18. Ford Turned Down the Opportunity to Own Volkswagen
The People’s Car, despite its evil sponsor, was not evil in of itself. It was to be paid for through a savings plan that required buyers to set aside 5 Reischmarks a week. Back then, the average weekly income was about 32 RM, so the new car was within most Germans’ reach. Construction of the new factory began in May of 1938 in a new town purpose-built for Volkswagen workers, Wolfsburg – Germany’s richest city today, with a GDP per capita of about USD $130,000 because of its thriving auto industry.
However, only a few Volkswagens were built when WWII began in 1939, and the factory retooled from consumer cars to military manufacture. Civilian production resumed after the war, and the company was offered to American, British, and French car manufacturers, all of whom rejected it. Those who turned it down included Ford, who declined even though it was offered free of charge. By 1946, VW had gotten production up to about 1000 cars a month, and by 1948, it had become an icon of West Germany’s economic revival, and began its rise to global automotive dominance.