Shower gels and generally beauty-product brands have a way of appealing to customers by thrusting desire through sensorial-related names and presentation of their offers. Olfactory sense-stroking balms and soothing cashmere-touch night cream-approaches are basically the most commonly used methods of conveying beauty and easy customer-access to deeply-rooted sensorial pampering, unless beauty is forged out of steel and thousands of accurately engineered parts.
Automobiles undoubtedly fall into the latter category, and what better way of striking at least one of the remaining three senses if not building an image of a mighty engine roar or purr of a loyal cylinder sextet cradled under the bonnet of an Audi car? Audi translates as ‘listen’ from latin and besides expressing an unanimously accepted passion of the motorist, that of listening to the engine as if it were a never before heard dissertation on mechanics blended with boisterous ‘deux ex machina’ comments and demonstrations, it also marks the birth of Audi following Horch’s demise, the previous name of the company that can be traced back to 1899.
Its founder, August Horch was forced out of his own company in 1909 due to trademark infringements, 8 years after the first automobile had rolled out the gates of the plant in Zwickau, Germany. After having been dispensed of, Horch started his own company under the same name which led to a fair share of trouble that came to an end as soon as Horch called for a meeting at the apartment of Franz Fikentscher to discuss the matter and come up with a new name for the company. Franz’s son who was studying latin at the time was the true deliverer of the name that would later became synonymous with luxury and quality. As ‘Horch’ means listen in Old German, the boy simply made a switched the name with its latin corespondent, ‘audi’, sparking enthusiasm into the ‘audience’ that quickly adopted the name.
Audi’s start o the German market was high lighted by the appearance of 2.6 liter engine powered vehicles followed by a series of more powerful ones, such as 4.7 L and the gas-gulping 5.7 L. Having gotten to see his company grow wings, Horch left in in 1920, four years before Audi’s first 6 cylinder model was built. In 19128, Audi was acquired By Jorgen Rasmussen, owner of rival company DKW.
A few years later, a merger between Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer occurred and thus, the Auto Union was formed in 1932. Those times called for a new badge and the four interlocked rings were born as a sign of unity and identity of the newly formed auto-conglomerate. Technological improvement became a top priority that first took shape during the Second World War when an armored car was produced for the German Army.
However, all the progress would soon be severely slowed down and even halted at times due to heavy bombings. Moreover, as as soon as the conflict had come to an end, Zwickau had been caught in the soviet occupation zone that would become The German Democratic Republic in 1949. Not only that the company’s activity was in jeopardy but the Auto Union had also broken up and the Union had to be restarted n new grounds, in Ingolstadt, Bavaria.
Though sluggish at first, the newly Ingolstadt based factory would attract many of the former workers and the construction of two-stroke engines would be resumed in a way similar to that of Zwickau. By 1958, Daimler-Benz had already acquired a whopping 87% of the Auto Union but its investment quickly became property of Volkswagen, the company having bought the factory and and the brands in 1964.
Soon after the change of ownership, two-stroke engines would be eliminated in favor of the more popular and more customer appealing four-stroke ones. DKW, the leading brand of the Union at the time failed as a brand despite of the changes it had made and Volkswagen decided to resurrect Audi. The former DKW built model was rebranded as an Audi one and was the springboard for the make of later models such as the 60, 75 and 80.
After a second merger with the Stuttgart based car-producer NSU by 1970, Audi established itself as a reliable growing brand that would later break the German boundaries and expand to new markets, including the North American one where it encountered difficulties following the release of a biased report that portrayed the car as suffering form ‘unintended acceleration’. This was caused by the close placement of the brake and acceleration pedals, right next to each other. Shortly after the report was released , an abrupt decline in sales was registered that was countered only years later with the 1996 release of the A4 model.
Joining a row of successful car-producers, Audi has also garnered acclaim on the racing track with several World Record holdings, including one for Top Speed Endurance. Audi is currently enjoying a privileged position and large market share and is predicted to reach the production threshold of 1 million units by the end of this year.
