VW/Porsche: Auto Union? What the NSFW?

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

Just got off the phone with my copyright lawyer. “Bertel, how many times do I have to tell you that ideas are not copyrightable.” “Yes, Sidney, I know, only the expression. But it’s a shame nonetheless.” There goes my last chance to get rich. What happened?

According to the pistonheads at Pistonheads.com, history goes into high RPMs again at Volkswagen. Due to the impending merger of Volkswagen and Porsche (which more and more looks like a takeover of Porsche by Piech) the company might need a new name. After all, Volkswagen-Porsche would sound unwieldy and would bring up memories of the ill-fated Volksporsche 914. Anyway, a holding company shouldn’t carry the name of one of its brands in its name (save for Ford, or Toyota, and many others.) The names of two brands in the name of one holding would be a bit too much. So someone floated a bright idea:

How about Auto Union? Says Pistonheads: “The historic Auto Union name, made famous by the successful 1930s grand prix cars, could be revived and used by the new Porsche-VW alliance when the two automotive powerhouses merge later in the year.” Volkswagen still owns that brand, they bought Auto Union AG from Daimler Benz in 1964, along with Audi and NSU. Only Audi remained. Auto Union, established 1932 in Chemnitz, was an amalgamation of Horch, Audi, DKW and Wanderer. The four rings survived in the Audi logo.

Piech likes the Auto Union idea, says Pistonheads. “The decision, however, may be scuppered by the Nazi associations the Auto Union name carries. Despite being established in 1932, well before the rise of Hitler, the Auto Union brand came to symbolize the engineering aspirations of Nazi Germany.”

Boy, are they ever wrong.

In 1975, after Toni Schmücker had taken the helm at VW, Volkswagen already looked for a new name. They envisaged having many brands (which, as we all know, came to pass,) and they needed a name for the holding company. Many names were floated. I was involved in the project and said: “How about Auto Union?”

What was the answer? “Bertel, are you out of your frikken mind? We’ve already got enough unions. We don’t need one in the name of our company.”

Instead, the notorious V.A.G was born. First as the name for the combined distribution organization, and the subsidiaries, such as V.A.G Leasing, V.A.G Bank etc. I objected loudly. Remember, us Germans have problems with pronouncing the “V,” it sometimes comes across as an “F” or as a “W.” In the case of V.A.G it sounded like “FAG” – not as the homosexual version. With the “G” pronounced as a Teutonic “K,” it sounded, well, like “FUCK” (a.k.a. NSFW).

“You can’t give an effing name to the effing company,” I objected.

“Bertel, we all know you have a dirty mind,” they said. “It’s not FUCK. It’s Vau-Ah-Geh.” And so the effing organization received its effing name. In 1992, V.A.G was quietly euthanized. V.A.G lives on in the V.A.G Rounded typeface, which became popular on the Apple iBook and many other products.

I insist that Auto Union would have been much better as the name for the holding company in 1975, and it would do just fine today as well. Even the Metallarbeitergewerkschaft and the UAW would love it. But I doubt it will be taken. For the same reasons it was shot down in the late 70s.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href="http://www.tomokoandbertel.com"> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href="http://www.offshoresuperseries.com"> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • Njdave Njdave on May 18, 2009

    How about "Clusterf*ck" for the new name?

  • Anonymous Anonymous on Jul 29, 2009
    Auto Union to Make a Comeback ? VW Porsche konnte bald “Auto-Union” heißen…... VW-Chef Martin Winterkorn spielt mit dem Gedanken den VW-Konzern mit Porsche in “Auto Union” umzubenennen berichtet InfoPirat. Auto-Union ? Die gab es schon einmal in den 30er-Jahren. Zu “Auto-Union” hat die Welt in einem Ihrer ...
  • Bd2 Absolutely not - do not want to support a fascist, totalitarian regime.
  • SCE to AUX The original Capri was beautiful. The abomination from the 90s was no Capri, and neither is this.It looks good, but too similar to a Polestar. And what's with the whacked price?
  • Rover Sig Absolutely not. Ever.
  • EBFlex No. I buy as little Chinese products as possible.
  • John "...often in a state of complete disarray on the roads" What does that mean? Many examples in poor repair? Talk about awful writing.
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