WI: VW owned by somebody else

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by phx1138, Sep 1, 2019.

  1. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2009
    Location:
    Charlie Townsend's guest house
    Any number of companies were offered the OTL VW plant in what's now Wolfsburg. They all turned it down as a bad deal. WI somebody taken it up? Like, frex, Austin? Or Willys? Or Holden? Or even, say, a Canadian Crown Corporation (since I can't see Willys or Stude Canada doing it, quite.)

    With the proviso that this company can't produce anything but OTL's Type 1 (better known as Beetle) or Type 82 (Kübelwagen, later built as the Thing), or both, before 1950, but can install any unemployed auto exec. Also with the proviso any OTL design, such as the Rometsch, Beutler 'vert (damned if I can find a pic...:teary: ), or Heb can be built in larger numbers, if you can explain how the company overcomes steel shortages.
    [​IMG]
    Rometsch 4 door
    [​IMG]
    Heb 'vert

    How much difference might this have made to VW's history? Could it save a failing company? Or would other management have driven *VW into bankruptcy?:eek:

    Would *VW have partnered with Porsche? Or been the basis for Formula Vee cars?
     
  2. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2009
    Location:
    Charlie Townsend's guest house
    To avoid a continuing thread derail...

    The proposed Fedden, IMO, is a non-starter. And if Wolfsburg can't build bodies in large numbers, how did VW build nearly 20,000 copies in its second year of production?

    Where is Britain getting the steel to build them from, & at the expense of which British designs? (Yes, Germany had steel production issues, too.)

    If the Type 1 is taken over & moved to Britain, it undermines the goal of the British Army to rehabilitate German industry.

    Failing steel production being adequate, I wonder why VW couldn't substitute fiberglass for some parts (hoods, front fenders, engine covers).

    The idea of a different body style is a good one, & the Stoller (IIRC) coupe was designed, with a notchback rather than slantback. (AIUI, tho, the slant was more popular at the time.) A 4dr would have been a very good idea.

    For the record, radios weren't standard even in U.S. cars, semaphore signals weren't unheard of even much later, & even two taillights weren't standard on U.S. cars in 1940. (Gas gauge, IDK.) Never forget, cars were very much cruder...
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2019
  3. Masked Grizzly Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2011
    The Fedden scenario is largely dependent on earlier PODs to get it up and running quickly as well as copying the designs and utilizing the service of Ferdinand Porsche as war reparations instead of outright appropriating the Beetle and pillaging the tooling from Wolfsburg like the Soviets did to other German factories in the aftermath of WW2 (and wanted to do to Wolfsburg by pushing for the Soviet occupying zone to include Wolfsburg), however without the PODs Fedden could have still initially began producing VW-derived commercial vehicles sold via the Co-Op before moving into car production once the post-war steel shortages at out of the way (though am also factoring Fedden would have sought to utilize either fiberglass or aluminum akin to OTL Panhard to avoid post-war steel shortages). Both scenarios would have not butterflied away the OTL Beetle, though with scenarios entailing Fedden receiving government-backing could easily see it growing to become an NHS type of nationalized sacred cow (decades before BL) akin to post-war state-owned Renault.

    No other UK carmaker was interested in the Beetle, beyond Rootes unsanctioned prototype by Craig Miller that simply used a VW-based 12 hp Flat-Twin (which eventually led to what became the Hillman Imp).

    One could potentially make a case for the British having a passive stake in Volkswagen having helped rebuild Wolfsburg and restarting Beetle production, as was the case with the license agreements between Austin and Nissan in the early-1950s, both the British government and Austin in the case of Nissan seemed to be uncharacteristically altruistic without attaching any strings to either when they would have been justified in doing so.

    Based on Karl Ludvigsen's book Battle for the Beetle, other interested parties for the Beetle or services of Porsche range from the French, Russians, Belgians (whose proposal ultimately floundered) and the Swedes (particularly Gunnar Ljungstrom of Saab fame, who thought of inviting Porsche to help in the design of the Saab but lacked the confidence to make an approach - something which he regrets yet still had the courage to contradict Porsche's advocacy for a rear engine in small cars. However as a neutral country Sweden had no claim on the skills and assets of the defeated Germans.), the Australians meanwhile were also interested in the Beetle (along with others from Alder, DKW and not to mention the Jean-Albert Grégoire designed Hartnett) though was ruled out on cost grounds as it could only be justified with annual production numbers of 250k a year.
     