Contrary to some opinions, BMW does not stand for Best Motors in the World company. Sure, BMW-branded automobiles are regarded as being some of the few engineering forms close to perfection, but the letters stand for something less boisterous and more good-natured: Bayerische Motoren Werke or Bavarian Motor Works.
The secret to their success does not lie in precise astrological predictions or mischievous and blatant employ of corporate espionage, but rather in a dedication to quality and constant pursuit of excellence. Unlike most of the auto manufacturers out there, BMW hasn’t focused on a vehicle as a whole but started from its primary source of power, the engine, which has been perfected by generations of engineers over a close-to-a-century time span. The ‘cardio-approach’ BMW took resulted into obscenely efficient performance-happy engines that literally rocketed the company formed by Karl Friedrich Rapp in October 1913 straight to the sky.
Rapp’s company, ‘Rapp-Motorenwerke’ – that would later become BMW – focused mainly on aircraft engines due to the large demand at the time, fueled by the imminence of Wold War I. Despite the need for aircraft engines, Rapp failed to sale his powerplants due to a reliability flaw caused by unwanted engine vibrations. However, his neighbor Gustav Otto, who was also the owner of an aircraft engine plant, enjoyed a great deal of success.
Struggles to keep ‘Rapp-Motorwerke’ afloat failed and, by 1916, Karl Rapp resigned under the weight of the financial difficulties that had been pressing against the factory’s lungs for a few years. As in the case of other car brands, such as Bentley or Aston Martin, expected and highly predicable ‘Hollywoodian’ rescuers came along and fended off the threats. Austrian triumvirate formed by new company owners Franz-Josef Popp and financier Camillo Castiglioni relaunched the Motoren Werke by persuading Gustav Otto into a merger that would prove mutually beneficial. Thus, the ‘Bayerische Flugzeug-Werke’ or BFW was formed.
Shortly after the new entity was born, its name turned into the murmur of what would later become a shout-out for quality automobiles: BMW. By the time the 20’s came with the Charleston and its afferent bizarre fashion sense, BMW had already developed a range of highly-appreciated airplane engines that had garnered tons of acclaim – especially after the 1918-improved Type IIIA engine successfully powered a biplane to the impressive height of 16,404 feet in a mere 29 minutes.
The beginning of the 20’s also happily slapped BMW with its still unchanged to this day logo, mimicking the motion of a white propeller on a sky-blue background. While enjoying the heights of an appreciated and sought for brand, BMW was brutally pulled back to earthy existence once the World War was over. The Treaty of Versailles prohibited BMW from continuing its activity and the company switched to manufacturing air brakes for railway cars.
Forced by the Versailles-imposed conditions, the company found itself searching for other alternatives and soon enough came to focus on developing motorcycle engines. Over a two-year period of time (from 1920 to 1922), BMW built two motorcycle models, the Victoria and the Flink. Their success was consequently marked by the building of the first BMW factory, that would further kick the brand to new heights.
Although BMW motorcycles encountered sales problems due to defective suspension, the company still managed to hold a constant leading position in aeronautical engineering. By 1927 the company was the proud holder of just over one third of the aviation records of those time, with an astonishing 29 out of an overall 87. Two-wheeled vehicles quickly turned into four-wheeled ones in 1928, when the Austin license-built Dixi 3/15 rolled out the factory doors.
Only one year later, BMW made the headlines once again, this time by setting a new motorcycle-speed record through their Ernst Henne ridden 750 cc bike, that reached the speed of 134.65 mph (216.75 km/h).
Swinging from breaking world records to engineering innovations, BMW hit the bull’s eye once more in 1932, with the launch of their new car model, the 3/20 PS. The 782 cc 4 cylinder powered car was the first one independently produced by BMW. Shortly after the waves of acclaim generated by the new machine, the company announces its next model, the 303 saloon, that would bring a persistent trait in all future BMW engine configurations: the 6 cylinder one.
