Carl Hahn, VW CEO who led automaker’s U.S., China expansion, dies at 96

As head of New York-based Volkswagen of America from 1959 to 1964, Hahn took a hands-on approach to car sales. Andrea Hiott, in “Thinking Small: The Long, Strange Trip of the Volkswagen Beetle” (2012), his VW bus that used his charisma and excellent English to turn Americans “Volkswagen way” toured the United States. He computerized his VW office and standardized services to increase efficiency.

Most importantly, he brought VW to Madison Avenue and chose Doyle Dane Birnbach (later DDB Worldwide, part of the Omnicom Group) to advertising age The magazine was called the top campaign of the 20th century.

Conceived by art director Helmut Krone and copywriter Julian König, the plan includes “Think Small,” an unconventional print ad that celebrates the Beetle’s compact size, and “Lemon,” which focuses on quality control. I was.

At a time when US automakers were doing “silly advertising” focused on the ever-changing appearance of their cars, VW and DDB “will not change because they change only for the benefit of the consumer.” Our philosophy of cars” was presented. said Hahn in her 2011 speech at her Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.

marketing skills

Hahn’s marketing skills made the Beetle the best-selling motorcycle model in history, with over 21.5 million built between 1945 and 2003.

The Beetle was commissioned and conceived by Adolf Hitler, but was embraced by America, inspiring artists, carrying hippies, and starring as Herbie in the Disney film franchise beginning with “The Love Bug” (1968). .

After being elected to Volkswagen’s board of directors in 1964, Hahn returned to Volkswagen’s headquarters in Wolfsburg to head the sales department. He lost his seat in the reforms implemented in his 1973 and left VW to head Continental, Germany’s largest rubber company and the predecessor of Continental, based in Hannover, Germany. I was there.

In 1982, VW reinstated Hahn as chairman and CEO following the resignation of Toni Schumacher.

During Hahn’s tenure, VW became Europe’s number one automaker, opening new plants in China and Eastern Europe, acquiring the Spanish car company Seat, and launching a new version of the Golf model known in the United States as the Rabbit. has been introduced.

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