Heinrich Nordhoff

Last updated
Heinrich Nordhoff
HeinzNordhoff 250.jpg
Born
Heinz Heinrich Nordhoff

(1899-01-06)6 January 1899
Died12 April 1968(1968-04-12) (aged 69)
Known forChief of Volkswagen

Heinz Heinrich Nordhoff (6 January 1899 – 12 April 1968) was a German engineer who led the Volkswagen company as it was rebuilt after World War II.

Contents

Life and career

Nordhoff was born in Hildesheim, the son of a banker. [2] He graduated from the Technical University of Berlin, [3] where he became a member of the Roman Catholic fraternity Askania-Burgundia, and in 1927, began work for BMW working on aircraft engines.

In 1929 he went to work for Opel, where he gained experience of the automotive industry and, since the company had been acquired by General Motors not long before, of American practices in the field. [1] [4] He was rapidly promoted: in 1936 he was the Commercial-Technical director who presented the company's innovative new small car, the Kadett, to the public.


In 1942, with passenger car production much diminished on account of the war, he took over from Gerd Stieler von Heydekampf as Production Director at the company's flagship truck plant at Brandenburg.

After the war he was barred from working in the American-occupied sector because of a business award he had received from the Nazis. [4] [3] He obtained a job as a service manager at a Hamburg garage. [1] Hamburg was a central location for the Control Commission for Germany (British Element), the administration for the British Zone of Occupation, who recruited him for the position of managing director of the REME-controlled Volkswagen plant at Wolfsburg at the urging of British Army Major Ivan Hirst, who had been directing the plant. [1] [2] Nordhoff took up the position on 1 January 1948. [5]

During his first year in post, Nordhoff doubled production to 19,244 cars. [1] By the end of 1961 annual production exceeded a million vehicles. [1] He became legendary for turning the Volkswagen Beetle into a worldwide automotive phenomenon; he developed export markets and ultimately manufacturing facilities abroad. [2] He pioneered the idea of constant improvement while keeping the styling the same. He gave liberal benefits to Volkswagen workers and increased pay scales. Within six years of taking over Volkswagen, Nordhoff reduced the number of man-hours to produce a single car by 75 percent, from 400 to 100. His commitment to improving the workmanship at Volkswagen made the Beetle famous for its bulletproof reliability.

In 1955, shortly before the Wolfsburg factory celebrated its millionth Volkswagen, Nordhoff was awarded a Federal Service Cross with star. [6]

Nordhoff's ability to sell cars and his achievement in first placing the Wolfsburg factory on a firm footing and then making Volkswagen a domestic and international success have not been questioned, but he has been criticised on various bases. At Brandenburg during the war, he used slave labour, although he reportedly ensured the workers had adequate food, shelter and clothing. [5] He took full credit for the company's successes and has been seen as overly self-promoting; in the 1950s he was nicknamed "King Nordhoff" by the German press. [7] Finally, as became apparent in the 1960s, Volkswagen was too slow and inefficient in developing new designs under him. [8] [9] [10] While publicly championing the Beetle, beginning in 1952 Nordhoff spent DM200 million behind the scenes seeking to develop new models, some in partnership with other manufacturers, but his indecision led to the abandonment of all such prototypes. [11] [12] By the late 1960s, the Beetle faced serious competition from Japanese, American, and other European models in different markets. Ultimately, Nordhoff's takeover of Auto Union in 1964 to provide still more manufacturing capacity for Beetles ended up both providing the group with both what would become its performance-luxury brand - Audi - and also the expertise to finally replace the Beetle and its tail-engined stablemates.

Nordhoff had wanted Carl Hahn, head of Volkswagen of America, to succeed him on his retirement, but the Board of Directors chose Kurt Lotz. Nordhoff had a heart attack in summer 1967, and although he returned to work in October, he died six months later, in April 1968; he was to have retired that autumn. [2] [13]

Quote

"Offering people an honest value appealed to me more than being driven around by a bunch of hysterical stylists trying to sell people something they really don't want to have." — Heinrich Nordhoff on his automotive philosophy, from the book Volkswagen: Beetles, Buses and Beyond by James Flammang.


Notes

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Smith, Maurice A. (Ed.) (25 April 1968). "News and views: Volkswagen chief dies". Autocar . 128 (nbr 3767): 57.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Mister Volkswagen". Der Spiegel (in German). 22 April 1968.
  3. 1 2 "The man who rebuilt Volkswagen". The Glasgow Herald . 13 April 1968. p. 7.
  4. 1 2 Rieger, Bernhard (2013). The People's Car: A Global History of the Volkswagen Beetle. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. pp. 108–09. ISBN   978-0-674-05091-4.
  5. 1 2 Rieger, p. 110.
  6. Rieger, p. 122.
  7. Rieger, pp. 132–33.
  8. Rieger, pp. 240–41.
  9. Tolliday, Steven (Winter 1995). "From 'Beetle Monoculture to the 'German Model': the Transformation of Volkswagen, 1967–1991" (PDF). Business and Economic History (pdf). 24 (2): 113 (pdf p. 3).
  10. Keller, Maryann (1993). Collision: GM, Toyota, Volkswagen and the Race to Own the 21st Century . New York: Doubleday. ISBN   9780385467773.
  11. "Für Käfermüde" [For the Beetle-tired]. Der Spiegel (in German). 15 May 1967.
  12. Vieweg, Christof (3 April 2015). "VW-Prototypen der 50er und 60er: Autos ohne Zukunft". Süddeutsche Zeitung (Magazine) (in German).
  13. "Volkswagen's Chief Dies". The Spokesman-Review . Spokane, Washington. AP. 13 April 1968. p. 6.

