Chronicle – Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.
The foundation for the Volkswagen Hanover factory was laid more than 50 years ago when the first Transporter came off the production line on 8th March 1956. This chronicle gives an overview of the history and development of commercial vehicle construction at Volkswagen.
A chance encounter made an impact on automotive history. As the Dutch Importer Ben Pon walked across the grounds of the Volkswagen factory in April 1947, he came across a very strange vehicle. Some Volkswagen employees had built it themselves to make their work easier when transporting heavy parts from production hall to production hall. A little later, on 23rd April, this impression crystallised into an idea. Ben Pon took his notebook and sketched a type of vehicle that did not exist in the world at that time – a forward control vehicle with rear engine and a box shaped body.
This sketch marked the starting point of a million selling vehicle: the Volkswagen Transporter. It filled a market gap, long before there was a suitable name for this phenomenon, which the Second World War had torn in Central Europe – a gap which was in no way to become any smaller as the economy gradually picked up. Simple, robust, highly flexible transport vehicles with reasonably priced production and running costs were what the market wanted. The economic miracle was only just beginning to take shape but it was clear that tradesmen, retailers and small and medium-sized businesses needed precisely the kind of vehicle outlined by Ben Pon in his rough sketch.
There are no reliable records as to whether it was easy to convince the engineers in Wolfsburg to take part in this venture. Ben Pon remained persistent and was able to win Heinrich Nordhoff over. Although somewhat sceptical, he put his design department on to the idea and the prototype of the Transporter took shape only a short time later.
The first Transporters leave the production line at the newly built Volkswagen Transporter factory in Hanover on 8th March. Series production begins on 20th April.
Volkswagen goes to South Africa. The factory acquires the shares of the South African Importer and founds a subsidiary as an assembly plant: Volkswagen of South Africa (Pty) Ltd. in Uitenhage, C.P. South Africa.
The very first Transporter was a light-weight vehicle: it weighed 890 kg with a full tank but without the driver or spare wheel. Even with these weights added, the Type 2 (Type 1 was the Beetle) remained under one tonne – it had an unladen weight of 990 kg. Its payload was 750 kg and therefore not so very much less. With room for 2 or 3 in the cab and a load compartment of 4.6 cubic metres the Volkswagen Transporter proved to be agile and, at least by standards at that time, quite lively. It had a continuous top speed of 75 kph. This was assured by its small (1131 ccm) and rather weak-chested rear engine which had an output of 18 kW at a moderate 3300 rpm. This unit was designed for reliability rather than top performance. Consumption on the road of 9 litres per 100 km and a high life expectancy were the reward for this modesty.
The first Transporter generation had a production figure of 1,800,000. The fact that the Transporter continued to achieve excellent sales figures (although it had numerous competitors as it was “often copied, never equalled”) was due to an astute management decision: the successor to the successful model was launched on the market at the right moment – in the middle of the "trough" in the Federal German economy. It was a much more up-to-date, more attractive and also much safer vehicle which all at once made its predecessor – sold 1,800,000 times over – look outdated. Much more light reaches the interior through the now more rounded, undivided windscreen and through the windows which have been enlarged overall. There is therefore naturally better visibility for the driver and passengers.
The Type 2 is still a light-weight vehicle weighing 1,175 kg (Delivery van). It is to become heavier over the years, a tribute to more complex technology and the requirements of passive safety. It has also grown larger – by only a little more than 20 cm outside but considerably more space is available inside due to an improved interior layout. There is now a sliding door at the side and the tailgate is also considerably larger.
Volkswagen turns a new page in its company history. With the LT, Volkswagen ventures into the light truck segment. Volkswagen takes its classic approach with a variety of versions making the LT almost as universal as the Transporter. The LT is initially introduced with a 4-cylinder petrol engine (1984 ccm/ 55 kW) and in three different weight categories (2.8 t – 3.5 t GVW). A diesel engine is also available as of 1976. In spite of the poor economic situation, the LT rapidly secures a market share of some 40%.
