It Was 70 Years Ago When The First Volkswagens Landed In America

In 1949, a Dutch businessman arrived in the U.S. with a pair of Volkswagen Type 1s, kickstarting VW's long history in America.

Ben Pon, a Dutch businessman, arrived in New York in 1949 with a pair of Volkswagen Type 1 vehicles – a car that would later be known as the “Beetle”. His goal was to turn Americans on to the idea of small, affordable cars, and although Pon had some difficulty moving those two initial units, taking two months to sell them, it wasn’t long before the U.S. took a liking to “the people’s car”.

Several years after Ben Pon’s first two U.S. Volkswagen sales, in 1955, Volkswagen of America was founded to bring the country’s VW dealerships under one banner. Now, 70 years and more than 17 million vehicles later, Volkswagen is celebrating its 70-year anniversary in the U.S. at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show with a parade of notable classic VW models.

Volkswagen is ringing in 70 years in America at the LA Auto Show with a parade of notable classic VW models, including a 1949 Beetle nearly identical to the ones Ben Pon brought to the U.S. seven decades ago, and a 1979 Super Beetle convertible – among the last first-generation Beetles to be sold in America. The procession will also include a 1998 New Beetle – the front-engine, front-wheel-drive car that signified the return of the Beetle nameplate in the U.S.

Other VW notables in the parade include the 1963 Karmann Ghia – a sleek, two-door sportscar with Beetle mechanicals and a body from German coachbuilder Karmann; the 1973 “Thing” – a uniquely weird looking off-road vehicle originally developed for European military use; and the 1981 Scirocco – a sporty Giugiaro-designed coupe introduced to replace the Ghia in the lineup. The 1954 Type 2 Bus, 1967 Type 2 21-Window “Samba” Bus, 1973 Squareback wagon, 1977 Dasher, 1982 Mk1 Jetta, and 1984 Mk1 Rabbit GTI comprise the rest of the VW classics parade roster.

1963 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia

“Over the past 70 years, Volkswagen has grown from two Beetles to a significant part of American history,” says Volkswagen of America President and CEO Scott Keogh. “As we look ahead to driving our company toward bigger goals like our next-generation electric vehicles, we will always remember where we started out.”