Sometimes achieving big things requires the ability to think small.
This simple concept was the driving force that propelled the
Volkswagen Beetle to become an avatar of American-style freedom, a
household brand, and a global icon. The VW Bug inspired the ad men
of Madison Avenue, beguiled Woodstock Nation, and has recently been
re-imagined for the hipster generation. And while today it is
surely one of the most recognizable cars in the world, few of us
know the compelling details of this car’s story. In Thinking Small,
journalist and cultural historian Andrea Hiott retraces the
improbable journey of this little car that changed the world.
Andrea Hiott’s wide-ranging narrative stretches from the factory
floors of Weimar Germany to the executive suites of today’s
automotive innovators, showing how a succession of artists and
engineers shepherded the Beetle to market through periods of
privation and war, reconstruction and recovery. Henry Ford’s Model
T may have revolutionized the American auto industry, but for years
Europe remained a place where only the elite drove cars. That all
changed with the advent of the Volkswagen, the product of a Nazi
initiative to bring driving to the masses. But Hitler’s concept of
“the people’s car” would soon take on new meaning. As Germany
rebuilt from the rubble of World War II, a whole generation
succumbed to the charms of the world’s most huggable automobile.
Indeed, the story of the Volkswagen is a story about people, and
Hiott introduces us to the men who believed in it, built it, and
sold it: Ferdinand Porsche, the visionary Austrian automobile
designer whose futuristic dream of an affordable family vehicle was
fatally compromised by his patron Adolf Hitler’s monomaniacal drive
toward war; Heinrich Nordhoff, the forward-thinking German
industrialist whose management innovations made mass production of
the Beetle a reality; and Bill Bernbach, the Jewish American
advertising executive whose team of Madison Avenue mavericks..