US remains an important market for Volkswagen, even though the sales are not so impressive compared to Europe. Even so, Volkswagen celebrates an impressive age on the US market: 70 years.
In 1949, Dutch businessman Ben Pon arrived in New York with two Volkswagen Type 1 vehicles—later to be known as the Beetle—in one of the first attempts to sell affordable small vehicles to Americans. More than 17 million vehicles later, Volkswagen celebrates 70 years in America with a drive down memory lane during the LA Auto Show.
From the Beetle and the Bus, through the Rabbit, Jetta and GTI, and to the Tiguan and Atlas, Volkswagen has always maintained its status as “the people’s car”.
“Over the past 70 years, Volkswagen has grown from two Beetles to a significant part of American history,” said Scott Keogh, President and CEO, Volkswagen of America. “As we look ahead to driving our company toward bigger goals like our next-generation electric vehicles, we will always remember where we started out.”
The Beetle, Bus and more niche models like the Karmann Ghia were essential parts of ‘60s culture, from Woodstock to Hollywood. Volkswagen responded to demand by adding to its model line, with vehicles like the Dasher and Squareback. The ‘70s brought demands for even more efficient models, and the first-generation Scirocco joined the lineup, followed by the Golf with its American name—the Rabbit.
Volkswagen built its first U.S. plant in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania in 1978 and eventually assembled more than 1.1 million Rabbits there. That plant also produced Volkswagen’s first American sporty car, the Rabbit GTI, a model that would win over generations of fans and spawn several hot-hatch competitors.