  4. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2009
    Location:
    Charlie Townsend's guest house
    I've been working on a proposition of a different WW2, without active U.S. participation, & thus more Commonweath effort, which leads to them having the option of getting "a piece of the action" postwar. Taking that as given, I'm presuming somewhat different company leadership introduces models beyond just the Type 1 slant, which leads to greater sales success, & answers greater demand mainly with use of fiberglass. It occurs to me, tho, the greater success might lead to stimulus for the German steel industry, or purchase of steel from Britain or the U.S. (if not, frex, Russia). It might be there simply isn't the money for that...
    I'd happily see Porsche working somewhere else, because IMO VW no longer needs him. There are "niche" makers in Germany who might (would?) use the Type 1 pan without needing Porsche.
    It's possible a company might just pull the tooling, but IMO it makes more sense to simply fix the damage & continue in Wolfsburg. It's simpler, & it helps rebuild the German economy, which is good postwar as an answer to East Germany. (If the war ends very differently, the opposition to a recovering Germany might make doing it problematic...)
    I could see an earlier Type 2 (by whatever name), but unless Fedden is prepared to abandon his radial, I don't see his car succeeding--& if that's where his *Type 2 goes, it's likely to bomb, too.
    I'm not seeing it. Fedden's car, with the radial, was impractical. Restarting production of the Type 1, clearly, wasn't, no matter who's actually in charge.
    That works for me. It does raise the question, if Austin becomes involved, does its management have (or want?) a say in VW's model lineup? If it leaves VW effectively separate, doesn't that come back to bite them?
    I imagined Porsche ending up in France, mainly to clear the way for German & Austrian companies to use the Type 1 pan for their own projects, which take the place of OTL Porsche.;)
    Why they ruled it out for cost is unclear to me. VW managed to stay in business in the '46-50 period on much less than 250K units/yr.

    All this said, I take it you'd reject any Canadian takeover.:'(
     
  5. Masked Grizzly Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2011
    Fedden was prepared to abandon his own radial effort in favour of the Beetle (albeit potentially carrying over some aspects of the Fedden car's exterior styling as a concession to anti-German sentiment) though by that point it was too late, however the possibility was indeed there in OTL (just need his epiphany to be much earlier).

    Austin was not interested in the Beetle and was already invested in modernization pre-WW2 (and benefiting from the shadow factory scheme to put it into a more advantageous position post-war to the displeasure of Morris and others), however it could have definitely added some strings to its later licence agreement with Nissan in the early-50s. The same with the British government owning a passive stake in Volkswagen, thanks to Ivan Hirst's efforts.

    The French attempt was from the grandiose efforts of Communist minister Marcel Paul, who desired nothing less than at least half the Volkswagen factory and all the services of the dynasty that had designed and developed it, with the intention of starting up a nationalized automobile factory in France using half or all the equipment from the Wolfsburg factory as war reparations with the Beetle being rebodied only to be undermined by the French Automobile Industry (seem to recall a thread on here a while back on the subject though cannot find it).

    Worth getting Battle for the Beetle to find out more, though there is nothing to suggest the Canadians were interested.
     
    phx1138 likes this.
  6. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2009
    Location:
    Charlie Townsend's guest house
    I'm not a fan of the idea of restyling, because that increases unit cost, & AIUI, most of the tooling had survived. IMO, in the immediate postwar era, cheap trumps, even if sales in Britain suffer for it. The VW name would hurt in any case, IMO, & few enough Type 87s had ever been seen for the Type 1's styling to be a huge issue.
    That could have some interesting butterflies itself.
    What I imagine is Porsche himself (alone) ending up working for a French car company, & in the '50s probably going to one of the Porsche analogs, ultimately never forming his own car company. Maybe he's analogous to Carl Abarth.
    I'll have a look. (I was thinking in terms of payback for Canadian "Lend-Lease", or the Billion Dollar Gift--with a dose of handwavium as needed.;) )

    As for the book, I'll give it a look. Even if it doesn't support Canadian takeover.
     
  7. Masked Grizzly Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2011
    Despite Fedden's political backers likely giving him a way to get around the post-war steel shortages, it is likely to feature some styling differences from the Beetle especially if Fedden opts for fiberglass or aluminum bodies to get around the steel-shortages. One only needs to see how the DKW F91 (previously DKW F89) and IFA F9 diverged from each other.

