Friday 28th May 1937
The government of Germany–then under the control of Adolf Hitler of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party–formed a new state-owned automobile company, then known as Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH. Later that year, it was renamed simply Volkswagenwerk, or “The People’s Car Company”. The government allocated 480,000 reichmarks as start-up capital for the construction of a new factory, and on 26 May, 1938, Hitler laid the foundation stone in the Stadt des KdF-Wagens – renamed Wolfsburg in 1945, and still the home of Volkswagen today. After WWII, the factory found itself in the British occupied sector of Germany and was handed over to Major Ivan Hirst to run on behalf of the British military government. He persuaded the British Army to order 20,000 cars for its occupying personnel, effectively saving the company from ruin. The business, now renamed just Volkswagen was offered to various US and British car companies, who all rejected it. So in 1949, the company was made into a trust controlled by the West German government, and administered by the state of Lower Saxony, which still owns 20%. The German federal government floated its stake on the German stockmarket in 1960. The company went from strength to strength, becoming a potent symbol of German post-war regeneration. It suffered problems in the 1970s, but came back stronger to become the world’s second-largest vehicle-maker, behind Toyota.