Only years after the launch of the 303 in 1933, BMW continued its world record breaking streak, at the same time with the beginning of a new chapter in its cylinder-powered existence: the development of the company’s first roadster, the 328 model (1936), and a row of motor sport wins over the following two years.
As time passed by, BMW got bigger and bigger and, shortly before the Wold War II outbreak, took over some more factories in the vicinity of Berlin. More motor sport wins were to follow, with Baron Fritz Huschke von Kanstein winning the Mille Miglia race in 1940s.
Needless to mention, war necessities threw the company into military equipment production policies once more. Despite the lengthy world conflict, BMW developed some of its greatest pieces of machinery, such as the R57 Wehrmacht military motorcycle, as well as the 109-300 jet engine which was one of the first jet engines in the world to enter mass production.
After recovering from the 1944 bombings that heavily damaged their plant in Munich, BMW received permission to repair Allied army motorized equipment at their plant in Allach. Due to BMW’s versatility and need for mechanized faming implements and spare parts, the first BMW bicycle was born. Soon after the genesis of the leg-powered two-wheeled vehicle, BMW received a hard blow from the US army, that had ordered the dismantling of the Munich and Allach plants.
After a 5-year absence from the Germany industry, BMW returned in style. Crossing the ocean all the way to New York, BMW debuted their first motorcycle in almost 2 decades – following their last one at the beginning of the 40’s. More success awaited in the line for BMW, as their R68 motorcycle model developed in the 50’s quickly became a standard-setter among international motorcycle manufacturers. Meanwhile a previous model, the R67/2, reached the 100,000 threshold in 1953.
BMW receives further acclaims in the years to come, as it establishes itself as an engineering force to be reckoned with. The 1955 Isetta, powered by a 12/13 hp motorcycle engine, becomes a favorite among customers. The result? Over 160,000 units are sold, transforming the Isetta into a symbol of the post-war decade.
Besides coming up with newer models and bending technological improvements on their cars, BMW also held a privileged position among race winners around the world. After the development of the 507 and 600 models, BMW unleashed a shout of childish joy, grabbing an impressive win in the 1958 Austrian GP, through Ernst Hiller.
With the help of Herbert Quandt, BMW, still a share-owned company, is brought one step closer to independence. Exterior offers of selling or fusion were turned down despite the enormous profits such a transaction would have led to. The 700 model entered the production lines, together with the R69, BMW’s top motorcycle line-up model.
The 60’s brought a multitude of achievements with the 1500 and 1600 series, as well as a range of new sedans, the 2500, 2800, American Bavaria and the 2.5 CS and 2800 CS coupe models. BMW proved once more that it hasn’t left its king-of-the-hill-of-racing spot, as Austrian racing driver Dieter Quester scored several victories in the Formula Two series (as well as a triple European touring car champion title in 1968, 1969 and 1977).
However, BMW did not stop there. After having bestowed a great deal of mechanics magic upon the world, the company resumed its entertainment through development and unveiled the 2002 Turbo model in 1973. Following the success of its earlier aircraft engine, the 2002 Turbo is one of the first ever turbos to enter mass-production.
Production lines that would become worldwide pieces of success soon came out, such as the 6 and 7 series and the recently reconstructed BMW M1 model. By the end of the 70’s, BMW had dug deep into other car-improvement related fields as well, and electronics proved to be the perfect ground for growing BMW’s next generation of computerized car devices. Economic fuel research then became top priority. Not only the company was quick in adapting to the fast-moving tendencies of those times, but it also became a steady and reliable supplier of armored cars for different private and public clients.
