The Volkswagen (VW) Beetle is one of the most iconic cars in history. It was designed by Ferdinand Porsche and first introduced in Nazi Germany.
Namely, Adolf Hitler believed his country needed a cheap, mass-produced car for the new road network built in his country. The first Beetle was built in 1938 but, due to the outbreak of World War II, the car wasn’t really mass produced until 1945.
Luckily for the Beetle, most of the essential equipment had been moved to underground bunkers after the factory which produced them was hit by Allied bombing raids. This allowed production to resume quickly after the war ended.
The whole of VW, including both the factory and patents, were offered to Henry Ford II for free. However, he dismissed the Beetle as a bad design, claiming it had no future.
An official report allegedly read as follows: “This car does not fulfill the technical requirements which must be expected from a motor car. Its performance and qualities have no attraction to the average buyer. It is too ugly and too noisy. Such a car, if at all, could only be popular for two or three years at most.“
Indeed, the Beetle was considered a very small car (“bubble car” or “minicar”) in the USA. While very popular in Europe, such cars were never built in the USA, and rarely imported.
Yet the British nonetheless decided to adopt the Beetle. It proved to be a huge hit worldwide, becoming one of the best-selling vehicles of all time.
Even in the USA it found a market among poor youth, and was a sort of symbol of the counterculture, being the perfect antithesis to the large, chrome-plated cars that were glorified there.