    It does not have to be completely unreasonable from Austin's perspective, they only need to add an optional clause to the post-war licence agreement (obviously dressed up) stipulating any improvements by the latter to the former's licensed engines (including any related descendants) can potentially be utilized at Austin's / BMC’s own discretion.

    Many in the French Automobile Industry wanted Porsche tried as a war criminal and given the same treatment as Louis Renault.
     
  8. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2009
    Location:
    Charlie Townsend's guest house
    I've been presupposing no Fedden before now, & IMO the benefit to changing the styling is outweighed by the cost of doing it, especially in immediate postwar Germany.

    If 'glass pieces require a change, OTOH, or if the switch makes the existing dies useless...
    You're proposing only *VW engine licencing, & no actual sales of complete cars? IMO, that's not a string, that's a bonus for *VW, by increasing its profits. If that leads to tech sharing back & forth, so much the better. (IMO, Austin using German quality control, &, later, FI & electronic ignition, is good for Austin.)
    :eek:

    I'll have to look elsewhere... Argentina, anyone?;)
     
  9. Masked Grizzly Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2011
    Mean Austin's licence agreement with Nissan, not VW.

    The Argentine government was interested in assembling the Beetle from imported components plus local manufacture of the more simple and bulk parts, with royalties paid on the assembled cars in return for the rights and technical help in setting up production. However providing the technical know-how would have strained both the British and German capabilities at Wolfsburg, since they had their hand full trying to sustain production of the built-up cars that could meet the dollar-earning demand already on their doorstep in Europe.

    The Danes were also interested in assembling the Beetle though there was nothing specific, while the Belgians were preferred over the Argentinians before their proposal floundered.
     
  10. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2009
    Location:
    Charlie Townsend's guest house
    Ah. My mistake.:oops:
    That would happen OTL, IIRC.

    As said, I had in mind Porsche as an engineer/designer for an Argentine company, rather than connected to *VW. (It looks like everywhere Porsche might end up, *VW was likely to, also.)
    In the '46-7 period, probably. A bit later, IMO, not.

    Was it impossible for Argentina to assemble CKDs? Or was Wolfsburg incapable of building them at that time?
    Either one would have been interesting for *VW.

    Can you say what went wrong with Belgium?
     
  11. Masked Grizzly Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2011
    Think the focus at the time for the British and Germans was to get production at Wolfsburg up and running, though it would have been easier logistically speaking for the Beetle to be build in Denmark or Belgium than Argentina had their proposals not fallen through for one reason or another (either that or a nearby country like the UK simply copying the designs and if necessary gaining the services of Porsche akin to how the DKW RT 125 became the BSA Bantam).

    Think the Belgian proposal was envisioned as being in cooperation with Volkswagen where they would build exports of semi-knocked-down Volkswagens, however the Belgians were embarrassed when it was revealed the Charleroi site where the sheet steel was to be supplied for this proposal was tied up for 3 years forward to Britain (possibly to Nuffield) that led the idea to flounder.
     
  12. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2009
    Location:
    Charlie Townsend's guest house
    I was thinking Wolfsburg in about '46, Argentina not before about 1955 (after demand is seen to be high). I could see Belgium in around '50, if tariffs or steel production limited Germany. AIUI, Argentina lacked infrastructure to build from scratch even in '55, so SKD/CKD would have to be provided, until (if?) that was remedied.

    As for overseas manufacture, I also imagined Oz, Brazil, Mexico, & India in time.

    I do like the idea of Denmark;:cool: AFAIK, the Type 1 was never built there.
    :cryingface: I feel bad for Belgium.
     
  13. Masked Grizzly Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2011
    Think the best that could have been hoped for is a similar scenario to OTL, though with the British owning a passive stake in Volkswagen and state/co-op-owned Fedden building a copy of the Beetle (possibly with fiberglass or aluminum for the immediate post-war period) while making use of the services of Porsche a war reparations (with Fedden later diverging from Volkswagen akin to DKW and Trabant/Wartburg). Possibly with Gunnar Ljungstrom of Saab approaching Porsche (though not sure how the latter would contribute to the development of Saab given the different approaches).

