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An uncomfortable place, like the back of a Volkswagen

It’s a toss-up between whether to be happy or sad that Volkswagen is re-retiring the Rabbit badge and bringing back the Golf. (These are the issues we use to distract ourselves when our NCAA bracket dissolves into disaster — thanks for nothing, Memphis.) From a noun perspective, we’re much more interested in rabbits than golf, given our unmentionable handicap on the course. And while rabbits dig up our garden every year, as well as produce biopellets that our dog finds very, very tasty, they at least inspire thoughts of rapid vroom movement and furry cuteness.

Biography Resource Center has a number of biographies of Volkswagen folk, including the fellow who took over the company as the Rabbit became a Beetle-replacing staple for the company, Carl H. Hahn.

Born near the Czech border, in Chemnitz (now Karl-Marx-Stadt in East Germany), Hahn was educated at schools in Germany, Switzerland, France, Italy and England. He received his doctorate in 1952 from the University of Bern, writing his thesis on the economic unification of Europe. After further study at the University of Perugia in Italy, he wrote a book in 1953 on the European coal and steel community, entitled The Schuman Plan. The young economist had early ties to the automobile business. His father had served on the board of the German automaker Auto-Union, the forerunner of Audi (now a division of Volkswagen), and during summer vacations Hahn had worked for the Swiss importer of Nash automobiles. Hahn trained briefly with Italian automaker Fiat in 1952 before joining the Organization of European Economic Cooperation in Paris as an administrative officer, where he helped organize the European Productivity Agency.

[During the 1970s], Volkswagen had slipped into a worldwide sales crisis under first Lotz, then Rudolph Leiding. Its problems stemmed in part from the age of the Beetle and from the rise of Japanese auto sales on several fronts, including the lucrative American market. Leiding is credited with promoting the development of a modern successor to the Beetle, the 1975 Golf (sold in the United States as the Rabbit). His successor Toni Schmuecker implemented the board’s decision to begin U.S. production, and a Rabbit assembly plant was opened in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, in 1978. When Schmuecker announced his impending retirement in 1981 because of ill health, the Vorstand elected Hahn as its chairman, effective January 1, 1982.

Other interesting Volk folk in BioRC: former leader Wolfgang Bernhard, Bernd Pischetsrieder (a change agent from BMW who introduced a number of luxury models to the company, including the Phaeton), designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, author Wallace Markfield, AI researcher Sebastian Thrun, and everybody’s favorite Volkswagen driver, Ted Bundy.

The crimes were dubbed the “Ted Murders”–one of the victims had last been seen in the company of a man calling himself by that name; this man reportedly drove a Volkswagen. Bundy was in fact implicated in the murders as early as July 1974, when Beth Archer anonymously tipped off police after seeing a composite sketch of the suspect. Bundy’s carefully groomed public image, however, dissuaded authorities from pursuing the lead. In August 1975 Bundy was arrested for evading a police officer who had attempted to pull him over on a traffic violation; a search of his 1968 Volkswagen yielded items such as a ski mask, an ice pick, and handcuffs. In October 1975 he was identified in a police lineup by Carol DaRonch, whom he had attempted to abduct. He was found guilty of aggravated kidnapping on 1 March 1976 and sentenced to one to fifteen years in Utah State Prison.

It was a Volkswagen Beetle.

“Carl H. Hahn.” Contemporary Newsmakers 1986, Issue Cumulation. Gale Research, 1987.
“Theodore Robert Bundy.” The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Volume 2: 1986-1990. Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1999.

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Posted on: March 27, 2009, 4:40 pm Category: Factoids Tagged with: , , ,

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