Karmann Lives, Kindof

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

Nine months ago, German Karmann declared bankruptcy. The maker of the venerable Ghia, and until recently contract manufacturer and specialist for ragtops, fell victim to the sad fact that Fahrvergnügen doesn’t agree with carmageddon.

Now, Volkswagen, one of Karmann’s main customers, picked up the core pieces of the maker. Volkswagen isn’t taking over Karmann (that would mean assuming the liabilities.) Volkswagen is buying assets: Plants, machinery, real estate. Production in Osnabrück will go on. At a much smaller scale than before.

The deal is seen as a “Thank you” note by Volkswagen for Christian Wulff, Premier of Lower Saxony, member of the Volkswagen supervisory board, and master of the 20 percent of Volkswagen stock. It was Wulff who assisted Piech in turning the table on upstart Wiedeking. Instead of Volkswagen being taken over by Porsche, Porsche was taken over by Volkswagen. Wulff’s hometown is Osnabrück. A day after the Volkswagen board officially approved the merger with Porsche, “Wulff received the Karmann-rescue he had wanted,” writes the Wirtschaftswoche.

It was a cheap gift. VW is thought to pay €30m for the assets, a mere flyspeck on VW’s €26b investment program for the next three years. Volkswagen will launch a new subsidiary for Karmann and will resume production in 2011. It plans to employ 1000 people in 2014, maybe, way down from the former 7000 who in a former time had built ragtops for richies.

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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5 of 23 comments
  • MadHungarian MadHungarian on Nov 21, 2009

    call me when my '11 Karmann Ghia with Automatic Stickshift is ready.

  • Bocatrip Bocatrip on Nov 21, 2009

    Karmann happened to make the absolutely highest quality convertable top of the time. It even kept most of the rain out.

    • Mpresley Mpresley on Nov 22, 2009

      That may be true, but no one could match the number of snaps (half of them not working) on the top of my old MG Midge. Besides, what's a little water between friends across the Channel? So take that Mr. Karmann...geesh, these Germans are always trying to take over something. Next thing you'll be telling me they're trying to take over the world!

  • Gardiner Westbound Gardiner Westbound on Nov 22, 2009

    Glad to hear Karmann will survive, albeit in different corporate form. They have made some very nice, reasonably priced cars over the years. The Karmann bodies were usually superior to the VW oily bits.

  • Texlovera Texlovera on Nov 23, 2009

    I remember my dear aunt (almost 6 feet tall) driving around in her orange Karmann Ghia in the early/mid 70's. What a sight...