The Major And The Beetle

Episodes

First
Broadcast
Comments
20040719

The Volkswagen Beetle is one of the best-selling cars of all time, 21 million sold since it was first introduced almost 70 years ago. Yet this car very nearly didn't happen. Peter Day tells the extraordinary story of the unique role played by a British Army officer in the creation of the post-war German car industry.
At the end of World War II, a young British officer, Major Ivan Hirst, was put in charge of Volkswagen's severely damaged factory. On a tour of the site, Lord Rootes told him,
"If you think you're going to build cars here, young man, you're a bloody fool!".
The Major set out to prove him wrong. Without his efforts, VW probably could never have shifted from its failed dream of producing a people's car for the Third Reich into the economic powerhouse that built the Beetle, the symbol of German recovery.
The programme includes excerpts of archive interviews with Ivan Hirst (who died in 2000), including material from both the BBC's and VW's archives which has not been previously broadcast.