Bernhard Rieger The People’s Car A Global History of the Volkswagen Beetle… — 2014 Volkswagen The Beetle

30 мая 2015 | Author: | Комментарии к записи Bernhard Rieger The People’s Car A Global History of the Volkswagen Beetle… — 2014 Volkswagen The Beetle отключены
2014 Volkswagen The Beetle

B. Rieger: The People’s Car

416 S.; € 26,10

für geschichte.transnational und H-Soz-u-Kult von:

Wolfe, University of Massachusetts


The People’s Car is a terrific It is a history of a car that held meanings for different people in places over time. The is well researched, carefully and beautifully written. Rieger’s focus is German history the book’s title. Although in a global context, the book not succeed as a work of global but it comes close.

The VW Beetle is assumed to have a Nazi and it does, but Rieger reveals its roots in Germans’ fascination Henry Ford, the Model T, and Ford’s vicious anti-Semitism to Hitler’s interest in the man and his ideas automobility, production, and consumption. The appealing things about though, were his ability to produce a robust vehicle at prices. Weimar Germany did not anything that could with Ford’s Model T or the made by General Motor’s subsidiary. Early on, Hitler the idea of a German car that be available to the broad population and would allow drivers to real freedom of movement. The was to be transformative for the people who produced it and who owned it. Rieger is careful to out that the Nazi use of the word was intended to invoke a racially sense of the people. Freedoms of and enjoyment of auto ownership and were Aryan and so highly

Rieger tells the story of the to design and build the initial No German auto company manufacture the sort of car Hitler at an inexpensive cost, so automotive Ferdinand Porsche stepped in. significant financial backing the state, Porsche designed a affordable car with a rear-mounted, air engine that would the Beetle and, with stay in production through the 1980s. Porsche also the construction of what would the VW factory and surrounding town in Although the Nazis failed to the Beetle, key aspects of the car’s were used for the Kübelwagen, was widely deployed by the German in World War II.

The Beetle’s global was again important when administrators, eventually with the of German engineers and managers, who had at GM’s Opel, created out of the rubble of the post-war occupation. success was tied to German and later the Federal Republic’s to export cars, particularly to the U.S. market. Rieger an excellent job of telling this and demonstrating how VW’s success in the Republic and the U.S. made the Nazi roots increasingly VW’s rise mirrored and to the 1950s German “economic The car also benefited from its place in U.S. culture, in part by the work of Jewish at an upstart Madison Avenue firm. The Beetle took on a of its own and its Nazi origins were forgotten or ignored in the U.S. and

One of this book’s greatest is its analysis of the politics of the Beetle as an German consumers read the car as a symbol of their national and ingenuity. U.S. consumers the Bug as an alternative to everything they wanting in Detroit’s offerings. The was at first just a stripped utilitarian mode of transportation, but as a critique of the status quo in the America of the developed, the Bug became that consumer commodity that served as a critique of consumerism. touches on the reasons for this, but not get to the heart of the matter: The vast of Americans were dependent on the especially with the growth of the in the post-war era, so they not reject cars per se. The Beetle them to live in the States having to embrace aspects of culture they found to be

2014 Volkswagen The Beetle

Rieger’s analysis of the Beetle as an onto which different cultures, and subsets of people write their own meanings is one of the most significant contributions. not only details the different different people read the VW, he shows how those readings over time within social formations. One of Rieger’s interesting findings along lines is how the so-called New Beetle, was designed in California, engineered in and is manufactured in Puebla, Mexico is the in transnational commodities, and yet is largely as an American car.

Rieger’s major contribution, beyond written a terrific biography of an car, is that he puts the in a global context. He focuses on Great Britain, the United and Mexico. This is largely well done, particularly the on the “Vochito” as the Bug was known in Mexico. details the relationship between VW and from the early 1960s to the He does a fine job showing the of working with Mexico’s government (a one party state claimed to be the champion of peasants and but largely was not) and how Volkswagen’s in Puebla mirrored important in Mexico. These include the disregard of peasant rights land on which VW built the was bought for centavos on the peso) to of an alternative union movement in of the regime’s corporatist structure to the of the North American Free Agreement (NAFTA) and its impact on and sales. Rieger conducted research for his analysis of VW in Mexico and it the material on Germany well. He the two by showing the ways Germans failed to celebrate VW’s success, but then ignored its savory work in crushing the insurgent union movement in

My one critique of this excellent is perhaps an unfair one: analysis is almost global, but not so. He mentions VW’s presence in Asia, and South America, but not do much beyond that. By so, Rieger avoids writing an account that would be to researchers but unappealing to readers, so he no made the right decision. As a of Brazil, though, I could not but want an even more perspective. While the Puebla produced for Mexico and the United VW’s factories in Brazil vehicles for the much larger market and for export to Africa and Moreover, the Beetle is synonymous in with a certain sort of that was also expressed the building of a new, car-oriented in the interior, Brasília, and the elevation of workers to a place of political through the Workers’ Party and the of a former unionist from the Luiz Inácio Lula da (2003–2010), as Brazil’s president. what I know about the of the “Fusca” (as the Beetle is known in I wanted to know more its meaning in other social beyond those Rieger

My desire for more is a mild and at the same time a compliment. has produced a wonderful book does a terrific job analyzing a product in a wide variety of settings. He also has done the heavy lifting of detailing the of Volkswagen from essentially a German start-up created in the of the Second War World to a transnational in the age of Neo-Liberalism. The People’s Car is a triumph of scholarship. It is original, compelling, and provoking. /rezensionen /2014-1-057.

(c) 2014 by H-Net, Clio-online, and the author, all rights reserved. work may be copied and redistributed for educational purposes, if permission is by the author and usage right For permission please contact or H-SOZ-U-KULT H-NET.MSU.EDU.

2014 Volkswagen The Beetle
2014 Volkswagen The Beetle


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