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Carl Hahn Dies at 96; Made the VW Beetle Ubiquitous
As president of Volkswagen of America, he pushed the “Think Small” ad campaign that helped create a counterculture icon.
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The automobile executive Carl H. Hahn in 1989. During his chairmanship of Volkswagen, the company grew into a global brand.
Credit...Wolfgang Weihs/picture alliance, via Getty Images

By Sam Roberts
Jan. 18, 2023

Carl H. Hahn, a German automobile executive who helped transform the humble Volkswagen Beetle into an American pop culture icon and one of the most widely produced cars in the world, died on Jan. 14 at his home in Wolfsburg, Germany. He was 96.

His death was confirmed by his son Christopher Hahn.

During Mr. Hahn’s chairmanship of Volkswagen A.G. from 1982 to 1993, the company graduated into a global brand and Europe’s leading automobile manufacturer.

He was still in his 20s in 1954 when he wrote an unsolicited letter to Heinrich Nordhoff, the German engineer who had rejuvenated Volkswagen after World War II, persuading him to hire Mr. Hahn. He became Mr. Nordhoff’s assistant and was quickly promoted to chief of export promotion.

Mr. Hahn served as president of New York-headquartered Volkswagen of America from 1959 to 1964, and upon arriving in the United States he toured the country in a VW minibus.


· Registered User
2,703 Posts
RIP. Where would we be without the Bug and Beetle? VW made the car for the masses.

I feel like the VW Rabbit Cabriolet of that time made people look up to VW as a cool car. I remember a story from the time that said it was the #1 desired car even of rich kids.
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