Racing never lost its fans, consequently BMW never lost enthusiasm in racing. The 80’s marked (finally) BMW’s involvement in Formula One racing. It was in 1983 that BMW was handed its first title in the series, with Brazilian driver Nelson Piquet becoming king of the Formula One World Racing Championship. At the same time, the 5 series entered a new enhancement stage and was gifted the 518i engine and the powerful M535i. ‘M’ set a new standard in power and stamina. The M5 and M3 models launched in 1985 and 1986 consequently joined the pinnacle of engineering accuracy and true power and beauty among sports cars enthusiasts.
Research started to be heavily reinforced and reached new uncharted areas through the employment of over 6,000 people. Once the Z1 one came along, the profits kept pile-up trend. Caring for the customer and staying ahead of competition was proof enough that BMW had turned into a true, mature brand. Expansion was inevitable and much like a Big Bang, BMW spreads across the world and inaugurated a new car plant in the US, namely in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The models that were in production at the time slowly received touring versions, which helped BMW cover an even larger slice of the market.
BMW would later reveal the Z8, a successor of the 507, who later made it to the movies. The world wasn’t enough and so were BMW’s achievements in their own vision. Since 1999, they have been constantly delivering performance vehicles or ‘motorized attire’ for their wealthy customers out there. Racing has remained a pleasurable and profitable hobby for the German marque, which emerged victorious in three consecutive FIA WTCC seasons from 2005 to 2007. Only recently, BMW engineers and designers paid homage to the M1 through a modern day replica of the sharp-angled 70’s original. Sadly enough, the M1 will not be revived through mass production.
The German luxury car-manufacturer has been around for more than a century, having elegantly drifted the both smooth and rough curves of automobile history. Responsible for the modern internal combustion engine’s genesis, the ‘fathers’ of the Mercedes-Benz brand practically invented the automobile.
Many years ago when mahogany canes and high-top hats were the ultimate fashion and social prominence statements, two men by the names of Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler were busy freeing the world from horse-powered transportation. The 1886 archetype of the modern engine, their device was not a result of team-work but of independent and synchronous research and development. Although both lived in Southern Germany, they never actually met if historical accounts are to be believed.
Despite the equal share of the two engineer’s contribution to the development of the four-stroke petrol engine, it was Gottlieb Daimler who garnered more attention that would eventually lead to world-spread fame. Following Daimler’s successful results in racing, a wealthy Austrian business man by the name of Emil Jellinek became interested in the Unterturkheim-built cars. Daimler and his chief-engineer, Wilhelm Maybach’s work had pleased Jellinek to the extent of him approaching the two with a business proposal: a large number of cars would be ordered in exchange to a name change from Daimler to Mercedes – Jellinek daughter’s name – and the right to alter the car’s designs as well as the right to resell the vehicles in some European countries, including Austria, France and Belgium.
Well before the WWI outbreak, Gotllieb Daimler had gained a reputation for his vehicles that was greater than that of Benz. However, the latter would strive to keep up, managing to stay close to Daimler’s tail. In 1908, both manufacturers shared the podium with winnings in the French Grand Prix.
After having converted their factories to cater for Army demands during WWI, the two rivals were brought together by a a series of circumstances, dictated by precarious economic status and impossibility of self-support. Thus, the Daimler’s Motorengesellshaft merged with Benz & Cie in 1926, morphing into the larger Daimler – Benz AG.
Ever since, Mercedes-Benz cars have been some of the best cars in the world, standing as symbols of flawless quality and cutting edge engineering. In fact, the men behind the brand are responsible for the development of countless improvements that cover every inch of a car’s anatomy.
Despite having been widely criticized for alleged forced employment and violation of human rights during the Second World War, Mercedes – Benz have been successful at building an automotive empire, strongly supported by some of the company’s far-from-average clients, such as state leaders, media moguls and ridiculously rich families.
Mercedes – Benz have become known particularly for their limousines, most of which can be seen in most movies ever since the Lumiere brothers became famous for their ‘little’ invention called cinematography. As if outstanding product quality and world fame weren’t enough, the Mercedes – Benz team has also fathered tons of innovations, many of them targeting the simple four-cylinder engine.
