PS3260 Term Paper #2
Pang Hsieh Loong, Marcus
Volkswagen: Das Auto and its political impact.
One can be forgiven for overlooking the categories of cars when asked about politics in one’s country – they seemed too commonplace and mundane to be considered anything political. In the mainstream thought, cars are a means of transportation, to travel from one point to another. Some conservationists may argue on the environmental agenda, while others may think of cars as one of the main industries driving the economy. Nothing more is thought of these mean machines that move the world. Yet, the history cars possess has political backgrounds, given that they were considered technological advancements in their early days. Using Volkswagen as the main case study, this paper will examine cars in a political-visual aspect and the impact they have on the people through the ages. It will also consider the consequences of the car – the economical impact by the car industry, environmental impact by the car and the different law and policies enacted for the car and the users. Last but not least, the iconic Volkswagen Beetle will be featured and explained on its influence on the lives of many. As this paper attempts to cover a lot of ground, the focus will be on the impact by Volkswagen on the world.
The History of Volkswagen
The Führer addressed the nation on the Volkswagen.
It is understood that the term ‘Volkswagen’ was a brainchild of Adolf Hitler, the Führer of the Nazi Germany. However, what is less understood is how Volkswagen came about. The supposed ‘People’s Car’ was more than political rhetoric; it was a determination in Hitler’s political ambitions to provide the car to the masses in a time where the Car was out of reach and seemingly for the elite. Although there were cars from the rival companies, like the Mercedes 170H, the Volkswagen was a car company started off from scratch, fueled by the designs by the Chief Designer, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche. Brought together by a car salesman, Jakob Werlin, both Hitler and Porsche discussed ideas of this new project that the Nazi government was willing to embark on. Though there were strong skepticism from the Society of German Automobile Manufacturers and the preparations were taking longer than usual, the interest for the Volkswagen never died down. Herr Wilhelm von Opel, the owner of the Volkswagen’s rival Opel, produced a similar car for the mass public in 1936. Hitler quickly doused water on the Opel project by taking its key supplies of iron and steel under the control of Nazi government, thus making the 1,000 Marks Volkswagen Project a possibility. Along with the Nazi might, the Volkswagen project was rolling with estate, funds and supplies from the Nazi Government. The Führer and committee were led around on the inspection of the Volkswagen. The significance of Volkswagen as a car project is of huge importance here. The term ‘People’s Car’ was no longer a catchphrase for the politicians; it was not bait for the people, but something tangible for the people to admire and work towards. This worked well with the Germans – they were under hard times and the conceptualization of a People’s Car would be the best form of motivation to work hard to join the ranks of developed nations after the double fiasco of World War 1 reparations and the Great Depression. Towards the end of the decade, exhibitions of the car prototypes were present throughout every Nazi parade, giving the German people hope that they soon could afford the car. Never has an image of a car fuelled public hopes, this contributed to a fervent support for the Nazi rule. The Prototypes: The three ready-made prototypes for public viewing. The Volkswagen Project was almost dead at the end of the World War, but for a Major Ivan Hirst and Dr. Heinz Nordhoff, who later became the Managing Director of Volkswagen. The Nazi Government no longer existed; the political mantra behind the project was no longer...
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