Larger and more powerful engine for the T2. Cubic capacity: 1970 ccm; output: 51 kW (68 bhp) at 4200 rpm.
The Golf GTI is presented at the IAA in Frankfurt, also the Polo – a new sized Volkswagen.
The 4,500,000th Transporter is completed. 2,277,307 examples of the second Transporter generation were built.
A 6-cylinder diesel engine developed for the "LT" is introduced in August. This model range is expanded to include the "LT 40" and "LT 45".
The new Volkswagen Transporter comes onto the market in the spring of 1979. In addition to many technical innovations on the running gear and engine, the vehicle has a newly designed body with improved visibility, increased space and greater utility. The third generation of the Volkswagen Transporter creates a minor revolution: the frame under the body was to some extent "calculated away" by computer using finite element calculation, and the vehicle was also made more rigid.
The fact that the start of this T3 was not as overwhelming as hoped for was probably due to its performance. The boxer engine was still air-cooled and it had to cope with an unladen weight of 1,385 kg. With the smaller (1584 ccm) engine it was no faster than 110 kph. Even the most powerful version (1970 ccm/ 51 kW/68 bhp) drove the vehicle at a maximum speed of 127 kph on the motorway – 3 kph slower than its predecessor. The indisputable advantages of the new model had a difficult time initially in impressing international customers. Only when the water-cooled boxer engine, and above all the diesel engine, assured more output and pulling power did the third generation Transporter become successful. It had a lot to offer: the 125 mm wider body now offered three fully fledged seats in the cab; track and wheelbase were larger, yet the turning circle was smaller. The entire interior was now larger, more airy, safer and had taken on a more modern look.
However, the most important innovation was concealed under this covering: driving safety and comfort had made a huge leap forwards. The front axle – double wishbones, progressive coil springs with telescopic shock absorbers plus an anti-roll bar – was an ideal complement to the semi-trailing arm rear axle which was in principle unchanged. The payload now increased to weights near the magic figure of 1,000 kg: 995 kg with the 1.6 litre engine, 30 kg less on the heavy 2 litre vehicle. Not only active safety but also passive safety was increased. Crash tests helped in the development of those elements that absorb energy and are designed to crumple in the event of a frontal or side crash. Impact protection at knee height is concealed at the front of the cab and the doors have robust side impact protection profiles.
The introduction of the 4-cylinder in-line diesel did not come until 1981. With the addition of the diesel engine, the third Transporter generation really took off; a year later, this was followed up by the powerful, water-cooled boxer engine.
The Volkswagen and M.A.N. joint venture truck with a gross vehicle weight of between 6 and 9 tonnes was presented at the IAA in Frankfurt.
1981 – 25th anniversary of the Volkswagen Hanover factory
The Volkswagen Hanover factory celebrates its 25th anniversary on 8th March: more than 5 million commercial vehicles have left the assembly line since the factory was opened. The water-cooled boxer engine and the modified diesel engine of the Golf created the urgently needed improvements to the Transporter. At that time, the decision-makers at Hanover were probably not even aware that the diesel unit would open up a completely new chapter in this success story.
First of all, however, the somewhat weak-chested units at the heart of the new Transporter were pepped up in brisk succession: in 1982 came two new water-cooled engines and a 5-speed gearbox (option); in 1983 a 66 kW injection engine with catalyst and power assisted steering (offered in range); in 1985 the all-wheel drive "syncro" (the parts for which were produced in Hanover for final assembly at Steyr Daimler Puch, a cooperation partner in Graz), also a new, even more powerful engine (82 kW), and the turbo-diesel.
Volkswagen Caminhoes Ltda. begins producing medium-weight trucks with a gross vehicle weight of 11-13 tonnes in Brazil.
Production of the Volkswagen diesel Transporter commences at the Hanover Factory.
Following the illness of Toni Schmücker, the Supervisory Board decides who is to succeed him as Chairman of the Board of Management and appoints Dr. Carl H. Hahn on 13th November.