28 years after Otto revealed his prototype of a four-stroke gasoline engine, Wilhelm Maybach perfected his idea and built an engine for Daimler to be used in boats only. Development of the engine that would eventually propel land, water and air vehicles fulfilling Daimler’s dream, took some 8 years before being fitted on the Daimler Phoenix model, the first vehicle in the world to be equipped with such an engine.
Meanwhile, Karl Benz was busy working on a four-cylinder horizontally-opposed piston engine as an improvement of his 1897 contra-design. 1900saw the release of the improved contra-engine and completion of Benz’s work at the time. Some of the advantages the horizontal design had over its in-line counterpart were room and dynamics related. The opposed horizontal placement and firing order of the pistons meant very few vibrations, a lower center of gravity as well as more space for fitting other devices like turbo or superchargers.
The early 1900’s brought forth a second series of engineering innovations with Maybach’s development of the “hammer” engine-design for Daimler that earned its name thanks to its dual-camshaft controlled lateral intake and exhaust valves; Daimler also came up with the Simplex in 1902, a racing car powered by an in-line four cylinder engine that featured overhead intake valves and rod-driven exhaust valves. To ensure low working temperatures, the Simplex design also boasted double walled cylinders to accommodate an even cooling water flow as close as possible to the heat source.
The origins of hybrid vehicles are not as recent as one may think. In fact, they can be traced as far back as the 1900’s, when the Mercedes Mixte range was released. These cars used 45 or 70 hp engines to power electrical generators. A special device, or ‘hub’, was then used to convert the obtained electrical energy into drive power. Built by DMG (Daimler Mottorengesellshaft), the vehicles were quite a hit at the time having won races such as the Exelberg.
Mercedes-Benz is also guilty of breaking a number of speed records, among which ramming the 200 km/h barrier is probably the mots notable. The idea of a vehicle that could reach such a speed as early as 1909 seems far fetched today but Benz’s Lightning stands proof. Such a performance could only be achieved by displacement growth at the time and despite its lean-sounding name, the Lightning was a monster powered by a 21.5 liter engine.
After several other improvements like the introduction of 3-valve dual-ignition and 4-valve engines, DMG would set foot in the turbocharger era. The company’s early involvement in aero-engine construction paid of in 1921 when an engine based on WWI aero-designs was developed by Paul Daimler.
As far as diesel trucks go, Benz did it first. The OB 2 diesel engine was revealed in 1923 and 1924 saw the release of the world’s first diesel truck. Soon after Daimler and Benz joined hands in a profitable twirl of brilliant inventions, the 260 D model would premier in 1936: it was the world’s first diesel-run passenger car. As expected, several improvements on the 260 D would follow. However, the German manufacturer’s quests for leaner diesel engines would soon be hampered by the WWII outbreak.
After taking a forced and most unwelcome break from passenger-car making and engine research during the war, Mercedes – Benz resumed their activities, releasing the 170 V model in 1946. Based on the 260 D, the 4-cylinder 1.7 engine it was equipped with predated the release of the 170 D in 1949, a car that reignited customer’s interest in the brand while ensuring the company’s comeback.
During the 50’s, Mercedes – Benz produced some of their best looking cars ever such as the 190 and 300 SL. The first was a compact roadster that garnered acclaim after setting a new world diesel record in 1959. The latter is none other then the famous gull-winged model that is apparently making a comeback through the SLC model that is still to be revealed. Besides its stunning looks, the 300 SL was the first production vehicle to benefit from early fuel-injection technology.
By the time the 80’s came, the world had already grown concerned with the effects of CO2 emissions and overall car pollution. Mercedes – Benz were among the first to comply with regulations through the introduction of the closed-loop three-way catalytic converter in 1985. With this and several oil-filter changes, like easy from-above access, Mercedes – Benz vehicles went further to become even more advanced.