    The Battle for the Beetle book does not go into the specifics as to why nothing became of the Danish proposal.
     
    phx1138 likes this.
  14. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2009
    Location:
    Charlie Townsend's guest house
    Let me ask a hypothetical, then. Would you consider a handover (as reparations by Germany or partial debt-repayment by Britain) to a Canadian company (Willys Canada?) impossible, or just very unlikely? And if it happened, would you consider the new management offering 4dr & cabrio/convertible versions as standard impossible, or unlikely? (I'm of the view a 4dr would outsell the OTL 2dr, even if the 2dr stayed in production, with a cabrio as a lower-production item.)
    IIRC, SAAB did use aircooled, but never AFAIK rear engine or swing axle. Could Porsche adapt to SAAB's existing tech? I don't see he can't. Frankly, I'd rather send him somewhere there's a less-developed auto industry, if I can, to give him a bit more freedom, & a lot less influence (because I don't want him able to eclipse the other Germans I've already picked out as Porsche analogs, TBH:openedeyewink: )
    Thx for looking.:):)

    If it's not explicit, maybe I can get away with a Danish "shadow factory" by '50.:cool: ( :p )
     
  15. ennobee Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2015
    Location:
    Greater Houston/Galveston suburbia, Texas
    Up until the mid 1980's, I don't see much change. Any foreign conglomerate could buy it take over Volkswagen, but other than moving not just the machinery but also every skilled workman over totheir own country, the factory would still end up building German automobiles, designed by Germans for the German market. Eventually there will be factories in Spain, Mexico and Brazil as OTL, but apart of that VW's situation will not be that much different from the two other big German automakers: Ford Germany and Opel/Vauxal/GM. They too enjoyed a huge level of authonomy in their choice of cars to produce. To be honest. A big part of it was because Europe wasn't that integrated yet and so it was not uncommon for a French car, designed for the narrow Parisian streets to be completely lost in the German Autobahn and vice versa. Not even thinking about the demands of the American car culture.....

    And so you had the Opel Kadet and the Ford Capri. And if Wolkswagen would not be an fully German company, it would still produce the 411 and the Passat. It might even try to export them to the US as the Rabbit and Rambler. And if it had the knowledge of a US parent company, it might do marginally better, (roughly like AMC with it's French cars) ... or it might just look things over and decide it's not worth the effort.

    The biggest impact resulting from a foreign ownership of VW would of course be that it would not be perceived as fully German as BMW or Mercedes-Benz. May be as a result both of them will try their luck at a 'truely German' entry level car. May be they might even succeed. May be also the German government will be more inclined to prop up Borgward/NSU as the third truely German company instead of offloading it to VW when it got into financial troubles in the early 1970's. Butterflies for Audi (OTL what VW renamed NSU after it took over their production line) and Porshe are up to your wildest imagination.
     
  16. Masked Grizzly Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2011
    Would say both impossible and unlikely.

    Of the view it was well within the abilities of OTL Volkswagen to produce such variants, whether via a potential ATL passive stake by the British or from being encouraged by ATL Fedden's Beetle-derived cars spawning said variants. The 4-door version would certainly butterfly away the 2-door Beetle taxi's infamous reputation as a pirate taxi in places like Mexico, etc.
     
    phx1138 likes this.
  17. Simon Thread Killer Extraordinaire

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2009
    That is something I've thought about in the past, but merely as the British government retaining a ten per cent stake in the company as compensation for helping with the initial rebuilding post-war.

    Maybe I'm looking in the wrong places but does anyone know if there's anywhere online that has what VW's, and later VW Group's, historical yearly profits were? I was curious to see what sort of income it might have generated over the years.
     
  18. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2009
    Location:
    Charlie Townsend's guest house
    :'(:'(
    I'd wonder how successful the 4dr would be as a taxi or police car outside Germany. IMO, tho, any 4dr makes the Type 1 much, much more successful.
    I don't see changes in where the Type 1 is built, at least at first, but IMO, a different management means more inclination to add 4dr & wagon versions, & maybe increased production of the Heb or Karmann cabrio.
    I'd disagree, because those were existing concerns when taken over. VW would be, in large measure, a clean sheet. If there's any Canadian/American influence in management, IMO, styling & power are likely to change.
    IMO, something like the Passat platform will arise; the question is, does the different management introduce it sooner? As for the Type 4s, they might not happen, for much the same reason: is the aircooled engine still considered enough, or is it being replaced? Even as much as changing the Type 1 from torsion bars & swing axle to strut suspension is likely to be on a different schedule, & that affects sales.
    Survival of Borgward or NSU is something I never thought of as a butterfly. As for it leading to no Audi....:eek: That also suggests the rally Quattros don't happen, either.:eek:
     
  19. Masked Grizzly Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2011
    Agreed

    Am not sure to be honest
     
  20. Masked Grizzly Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2011
    phx1138 likes this.