March 29th, 1973 marks the anniversary of the Volkswagen Golf’s introduction some 40 years ago. Although Volkswagen’s official communications tout the car as a runaway success, the front-drive, water-cooled car wasn’t met with such an enthusiastic reception at the outset.
The true story of the Golf (or at least an entertaining one that runs counter to the PR hagiography disseminated by Volkswagen), and its success can only be told by one Bertel Schmitt, who recounted it in “The Autobiography of BS”, back in 2009. Rather than relay it here, I urge you all to check out the original, which is best relayed with Bertel’s unique diction, droll sense of humor and his eye for the absurd.
During my time working with Bertel, much of our business was conducted via the phone, with hour-long chats where Bertel would relay the “directors cut” version of his time working with Volkswagen. Much of it was unpublishable, and I was often left reeling at the end of it, having difficulty processing the sheer amount of information and detail. But the end result was a “Karate Kid” style of mentorship. Bertel was effectively planting the seeds of industry knowledge in my brain, giving me the context and background knowledge I needed to do my job, while giving me enough autonomy to let me screw up, get things wrong and learn the hard way – by getting flayed by the B&B in the comments.