In 1949, Dutch businessman Ben Pon arrived in New York City with two Volkswagen Type 1 vehicles, marking the automaker’s first attempt to sell the vehicle — better known today as the Beetle — to Americans.
Now, Volkswagen is looking back on its 75 years in the U.S., recognizing those who have woven the brand into the cultural fabric of the U.S. and setting the stage for the next era in its continued transformation.
Celebrating 7+ Decades of Accomplishments
To celebrate its anniversary, Volkswagen announced a yearlong holistic campaign that will serve as a “love letter” to the American people, the automaker noted in a news release.
“Over the past 75 years, Volkswagen has grown from a tale of two Beetles into a part of America’s cultural fabric,” Volkswagen of America Senior Vice President of Customer Experience & Brand Marketing Rachael Zaluzec said. “We carry people in our name and our heart. As we look forward to the next 75, we will celebrate the real people and real-life moments that have made Volkswagen brand the people’s love story it is today.”
The 75th anniversary campaign will include Volkswagen’s return to Super Bowl LVIII following a hiatus from advertising in The Big Game.
Volkswagen is also inviting customers to be a part of its electric future.
Volkswagen Through the Years
Let’s go back to 1949. While Pon struggled initially to sell the cars, Americans soon warmed to the charms of the Beetle. Volkswagen of America was established in 1955 to organize dealers and provide parts and service. In 1959, the brand ran its first iconic “Think Small” ad touting the benefits of the air-cooled, easy-to-maintain Beetle.
Some of Volkswagen’s popular vehicles over the years have included the Beetle, Bus, Rabbit, Jetta, GTI, Tiguan, and and Atlas.
The Beetle, Bus, and more niche models like the Karmann Ghia were essential parts of 1960s culture, from Woodstock to Hollywood.
Volkswagen responded to this demand by adding vehicles like the Dasher and Squareback to its model line.
The 1970s 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.
Expanding in the U.S.
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 assembled Volkswagen’s first American sporty car, the Rabbit GTI, a model that would win over generations of fans and spawn several competitors.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Volkswagen offered an increasing level of sophistication and refinement in models like the Jetta and Passat.
As retro culture grew in popularity in the 1990s, Volkswagen showed the Concept 1, a reimagination of the classic Beetle. The vehicle was so well received that the brand launched the New Beetle in 1998.
The company broke ground on its Chattanooga assembly plant in 2008, signaling a shift to localized production in one of the brand’s key growth markets. Since that time, the company has invested more than $4.3 billion in its Tennessee operations and created more than 125,000 direct and indirect American jobs.
In July 2022, the plant began production of its all-electric ID.4 compact SUV, its first electric vehicle assembled in the United States. The plant is also home to the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport SUVs.
An Electrified Future
In 2023, the brand unveiled its next two vehicles in its growing electric portfolio: the ID.7 and the three-row ID. Buzz.
Available later this year, the all-electric ID. Buzz pays homage to the brand’s iconic Microbus with a retro design, equipped with advanced EV technology and driver assistance features.
Also slated for the second half of 2024, the ID.7 is the first all-electric Volkswagen in the premium midsize sedan segment. Excellent aerodynamics and a new, highly efficient drivetrain ensure long ranges and exceptional passenger comfort.