In the mid 1930’s Adolf Hitler made the decision that he wanted Germany to produce a basic vehicle that was affordable for more German citizens. At the time, most of the cars produced in Germany were luxury vehicles and too expensive for the average citizen. Hitler laid out very specific criteria for the vehicle that was to be produced which included:
- It must have a top speed of 62 mph
- It must have an air-cooled engine
- It must be able to transport 2 adults and 3 children
- It must cost no more than 1,000 Reich marks (about $140 at the time)
On May 28, 1937, a state-owned factory was sponsored and the Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH (Company for the Preparation of the German Volkswagon LTd) was established. The following year this was renamed to Volkswagenwerk GmbH. Ferdinand Porsche was given the task of designing the vehicle and these designs were completed by 1938. The design was the first generation of what would become the popular Volkswagen Beetle design.
Construction for the factory began in May 1938 in modern day Wolfsburg. With the start of World War II in 1939, only a small number of vehicles were produced before production was shifted from vehicles for citizens to military vehicles. American forces captured the facility in 1945 and then turned it over to the British. It was then used to repair captured enemy vehicles and in time shifted back to producing vehicles for citizens. In 1949, after being under British control for several years, ownership was transferred to the German Government. From there the company continued to expand and turn into what it is today.