Happy 75th Anniversary! A brief history of VW.

From “Beetle”mania to VW going electric: a brief history of VW in America

The Beatles arrived in the US on February 7th, 1964. It was a big deal. Beatlemania took over the country. Women screamed and cried tears of joy. Yes, Jon, Paul, George and Ringo were the first Beatles to arrive in the US. But they were not the first Beetles to arrive in the US.

In 1949 two Beetles arrived in New York accompanied by Dutch businessman Ben Pon. Officially named the Volkswagen Type 1, Mr. Pon struggled to sell the cars affectionately called The Beetle. Just a few years later in 1955 VW of America was formed to help sell the Beetles, and when the iconic “Think Small” ad ran in 1959, sales really took off. I guess you could say “Think Small” was the Beetle's first single.

Once “Beetle”mania took hold in America it was time for the Bus and models like the Karmann Ghia to join the band in the 60’s. Followed soon by the likes of the Dasher and Squareback. More fuel-efficient models like the Scirocco joined the lineup, followed by the Golf with its American name—the Rabbit.

Then in 1978, the people's demand for “the people’s car” (Volkswagen) grew so great in the US that the first plant in America was built in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania. The plant would go on to create 1.1 million Rabbits (I guess Rabbits really can reproduce).

In the 1980’s and 90’s Volkswagen introduced the wildly popular Jetta and Passat to the US market. Then production at VW came full circle when they unveiled the Concept 1, the new Beetle. The demand was so great, that “Beetle”mania was reborn in 1998 when the reimagined Beetle hit showroom floors (on a personal note my Mom still drives her 1998 Beetle and it even has a flower on the dash, true story).

Fast forward to 2008 when the people building “the people's car” built “the people’s plant” (a phrase I just made up) in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Since then, VW has pumped more than 4 billion dollars into its flagship US plant creating 125,000 jobs.

In July 2022, VW took its first step into the future when the Chattanooga plant “the people’s plant” (I think it’s catching on) began production of its all-electric ID.4 compact SUV. The first electric VW vehicle assembled in the United States. The plant also churns out the award-winning Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport SUVs.

And, at last, in 2024 VW plans its most ambitious and awe-inspiring vehicle yet when they once again reimagine one of their greatest hits. Later this year, Volkswagen will introduce the all-electric ID. Buzz - also known as “the electric bus.”

Today there are over 600 Volkswagen dealerships in the US and in 2023 over 300,000 VW’s were sold here. We’ve come a long way from the two Beetles Mr. Pon was trying to sell in 1949.

So there you have it. A brief history of Volkswagen, “The people's car.” Happy 75th Anniversary, Volkswagen. Here’s to another 75 years of success and innovation in the United States.

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