to become a world-renowned model illuminates the a number of origins, inventive variations, and persisting inequalities that characterised twentieth-century globalization.

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Extra resources for The People’s Car: A Global History of the Volkswagen Beetle

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German visitors encountered America’s auto culture with incredulity. Arriving in Detroit, engineer Franz Westermann, who took pride in having maintained his composure in the bustle of Manhattan, was reduced to disbelief when he beheld the unending procession of automobiles in Michigan’s motor city. ”33 Westermann’s incredulity illustrates how distant a prospect most Germans considered a “universal motorcar” for their own country. As late as the twenties, motor vehicles still remained a rare sight in many parts of Germany.

Millions of drivers considered the small German automobile not only a good bargain but a “good egg,” drawn to it not least by its distinctive, wholesome, and friendly air. Social and cultural observers have long been puzzled by cars’ intangible qualities. Writing of the sleek and luxurious Citroën DS that made its market debut in the mid-1950s, Roland Barthes famously went so far as to elevate cars to “almost the exact equivalent of the great Gothic cathedrals” of the Middle Ages. ” Rather than possessing an intrinsic worth, they gain their value in complex social processes that, in turn, establish myriad social relations.

When the British, French, and German publics began to discuss plans for a “people’s car” in the interwar period, they strove to replicate Ford’s accomplishments under European conditions. The German translation of My Life and Work, a work that outlines the principles behind Henry Ford’s factory in Highland Park, Michigan, turned into a best seller in Weimar Germany. Among its avid readers was no other than Adolf Hitler. A long-standing admirer of Henry Ford, Hitler initiated the drive for a “people’s car” in National Socialist Germany.

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