Das Auto: The Germans, Their Cars and Us

60 min


by Dusty Springfield

# In the cool of the evening

# When everything is

getting kind of groovy... #

The Mini - supreme symbol

of British style, design

and ingenuity.

In 2012, more than 300,000

were sold around the world.

# I've got some plans for tonight

# And then I stop... #


And the great thing about it

is that more than 50 years

after the first Mini

rolled off the assembly lines,

they're still made here in Oxford

at the Cowley plant -

the place the Mini was born.

It's a global phenomenon, and one

still proudly made in Britain.

But you know the irony?

You know who actually owns

this great British icon,

built in a plant 100 years old?

The Germans.

"Fade To Grey"

by Visage

We are living in

an age of German empire.

Amid extraordinary turmoil

in the capitals of Europe,

Germany commands more raw power

than at any time since

the Second World War.

This is an empire of German

engineering, German expertise,

and German exports -

built not on the Panzer,

but on the Polo and the Passat.

A new order, symbolised by

the speed, power and beauty

of the automobile.

Buying a car in Germany is not

just a grubby transaction,

it's engaging in an immensely

serious, culturally-rich,

and occasionally rather

beautiful and moving event.

This isn't just a story about cars,

it's about economic power

and political clout,

because in today's Europe,

it's Germany that calls the shots.

And as we confront the new

challenges of the 21st century -

an age of cut-throat competition

on a dizzyingly global scale -

what can we learn form

our failures and their successes?

What did we get wrong and

what did the Germans get so right?

# We fade to grey... #


"Mr Blue Sky"

by ELO

# Sun is shining in the sky... #

When I was growing up in the '70s

and '80s, my dad had a Rover -

the quintessential British car.

So did his father.

# It's a beautiful new day... #

But although I think of myself

as pretty patriotic,

I don't drive a British car today...

I drive a German one.

# Mr Blue Sky is

living here today... #

And I'm not alone. A few months ago,

a poll asked people what brand

of car they'd most like to drive.

Now, number one was Volkswagen -

they're German.

Number two was Audi -

they're German.

Number three was Mercedes -

they're German.

Are you beginning to spot the trend?


by Gary Numan

I haven't driven

another... type of car -

it's been Volkswagens,

Audis or Mercedes,

The fit and finish of the car -

in a German car -

for the comparable car

is a lot better.

Well, I went off to buy a new Rover

and they told me I had to wait

about six months for delivery -

this was 30 years ago.

And this was in the garage opposite.

Well, not this one, but the new BMW

was in the garage opposite,

so I bought the BM

and I've bought them ever since.

Germany exports more cars to Britain

than to any other country

in the world.

So why don't we buy British?

Well, how could we?

What is a British car?

Bentley, for instance,

is owned by the Germans.

Rolls-Royce? German.

Jaguar? Indian.

Land Rover? Indian.

MG Rover belongs to the Chinese.

And even James Bond's

favourite car - the Aston Martin -

is owned by the Kuwaitis

and Italians.

Only a handful of tiny,

specialist car-makers remain.

Does this matter, though?

Isn't a car just a means

of getting from A to B?

In many ways, the motor car

has usurped the role

of the work of art

in our modern age.

In that it represents

collective yearnings,

it represents, you know, desire.

It represents an idea of progress,

of faith in technology,

and there's no-one who's got that

more correct and more powerful

and made it more articulate

than the German motor industry.


The first car I ever bought didn't

come from an iconic British factory

like Cowley or Longbridge,

but from the German heartland

of Lower Saxony.

Welcome to Wolfsburg,

the home of Volkswagen -

a factory the size of Gibraltar.

VW has come an awfully long way

since it was set up in 1937

under the Nazis,

to build "people's cars" -

Volkswagen for Germany's masses.

Here in Wolfsburg, they've even

set up this "Autostadt" -

a theme park dedicated to the car,

visited by more than

two million people every year.

It's a temple not just

to the automobile

but to the technological glamour

of German modernity

and to the success of

Germany's economic model.

With its gleaming,

futuristic towers,

this "Car City" is

German capitalism incarnate.

And as VW's steely

commander-in-chief puts it,

they want to leave their stamp

on every country on earth.

We have a clear

strategy called "Strategy 2018".

In the year 2018, we want to

become the world's number one.

The number one in volume,

with more than ten million cars,

the number one in

customer satisfaction,

the number one in

employee satisfaction

even the number one in making money.

Under the generalship

of Herr Winterkorn,

VW are inching ever

closer to their goal.

Last year they made a record

profit - a cool 9.7 billion.

But the irony is that just as the

Mini has now become a German story -

so Volkswagen's post-war success

began as a British story

and its hero was the most

unlikely person imaginable.

His name was Ivan Hirst

and he was a major

in the Royal Electrical

and Mechanical Engineers.

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Dominic Sandbrook

Dominic Christopher Sandbrook (born 2 October 1974) is a British historian, author, columnist and television presenter. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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