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Volkswagen is a German automaker founded in 1937 by the German Labour Front, a Nazi labour union, and headquartered in Wolfsburg. It is the flagship marque of the Volkswagen Group, the largest automaker by worldwide sales in 2016 and 2017. The group's biggest market is in China, which delivers 40% of its sales and profits.
Volkswagen translates to "people's car" in German. The company's current international advertising slogan is just "Volkswagen", referencing the name's meaning.
Volkswagen was established in 1937 by the German Labor Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront) in Berlin. In the early 1930s cars were a luxury: most Germans could afford nothing more elaborate than a motorcycle. Only one German out of 50 owned a car. Seeking a potential new market, some car makers began independent "people's car" projects – the Mercedes 170H, Adler AutoBahn, Steyr 55, and Hanomag 1.3L, among others.
The trend was not new, as Béla Barényi is credited with having conceived the basic design in the mid-1920s. Josef Ganz developed the Standard Superior (going as far as advertising it as the "German Volkswagen"). In Germany, the company Hanomag mass-produced the 2/10 PS "Kommissbrot", a small, cheap rear-engined car, from 1925 to 1928. Also, in Czechoslovakia, the Hans Ledwinka's penned Tatra T77, a very popular car amongst the German elite, was becoming smaller and more affordable at each revision. Ferdinand Porsche, a well-known designer for high-end vehicles and race cars, had been trying for years to get a manufacturer interested in a small car suitable for a family. He built a car named the "Volksauto" from the ground up in 1933, using many popular ideas and several of his own, putting together a car with an air-cooled rear engine, torsion bar suspension, and a "beetle" shape, the front hood rounded for better aerodynamics (necessary as it had a small engine).
Volkswagen is the founding and namesake member of the Volkswagen Group, a large international corporation in charge of multiple car and truck brands, including Audi, SEAT, Porsche, Lamborghini, Bentley, Bugatti, Scania, MAN, and Škoda. Volkswagen Group's global headquarters are located in Volkswagen's historic home of Wolfsburg, Germany.
Volkswagen Group, as a unit, is Europe's largest automaker. For a long time, Volkswagen has had a market share over 20 percent.
In 2010, Volkswagen posted record sales of 6.29 million vehicles, with its global market share at 11.4%. In 2008, Volkswagen became the third largest automaker in the world, and, as of 2016, Volkswagen was the second largest manufacturer worldwide. With strong headwinds reported in 2018, predominantly from trade tariffs and new emission standards, Volkswagen Group have limped to the 2018 finish line and astonishingly ended the year with record deliveries of 10.8m vehicles. Volkswagen Group's core markets include Germany and China.
In July 2019, Volkswagen invested $2.6 billion in Argo AI, a startup focused on developing self-driving vehicles.
Volkswagen has factories in many parts of the world, manufacturing or assembling vehicles for local markets. In addition to plants in Germany, Volkswagen has manufacturing or assembly facilities in Mexico, the United States, Slovakia, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Malaysia, Brazil, Argentina, Portugal, Spain, Poland, the Czech Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kenya and South Africa. In 2011, Volkswagen was named in the top 25 largest companies in the world by the Forbes Global 2000.
Volkswagen is setting up a new factory in West Java, Indonesia, which started construction in mid-2013. The investment into the new plant, which will produce large transporters and multivans, is valued at $140.
As of May 2014, Volkswagen is planning to start assembling certain engines in India to increase localisation from 70% to 90%.
In January 2016, Volkswagen announced launching a new factory in Algeria during a summit between Angela Merkel and Algerian prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal. This new factory was launched in Relizane, producing Volkswagen Golf VII, Volkswagen Polo, Volkswagen Caddy, Seat Ibiza and Skoda Octavia cars.
Since 1985, Volkswagen has run the Volkswagen AutoMuseum in Wolfsburg, a museum dedicated specifically to the history of Volkswagen. In addition to visiting exhibits in person, owners of vintage Volkswagens anywhere in the world may order what the museum refers to as a "Birth Certificate" for a set fee of €50—this formal "Zertifikat" indicates basic information known at the time of manufacture (colors, options, port of destination, etc.)
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