One of things that never ceases to amaze me about Eugene is just how many old VW Beetles are still in daily driver use. One day I was running an errand, and I swear I counted eight or nine, parked or in traffic. And that’s just in the course of maybe forty-five minutes or less. I should really document them all, before they disappear. Never mind; they’ll never disappear. This is a forty-three year old car designed eighty years ago still being used as a daily driver, and I’ll bet there will still be some being used that way when the design is a hundred years old.
I’ve got Beetles on the brain, as I’m in the midst reading Karl Ludvigsen’s excellent book “Battle for the Beetle”, which covers the years from the start of the project through the rise of VW in the 1950s, including Ford’s clear interest in merging VW with its German operations, which only didn’t happen because the Ford exec in charge never really followed through. Now that would have changed history.
There’s a lot of detail that I hadn’t read before; the VW story is an amazing one, and I never tire of it. Hitler set out to build the first true European mass-produced car (1 million per year), at a time when the whole German auto industry was producing 127,000 cars per year. He wanted VW to follow Henry Ford’s footsteps; a bold and brazen undertaking, which was only delayed by the war, and then came back from a near-death to take the world by storm. And today VW is much bigger than Ford.
And looking at this shot, I see we have all of the global Big Three represented. And in a rather representative manner, at that. The Beetle spearheaded the import invasion in the US and launched VW into the big leagues. The Lexus represents Japan’s remarkable ability to co-opt the American premium market. And GM is making the lion’s share of its profits with trucks.