On 14th December, the first Volkswagen Transporter built at Volkswagen Argentina S.A., Buenos Aires, leaves the assembly line.
On 30th September a cooperation, licence and technical support contract is concluded with the Spanish car manufacturer SEAT, Barcelona.
Presentation of the Volkswagen Caddy as a pick-up – developed in the USA on the basis of the Golf and built for European markets at TAS/Yugoslavia.
The existing generation of air-cooled engines for the Volkswagen Transporter is replaced by newly designed water-cooled boxer engines developing output of 44 and 57 kW.
This year marks a further milestone in the history of the Transporter. The "Caravelle" makes its appearance as a vehicle designed entirely for comfortable passenger transport – an MPV, so to speak. This is in line with a development which, strictly speaking, already began with the introduction of the legendary "Samba Bus" in June 1951. The Type 2 had always been not only an ideal transporter and a universal vehicle which could be converted into an almost endless variety of versions – but also a family-friendly vehicle for everyday journeys, a travelling companion par excellence, living space on wheels, automotive freedom. The range now also includes injection engines with and without catalytic converter, power assisted steering.
Presentation of the all-wheel drive Transporter "syncro", the parts for which are produced in Hanover for final assembly at the cooperative partner Steyr Daimler Puch in Graz. It is a commercial vehicle with a high level of utility, even when not on normal roads. Its innovative viscous coupling transmits power to the front axle variably in line with driving conditions and is a fully fledged replacement for a centre differential, automatically building up an almost 100% locking effect when required.
Introduction of the turbo-diesel and a new, high-capacity injection engine.
A resolution to change the name of the company to Volkswagen AG was passed at the Annual General Meeting in July.
The idea for the "Multivan" closes the gap between routine job related journeys and the weekend – the MPV for very versatile use is born.
1986 - the Transporter is world champion
The 6,000,000th Transporter leaves the assembly line. The Transporter is clearly the world champion in its category. Some 4.6 million of this successful vehicle were produced in Hanover alone. To this are added: 1.6 million vehicles in Wolfsburg, Brazil, Africa, Mexico and Australia.
The Transporter was sold in 180 foreign markets and had an export share of 56.8% in 1985. It receives de luxe equipment with electric windows and central locking.
The Supervisory Board of Volkswagen AG agrees to the acquisition of SEAT, the Spanish car manufacturer.
Volkswagen signs a cooperation agreement with Toyota which plans for a pick-up to be jointly built at the Hanover factory as of 1989. Volkswagen expands its range of commercial vehicles with this pick-up in the 1 tonne payload category.
The “California” Volkswagen motorhome is presented.
50th anniversary of the Brunswick factory. The original preliminary plant for training apprentices, skilled technical workers and engineers is older than the main factory in Wolfsburg.
The first Volkswagen Taro leaves the assembly line at the Hanover factory on 10th January. The basis for this vehicle is an agreement in principle concluded with the Japanese manufacturer Toyota in 1987 for the production of a pick-up in the 1 tonne payload category.
The highest capacity engine receives a regulated 3-way catalytic converter. The engine: 2109 cm³ cubic capacity, output of 68 kW at 4500 rpm.
A total of 1,227,669 third generation Transporters is built.
Production of the fourth generation of Transporters (T4) begins on 6th January. The new concept is similarly revolutionary as the change from the Beetle to the Golf was: front engine, front-wheel drive ("pulling principle") with a water-cooled in-line engine of 45 to 81 kW fitted transversely to the direction of travel, new double wishbone front axle, semi-trailing arm rear axle. Two wheelbases: 2,920 mm and 3,320 mm; three payload categories of 800 kg, 1,000 kg and 1,200 kg (point load). The launch of the T4 causes a small sensation in the market as the vehicle does away with all conceptions of the Type 2 – and is nevertheless a genuine Volkswagen, just as the Beetle's successor, the Golf, has come to be.