By the early 1990’s, their diesel car range had completely switched to four-valve intake/exhaust systems and carburetors were dropped in favor of fuel injection systems. A few years later, Mercedes – Benz moved into developing superchargers which it did through the release of the C 230 Kompressor.
After marking a new era in mechanical supercharging technology, Mercedes went on to cross new borders through the release of new engineering concepts and ground breaking designs. The BlueTec system unveiled in 2005 was developed with only one though in mind: cutting CO2 emissions, achievement made possible through the use of SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction). Two other notable events occurred the same year with the release of the A 200 Turbo engine for the A-Klasse and the organic-looking Bionic concept.
Mercedes – Benz was the first to fit ABS and ESP systems on its cars and lately it has truly crossed the line with the DiesOtto engine which premiered at the 2004 Frankurt Moto Show. The DiesOtto boasts variable combustion chambers while delivering the advantages of both gasoline and diesel drives. Its CAI (Controlled Auto Ignition) allows the spark plugs to stop firing at higher temperatures when fuel, gasoline in this case, can be ignited the same way diesel can. The route researchers have taken to achieve variable combustion chambers remains unveiled yet although it is sure to be made public in a few years from now when the DiesOtto is likely to start replacing regular engines.
Who hasn’t heard of Porsche? In 2006 it won the most prestigious automobile brand for over 70 years of excellence and dedication to the four-wheel god. Established at first as a consulting and development company by Dr. Ing. Ferdinand Porsche in 1931, Porsche SE has since become synonymous with luxurious sports cars as well as cutting edge technology.
Situated in downtown Stuttgart, Porsche’s first contract of developing a people’s car, a Volkswagen, appointed by the German government. The result was one of the most famous cars in history, one of the best sold and one of the most easily recognizable out there, the Beetle. Many features of the Beetle would find their place on the first ever Porsche, the 64, developed in 1939.
During WWII the Porsche factory turned to making vehicles for the German Army, such as the Kubelwagen and the Schwimmwagen as well as contributing to the production of Tiger and Elefant tanks. After the war Ferdinand was imprisoned for war crimes for 20 months and was during that time that his son, Ferry Porsche, decided to build a new car to suit his needs – the 356.
The success of the 356 and the death of Ferdinand Porsche in 1951 gave Ferry the confidence to follow in his father’s footsteps and continue designing cars. One of his most famous designs was the Spyder 550, a car that would prove very successful in races.
By now, the general line of the company seemed evident, as in 1964 another sporty model, the 911, another car with a air-cooled, boxer, rear-mounted engine. The design team for this car was led by Ferry’s oldest son, Ferdinand Alexander Porsche. this car would take the legacy of the 550 Spyder even further, winning races and rallies. Testimony to the success of the 911 is the fact that it’s still in production today, despite being heavily modified.
Porsche was going to change its status in 1972 from a limited partnership to a public limited company, which meant that now Porsche would be run by a board of directors supervised by family members. In 1974, at the Paris Auto Show, Porsche unveils the new 911 Turbo, with exhaust turbocharger and pressure regulator.
When the 924 was entered in production in 1975, Porsche took a leap of faith because it had not experienced with front-mounted engines for a long time. By Porsche standards, the 928 was an oddity, with its front-mounted V8 engine made out of metal alloy. Then, in 1981, a new transaxle model is added to the Porsche line-up, the 944. The high-performance Porsche 959 is unveiled at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 1985. It will go on to win a lot of races and rallies, the best known being the Paris-Dakar.
A new technological leap was made in 1988 when the 911 Carrera 4 with all-wheel drive was introduced on the market. Then, in 1989, the “Tiptronic” automatic gearbox system is fitted on Porsches. In 1991, Porsche becomes the first car manufacturer to fit driver and passenger airbags on all its models.
