“Slug Bug!” Did this exclamation immediately send you back to your childhood? The “Slug Bug” game was a pastime for many kids, especially those who needed an excuse to “lovingly” slap their siblings. But its benefits didn’t solely end with kids; it added to Volkswagen’s brand recognition and forever impacted the young children who might today find themselves searching for a used Volkswagen Tiguan as their first vehicle.
Today, games like “Slug Bug” may no longer be popular, but that hasn’t affected Volkswagen’s reputation. Still renowned as “the people’s car company,” Volkswagen has an outstanding reputation among American drivers and is known for models like the Tiguan, Golf, and Jetta. To celebrate that reputation, we’ve put together a fun list of trivia about the Volkswagen lineup and its history in the global automotive landscape. So how much do you know about Volkswagen? It’s time to find out!
#1 – From the Type 1 to the Beetle and Slug Bug
Ferdinand Porsche designed the original Beetle, known as the Type 1, in the late 1930s. The economical sedan was based on the Porsche Type 12 and featured a rear-mounted, air-cooled engine, a layout that immediately set the sedan apart in the industry. Its unique design, practicality, reliability, and affordability made it a favorite throughout the late 1930s and early 1940s, even more so after the war when the British took over the Volkswagen plant. A decade later, in 1955, the company celebrated one million sales and ongoing growth.
The Type 1’s growing acclaim earned it a coveted place in the automotive industry. By the late 1960s, it was affectionately known as the “Beetle,” with Volkswagen marketing the sedan as such in its print advertisements. In America, the name stuck as Disney brought the Beetle to the silver screen in the first of many Herbie the Love Bug films. From there, games like “Slug Bug” became a staple among children as the world fell in love with the quirky sedan.
#2 – Far From Sport-Related: The Golf Name
The Volkswagen Golf is the automaker’s second top seller after the Beetle and has been in production since the early 1970s. However, its name still brings up a lot of confusion. While some people believe that the Golf is named after the 18-hole sport that requires intense focus and quiet, that’s far from the case. Instead, its name has less to do with sports and more to do with natural phenomena.
In German, “golf” means “gulf,” and the car was named after the Gulf Stream current. This weather-based naming scheme was shared with the Passat and the Scirocco, signifying the winds of change coming to the VW lineup in the early 1970s. While the Beetle was still a top seller, the Golf was a step in a different direction, literally and figuratively. It replaced the air-cooled rear engine made famous by the Beetle with a water-cooled front engine and a more modern design with an upright silhouette. With its shape still an integral part of the design today, it’s safe to say the Golf has lived up to its name.
#3 – New World Records
There’s an old skit where a tiny car pulls up, the door opens, and a clown steps out, followed by another clown, and another, and another, etc. Before long, the audience starts to wonder, “How many more clowns will come out of that car?” While the skit is somewhat of a magic trick, Volkswagen attempted the feat with the Beetle––batons, black top hats, and magic tricks aside.
In 2000, 25 people in Austria crammed into a standard VW Beetle and set a new world record. Another world record was set a decade later when a group of Asbury University students packed 20 people into a 1964 Beetle. The feat was part of the group’s efforts to draw attention to human trafficking, earning the campus a Guinness World Record in the process. However, the Beetle isn’t the only world record holder in the VW lineup. The 2013 Passat TDI set a new world record for lowest fuel consumption by a non-hybrid car, with its clean diesel engine averaging 77.99 MPG over 8,122 miles.
#4 – A Unique Approach to Naming Models
As you might have discovered with the Golf, Volkswagen has a unique approach to naming its models. While the Type 1 “Beetle” is relatively straightforward, the automaker’s more recent models are incredibly unique. For example, the Atlas is named after the Greek god who famously held up the sky, and “Passat” is another name for a trade wind in German. The Tiguan might have the strangest name of all––it’s a combination of “tiger” and “iguana!”
#5 – More Than Volkswagen
Did you know that there’s more to Volkswagen than the VW name? Volkswagen is only one part of the larger Volkswagen Group, a multinational automotive conglomerate. Among the many companies that make up the Volkswagen Group, you will find luxury brands like Audi, Bentley, Porsche, Bugatti, and Lamborghini, along with other mass-market brands like SEAT and Skoda. Volkswagen Group even manufactures MAN commercial trucks and Ducati motorcycles. Along with designing, building, and manufacturing vehicles, machinery, and motorcycles, the Volkswagen Group also has its hand in fleet management, leasing, and financing. These many interests make Volkswagen one of the largest companies in the world.
#6 – Outperforming Toyota
For decades, Toyota has held the honor of being the biggest automaker in the world. Toyota’s success has played an integral part in the rivalry among brands like Volkswagen, Ford, and numerous others who constantly compete for the top spot. While most come up short, Volkwagen accomplished the unthinkable in 2018 when it sold over 10 million vehicles, surpassing Toyota for the first time in history. However, the race is still on as Toyota retook the number one spot in 2021.
#7 – The Fastest Car in the World
The Volkswagen name might be synonymous with icons like the Beetle, but true Volkswagen fans know the company is responsible for building the fastest production car in the world. Meet the Bugatti Chiron, a 2016 sports car intended to succeed the Veyron. Powered by an 8.0L 16-cylinder turbocharged engine, the Chiron churns out 1,500 hp, pushing it from 0 to 60 mph in 2.3 seconds with a top speed of 273 mph. The supercar’s nearly $4 million price tag has earned it legendary status, proving Volkswagen isn’t just in the business of practicality.
How Much Did You Know?
Volkswagen plays a prominent role in the global economy today, thanks to its ties to the automotive industry, commercial fleets, motorcycles, and engine manufacturing. As the Volkswagen Group, the company wears many hats that extend its foothold beyond the famous Volkswagen lineup. Volkswagen might be synonymous with the Beetle, but its roots are deep, and its business dealings are plentiful. This makes it one of the largest and most impactful companies in the world.
Did you already know this about Volkswagen? Popular models like the Tiguan and Golf continue to extend the Volkswagen name, but they only show one part of the automaker’s expertise. As you can see, Volkswagen’s storied history is fascinating and shows us more about the automaker and its impact worldwide.