The Volkswagen Beetle´officially the Volkswagen Type 1, informally in German the Kafer (meaning "beetle"), in parts of the English-speaking world the Bug, and known by many other nicknames in other languages´is a two-door, rear-engine economy car, intended for four occupants (two in the front, two in the rear), that was manufactured and marketed by German automaker Volkswagen (VW) from 1938 until 2003.
In May 1934, at a meeting at Berlin's Kaiserhof Hotel, Chancellor Hitler insisted on a basic vehicle that could transport two adults and three children at 100 km/h (62 mph) while not using more than 7 litres of fuel per 100 km (32 mpg US/39 mpg UK). The engine had to be powerful enough for sustained cruising on Germany's new Autobahnen. Everything had to be designed to ensure parts could be quickly and inexpensively exchanged. The engine had to be air-cooled because, as Hitler explained, not every country doctor had his own garage. (Ethylene glycol antifreeze was only just beginning to be used in high-performance liquid-cooled aircraft engines. In general, water in radiators would freeze unless the vehicle was kept in a heated building overnight or drained and refilled each morning.)
On 26 May 1938, Hitler laid the cornerstone for the Volkswagen factory in Fallersleben. He gave a speech, in which he named the car Kraft-durch-Freude-Wagen ("Strength Through Joy Car", usually abbreviated to KdF-Wagen). The name refers to Kraft durch Freude ('Strength Through Joy'), the official leisure organization of Nazi Germany. The model village of Stadt des KdF-Wagens was created near Fallersleben in Lower Saxony in 1938 for the benefit of the workers at the newly built factory.
A handful of KdF-Wagens were produced, primarily for the Nazi elite from 1941 to 1944, as the Typ 60. The factory also built the Kubelwagen (Typ 82), Schwimmwagen (Typ 166), and a handful of other variants, as Wehrmacht combat vehicles. It produced small numbers of Kommandeurswagen (Typ 87), with a Typ 1 body mounted on a four-wheel drive Schwimmwagen chassis; the fenders were widened to accommodate Kronprinz all-terrain tires (reminiscent of the later Baja Bugs). Kommandeurswagen were produced up to 1944, when all production was halted because of heavy damage to the factory from Allied air raids. Much of the essential equipment had already been moved to underground bunkers for protection, which let production resume quickly after hostilities ended. Due to gasoline shortages late in the war, a few "Holzbrenner" Beetles were built, powered by pyrolysis gas producers located under the front hood.
Following the British Army-led restart of production and Hirst's establishment of sales network and exports to Netherlands, former Opel manager (and formerly a detractor of the Volkswagen) Heinz Nordhoff was appointed director of the Volkswagen factory in 1949. Under Nordhoff, production increased dramatically over the following decade, with the one-millionth car coming off the assembly line by 1955. During this post-war period, the Beetle had superior performance in its category with a top speed of 115 km/h (71 mph) and 0–100 km/h (0–62 mph) in 27.5 seconds with fuel consumption of 6.7 l/100 km (36 mpg) for the standard 25 kW (34 hp) engine. This was far superior to the Citroen 2CV, which was aimed at a low speed/poor road rural peasant market, and Morris Minor, designed for a market with no motorways or freeways; it was even competitive with more advanced small city cars like the Austin Mini.