Volkswagen's Beetle, Bulli and Gol brands have been a hit in Brazil for six decades. The German carmaker looks back on very successful business operations in the Latin American nation.
The first 30 Volkswagen Beetle cars arrived at the port of Santos in September 1950. Shortly after, they were sold for a price three times as high as expected.
Three years later, the Wolfsburg-based company put down roots in Brazil. On March 23, 1953, the firm Volkswagen do Brazil started out with a workforce of 12, assembling Beetle cars and VW minibuses in a small warehouse in Sao Paulo.
It was the humble beginning of a huge success story. In the ensuing six decades, VW has produced over 20 million cars in Brazil. Today, the nation is VW's second-biggest sales market behind China.
According to a study by the Brazilian Advertising Industry Association (ABA), Volkswagen is the best-known car brand in the country. VW ranks second behind General Motors in terms of employees (24,000) and also in terms of sales, behind Fiat.
First plant abroad
VW's first plant in Sao Paulo would nowadays pass as a CKD (completely knocked down) assembly unit. All parts were imported from Germany and were only assembled in Brazil. BMW and Audi are in the process of building CKD plants in Latin America to dodge big import duties. But back in the 1950s, the situation was different.