The German auto industry is one of the most successful car manufacturing industries in the world. In fact, it produces the highest number of cars in the world after Japan and the United States. Historically, the German automotive industry plays a critical role in the country’s economy. It employs the largest number of people in Germany with a work force of nearly 747,000 people. It means that this country has more people working in car manufacturing than the total number of people living in Detroit, Michigan in the United States. Europe is also a great beneficiary of Germany’s automotive industry representing close to 36% of the EU’s automobile production. However, the car-manufacturing sector in this country witnessed a number of difficulties throughout the years. It is one of the most competitive today. However, the brands that made it so struggled through economic depression, war, and economic uncertainty to make their dream cars a reality. Here is a comprehensive history of those brands and the obstacles they overcame.
1950s German Auto Industry
Germany pioneers the first cars.
Many people know the Mercedes-Benz car brand around the world because diplomats, businesspersons, and celebrities favor cars that bear it. However, they do not know that the history of the brand dates back to the late 1800s when Karl Friedrich Benz invented the first internal combustion engine that powered an automobile. He fitted that engine onto a riding coach thereby producing the first modern day car. He got the patent to produce his first car in 1886. His invention became popular in Germany with the country producing about 900 cars annually by 1901.
Opel, founded in Russelsheim, Germany, became the first company to produce cars en masse using an assembly line. That was in the 1920s. Previously, the company produced sewing machines in 1862 before moving on to bicycles in 1886. In 1899, the company decided to start producing cars, but only in 1902 did it sell its first car. However, it caught up with the competition quickly by becoming the largest car manufacturer in Germany by 1914. The Ford Motor Company saw the viability of this nascent industry and as such, it established a subsidiary car-manufacturing firm in Germany known as Ford-Werke in 1925.
Germany’s automobile industry suffers because of world events.
This industry was off to a great start and it was sure to become a leading source of jobs and employment for Germans. Unfortunately, the Great Depression in the 1930s depressed this sector to the point of exhaustion. Before it started, Germany has 86 firms manufacturing cars, but only 12 of them survived the depression. They included Daimler-Benz, Dampf Kraft Wagen (DKW), Opel, Audi, Horch, Wandere, and the Ford subsidiary. The industry started picking up steam again and by 1936, one out of every 50 Germans owned a car. However, this revival in the car industry was still insufficient for the Nazi Party that was slowly taking over power in Germany. The trade union arm of the Nazi Party created a vision for ‘the People’s Car’ in 1936. By 1937, they established the ‘Volkswagen,’ which was German for ‘the People’s Automobile.’ Today, the Volkswagen is the second largest auto-manufacturer in the world with well-known brands such as Volkswagen Passat, the Volkswagen Beetle, and the Volkswagen Golf.
The German economy recovered fully from these unfortunate events in the pasts. Right now, it has five chief companies i.e. Volkswagen AG, BMW AG, Adam Opel AG, Daimler AG, and Ford-Werke GmbH. In total, they produce nearly 6 million cars each year. As you can teach the Germany auto industry has a rich history filled with challenges and triumph.