Related Research Articles

Volkswagen Automobile brand of the Volkswagen Group

Volkswagen, shortened to VW, is a German automaker founded in 1937 by the German Labour Front, known for the iconic Beetle and headquartered in Wolfsburg. It is the flagship brand of the Volkswagen Group, the largest automaker by worldwide sales in 2016 and 2017. The group's biggest market is in China, which delivers 40% of its sales and profits. Popular models of Volkswagen include Golf, Jetta, Passat, Atlas, and Tiguan. The German term Volk translates to "people", thus Volkswagen translates to "people's car".

Ferdinand Porsche Austrian-German automotive engineer, inventor and Nazi who founded the Porsche car company

Ferdinand Porsche was an Austrian-German automotive engineer and founder of the Porsche car company. He is best known for creating the first gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle (Lohner-Porsche), the Volkswagen Beetle, the Auto Union racing car, the Mercedes-Benz SS/SSK, several other important developments and Porsche automobiles.

Borgward

The former Borgward car manufacturing company, based in Bremen, Germany, was founded by Carl F. W. Borgward (1890–1963). It produced cars of four brands, which were sold to a diversified international customer base: Borgward, Hansa, Goliath and Lloyd. Borgward's Isabella was one of the most popular German premium models in the 1950s, while Lloyd's Alexander / Lloyd 600 model offered affordable mobility to many working-class motorists. The group ceased operations in 1961, following controversial insolvency proceedings.

Karmann

Wilhelm Karmann GmbH, commonly known as simply Karmann, was a German automobile manufacturer and contract manufacturer based in Osnabrück.

Josef Ganz

Dipl.-Ing. Josef Ganz was a German car designer born in Budapest, Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Carl Hahn

Carl Horst Hahn is a German businessman and former head of the Volkswagen Group from 1982 to 1993. He served as the chairman of the board of management of the parent company, Volkswagen AG. During his tenure, the group's car production increased from two million units in 1982 to 3.5 million a decade later.

Toni Schmücker

Toni Schmücker was the fourth chief executive officer of the Volkswagen automobile company, following the handover of the company in 1948 to German control from the British, who had administered the VW factory in Wolfsburg, Germany after the Second World War ended.

Wendelin Wiedeking is the former President and Chief Executive Officer of the German car manufacturer, Porsche AG, a post he held from 1993 through July 23, 2009. He was also speaker of the company's executive committee and was a member of the supervisory board of Volkswagen AG from 2006 to 2009.

Dr. Kurt Lotz was the second post-war Chief executive officer (CEO) of the Volkswagen automobile company in Germany. He was nominated in April 1967 to succeed Heinrich Nordhoff at the end of December 1968. Nordhoff died in April 1968.

Rudolf Leiding

Dr. Ing. h.c. Rudolf Leiding was the third post-war chairman of the Volkswagen automobile company, succeeding Kurt Lotz in 1971.

Major Ivan Hirst, was a British Army officer and engineer who was instrumental in reviving Volkswagen from a single factory in Wolfsburg, Germany, into a major postwar automotive manufacturer.

Volkswagen Golf Mk1 Motor vehicle

The Volkswagen Golf Mk1 is the first generation of a small family car manufactured and marketed by Volkswagen. It was noteworthy for signalling Volkswagen's shift of its major car lines from rear-wheel drive and rear-mounted air-cooled engines to front-wheel drive with front-mounted, water-cooled engines that were often transversely-mounted.

Automotive industry in Germany Overview of the automotive industry in Germany

The automotive industry in Germany is one of the largest employers in the world, with a labor force of over 857,336 (2016) working in the industry.

Opelwerk Brandenburg

The Opelwerk Brandenburg was a truck vehicle assembly plant, located in Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany. Built within seven months, it was opened by Adam Opel AG in November 1935 on the re-armament initiative of the Nazi government in order to ensure supplies of Opel Blitz trucks for the Wehrmacht armed forces. Until 1944 more than 130,000 medium-weight trucks were produced at the Brandenburg plant. Devastated by an Allied air raid on 6 August 1944, the facilities were dismantled and shipped east as reparations to the Soviet Union after the war.

Ferdinand Simoneit was a German journalist, author, professor and World War II veteran.

Opel Kadett A Motor vehicle

The Opel Kadett was reintroduced by Opel in 1962, with deliveries beginning on 2 October, a little more than 22 years after the original model was discontinued in May 1940. Like the original Kadett, the new car was a small family car, although it was now available in 2-door saloon, 3-door Car-A-Van (estate) and coupé versions.

Gerd Stieler von Heydekampf was an engineer who became a leading figure in the German automobile industry during the 1950s and 1960s. He joined NSU in 1948, becoming the company's chairman in 1953. Following the takeover of the company by Volkswagen, he stayed on as chairman of the new conglomerate's Audi-NSU division till 31 March 1971 when he retired following a heart attack.

Hanns Grewenig was a German engineer who pursued a successful career in the German Automobile Industry. He was the Commercial Director and a leading member of the executive board at BMW between 1948 and 1957.

Rometsch

Karosserie Friedrich Rometsch, a German metallurgical-coachbuilding company based in Berlin-Halensee, manufactured, modified, and repaired coaches, trailers, bodies and chassis.

Wilhelm Karmann Jr.

Wilhelm Karmann Jr. was a German entrepreneur. He took over the management of Wilhelm Karmann GmbH based in Osnabrück in 1952 and led the company to become a recognized partner of the automotive industry as a contract manufacturer of complete vehicles and as a supplier of pressed parts, production systems and roof modules for convertibles. He was also involved in numerous vehicle developments.

References

Further reading