The Boxter model is introduced in 1996 after 3 and a half years of development. That same year, Porsche celebrates 1million units being produced. Two years later, Ferry Porsche dies at the age of 88 but the company moves on and has a great season at Le Mans with the 911 GT1, coming in first and second. This was going to be only the beginning for Porsche, which continued with the very sporty and high-performance models Boxster S and the Carrera GT in 2000.
In 2002 Porsche entered the SUV market with the unconventional Cayenne and its later versions, the Cayenne Turbo and Turbo S. The next model on the line-up for Porsche, announced for 2009 is the Panamera, a four-door sedan. With this new model, Porsche seems set to take on a whole new market, directly competing with other luxury brands such as Mercedes, BMW and Audi.
Henry Ford started the company in 1902 with $28,000 in cash from twelve investors, among which were John and Horace Dodge, who would later found the Dodge Brothers Motor Vehicle Company. He was 40 years when he first established the company’s first factory on Bagley Street, Detroit.
He would later incorporate the firm on June 16, 1903. Ford Motor Company would go on and label their models chronologically in alfabetical order, starting with the Model A to the Model K and Model S, which was Ford’s last right-hand steering vehicle. Then, in 1908 Ford introduced the Model T, which was designed by Childe Harold Wills and two Hungarian immigrants, Joseph A. Galamb and Eugene Farkas. This model proved to be of quintessential Ford vehicle, placing the company among the most influential automotive brands in history.
The Ford Model T was reliable, practical and affordable, which made it a big hit in the US, where it was advertised as the middle-class man’s vehicle. The car’s success compelled Ford to expand his business and layout the basics of mass production principles in 1913 with the introduction of the world’s first vehicle assembly line. By 1912, production figures for the Model T alone reached nearly 200,000 units.
This organizational innovation brought in the vehicle construction field allowed Ford to reduce chassis assembly time by as much as 10 hours, dropping from 12 ½ h to 2h 40 min.
Besides ensuring the efficiency of the production process, Ford turned his company into an interactive entity by announcing a new profit-sharing policy. This would grant buyers a cut of profits if sales reached 300,000. As expected, sales effortlessly reached the 300k threshold and went even further to hit a record 501,000 in 1915.
As part of a new set of financial tactics, Ford provided working places for the disabled who otherwise had a hard time finding a job, reduced work shifts and doubled all employee’s salaries. Changes like these sparked a tremendous sales increase while also setting the base of modern working conditions.
Still, the US and Canadian market would prove to be too small to fit Ford’s plans. By the mid 20’s, the Ford label had crossed the ocean and reached England, France, Germany, Denmark, Austria as well as distant Australia. The company’s activity on European grounds further helped the brand’s revenue growth.
War would not shake the Ford company as bad as other car makers. Post WWI improvements include the introduction of four-wheel brakes and a series of new vehicle releases to match new consumer demands. In 1922 Ford entered the luxury car segment with the acquisition of the Lincoln Motor Company, named after Abraham Lincoln whom Henry Ford admired.
Ford Motor Co. was one of the few big American corporations to survive the Great Depression, although the plummeting automotive sales led the company to scale down its operations and lay off many workers. In May 1929, Ford Motor Co. signed an agreement with the Soviet Union to provide technical assistance until 1938 to construct an integrated automobile-manufacturing plant at Nizhny Novgorod, in exchange for the Soviets purchasing $13 million worth of automobiles and parts. Under this agreement many American engineers and skilled auto workers went in 1932 to work on the Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod (GAZ), or Gorki Automotive Plant. The few who remained in the Soviet Union after the completion of the plant fell victims to Stalin’s Great Terror, ending either shot or exiled to Soviet gulags.
With the arrival of WWII Ford increased its influence on the global stage becoming an active player in the war effort, a thing underlined by US President Franklin Roosevelt referring to Detroit as the “Arsenal of Democracy.” When the US War Department handed production of B-24 Liberator airplanes to Ford, the output rose to 20 airplanes per day instead of only one per day managed by the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation.
