Home Volkswagen History Battle for the Beetle

Hemmings Motor News - July 2013

Books & Literature

Technically, this book isn't new. It was first published in hardcover and released in 2000, the same year it won the Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot Award as the best automotive history book of the year. That hardback edition has long been out of print, but Bentley has now re-released Karl Ludvigsen's compelling history of Volkswagen's struggle to recover from post-war devastation as a medium-format paperback.

First, to its scope: Ludvigsen's telling takes up 466 pages, very liberally illustrated. We're not going to be spoilers here, but suffice it to say that restarting Volkswagen after the war was a geopolitically very touchy situation. As the buildup to the story explains, it was the Third Reich's singularly most successful product that wasn't purely military in its base concept. The remnants of Germany's auto industry were understandably nervous about facing its sales dominance once again. The KdF-Wagen's home plant in Wolfsburg was in the quadrant of Germany administered by the British, whose own cities had been demolished by Nazi weaponry.

What happened next, as told in meticulous detail here, reads like one of Frederick Forsyth's history-based thrillers. A British officer, Ivan Hirst--who contributed the foreword and died as the book was being released--green-lighted a slow restart of Volkswagen production, thinking the cars could be exported to Britain. Given that Ferdinand Porsche, released from custody by the Allies, was now working for Renault, Hirst unquestionably reset the balance of automotive power in Europe. The footnoted research here is exhaustive. Time has done nothing to dim the significance of this book.

Article from and courtesy of Hemmings Motor News - July 2013


Karl Ludvigsen
Karl Ludvigsen

In addition to his motor industry activities as an executive (with GM, Fiat and Ford) and head of a consulting company, Karl Ludvigsen has been active for over 50 years as an author and historian. As an author, co-author or editor he has some four dozen books to his credit. Needless to say, they are all about cars and the motor industry, Karl's life-long passion.

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