All characteristics of the new vehicle have become so much better that it is not an exaggeration to speak of a quantum jump. The T4 is even more versatile than its proverbially universal predecessor as it is supplied with even more possibilities for variation on the body (e.g. a second sliding door or a wing door available as an option). The fourth generation of the Type 2 is given an enthusiastic reception in the market. The order books are filled months before the first vehicles are delivered. The T3 continues to be built for a while before production is shifted to Austria, restricted to construction of the syncro, and finally discontinued altogether.
40th anniversary of the Volkswagen Transporter: nearly 6,700,000 Transporters of three generations were built during these four decades.
The Czech government issues approval on 10th December for Volkswagen to take over the Czech car manufacturer Skoda. Skoda therefore becomes the fourth brand in the Group next to Audi and Seat.
Restructuring at Volkswagen as of 1st January. Group management is separated from brand management for Volkswagen, Audi and Seat – and, in the near future, Skoda.
The Volkswagen Group with its four brands leads in the fields of electronic traffic guidance, the development of alternative drive concepts and in the use of environmentally compatible production technology.
The joint venture Ching Chung Motor Co. Ltd. is founded in Taipei/Taiwan. Volkswagen AG has a one-third share of total capital in this company. From 1993 onwards, the new Transporter is to be sold and produced there with an annual capacity of 30,000 vehicles.
Production of the third Transporter generation is discontinued at Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG in Graz. 61,903 vehicles have been built there since the end of 1990.
Change in the Board of Management at the end of the year:
Dr. Carl H. Hahn leaves the company.
Dr. techn. h.c. Dipl.-Ing. ETH Ferdinand Piëch takes over as Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG on 1st January.
The "environmental diesel" – 4 cylinder 1.9 litre TD, 1896 ccm, output of 50 kW at 3700 rpm – comes on to the market in January.
1994 – the L80
Presentation of the L80, produced in Brazil. It completes the top end of the Volkswagen range.
The 500,000th T4 is built in Hanover.
The Chairman of the Management Body of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Bernd Wiedemann, presents Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles as an independent brand to the public at a press conference in July. Vehicles are produced above all in Europe and South America. The significance of the new brand: turnover of 10 billion marks per year on the world markets.
The LT is discontinued after 20 years. This model was never pampered by prolonged boom phases – 471,221 vehicles were manufactured in Hanover until production was discontinued.
Differentiation of the products within the range runs parallel to the new Group policy. In 1996, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles catches up with a development which was almost indicated in Ben Pon’s notebook. The best-selling vehicle from Hanover becomes a twin line:
the passenger car line with Multivan (Allstar and Classic) and Caravelle.
On the occasion of the anniversary, this comfortable vehicle receives two exciting new engines: a sporty 2.8 litre in-line V6 engine with catalyst and 103 kW, and a lively, thrifty unit, the 2.5 litre TDI® with catalyst – a direct injection diesel which can drive the Transporter to nearly each of its European core markets on one tank of fuel.
The LT is presented at the Motor Show in Leipzig shortly after the factory's 40th birthday. It offers an attractive shape, the latest technology, modern design, best possible driving comfort, and more safety and economy so that it is well equipped for all transport requirements.
Even after some 30 major building projects in the course of its 40-year history, things are still on the move at the Volkswagen Hanover factory – further extensions are planned. This "impossible Transporter" that implemented changes in the automotive world from its Hanover base has also shaped the face of the world, our awareness of life, and our memories – maybe even more than we know.
Four Transporter generations from Volkswagen – each individual type unmistakable, likeable, and every time a step forward to the forefront of automotive technology.
The 8,000,000th Volkswagen Transporter is produced. In September, Volkswagen Poznan GmbH, a wholly owned subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, becomes part of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles. The brand is responsible for the business result and production at the Polish site. The company was founded on 1st December 1993 as a joint venture between Volkswagen AG and Tarpan, a Polish manufacturer of agricultural vehicles.
One million T4s. The