After WWII Ford continued its passenger vehicle operations and in 1955 introduced the iconic Thunderbird model. Then it introduced the Edsel brand in 1958, which proved to be a failure and was dissolved in 1960. Part Edsel’s failure as an automotive brand resided in the onset of the 1957 recession in the States and the vehicle’s high price tag.
Ford Motor Co. managed to get back up from its Edsel failure with the introduction of the Falcon model in 1960 and the Mustang in 1964. The company’s next major step was represented by the formation of Ford Europe division in 1967.
Ford plunged into a state of brand-fatigue that would bring the company to the point of near bankruptcy. Following major sales losses in the 2000’s, Ford was pinned against the wall by debts and the imminence of closing down.
Preferring to make it back on its own, Ford mortgaged all of its assets in 2006. As of then, the company has releases a variety of new models both under the Ford brand name and the rest of the sub-brands it owns such as fresher and edgier Mercuries and flashier Lincolns, Ford’s luxury division. Business in Europe has also been good for Ford, especially after the introduction of the Focus model in 1997 and although it hasn’t fully recovered, it’s definitely on the way to regaining popularity.
The history of the “People’s Car”, Volkswagen, begins on May 28th 1937 when the “Geselschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagen mbH” company is created. A year later it is renamed into “Volkswagenwerk GmbH” has it’s headquarters established in Wolfsburg, a city especially created for the workers on the Volkswagen plant that are going to mass produce Hitler’s dream car for the average German, designed by Ferdinand Porsche.
But Hitler’s plans weren’t going to materialize because WWII started and the plant switched production to armaments and the vehicles under the VW logo went to the army of the Third Reich. After the war, the plant at Wolfsburg went under Allied control, British to be specific, and under the supervision of Major Ivan Hirst, Volkswagen began the mass production of the Type 1, or the Beetle as it would come to be known throughout the world.
Initial sales abroad were disastrous, but through clever advertising, the Beetle gained popularity with the young crowd and from 1945 to 1955 numbers reached the 1 million mark. Meanwhile, sometime at the end of the 40s, Volkswagen also introduced the Type 2, a people carrier, known as the “VW Bully”.
Even through the 60s and 70s, the Beetle manages to stay on top of sales, despite the fact that it was becoming obsolete. Reliability, easy maintenance and reduced fuel consumption made the car remain a consumer favorite. On February 17th 1972, Volkswagen celebrated selling over 15 million units of the Beetle sold, thus surpassing the Ford Model T as the most popular car in the world, a title which it still holds to this day.
Despite the success it had with the Beetle, by the beginning of the 70s, Volkswagen AG was in dire need of new models to replace the aging Beetle. The help came from Audi/Auto Union, which WV had bought back in the sixties. They brought with them the knowledge for front-wheel drive vehicles and water-cooled engines.
In 1974, the first Golf rolls out of the factory’s door and becomes and instant hit. Marketed as the Rabbit in the United States and Canada, it was responsible for putting Volkswagen back on the map. That same year, a more sporty model, the Scirocco makes it’s way onto the Volkswagen line up. For the smaller car market, the German car maker came up with the Polo in 1976, which was quite popular throughout Western Europe.
The next decade saw Volkswagen trying to improve their products with new generations of all the older models and expanding their influence by taking over Spanish manufacturer Seat and the Czech-based Skoda Auto.
As the 90s rolled in, VW-owned Audi became a direct competitor for BMW and Mercedes-Benz with products designed for a more pretentious market. This left a void in the general market which Volkswagen now tried to fill. The third generation vehicles now came with better quality and standards. Gradually, new luxury models were introduced, like the Touareg, a premium off-road vehicle.
In the last decade, Volkswagen has been busy trying to set records when it comes to CO2 emissions and fuel-efficient technologies. This applies to their normal engines, running on gas and diesel, but they are also developing hybrids.