Although we associate many things with Germany, few are as recognized worldwide as their Automobiles!
AUDI, MERCEDES, BMW, PORSCHE, VW and OPEL
During the 80s my daughter was a HUGE car buff; more specifically luxury sports cars, which usually meant foreign automobiles. Although she wouldn’t have turned down a classic Corvette or Thunderbird, she was really more into the foreign species! She had posters all over her bedroom wall as well as models displayed on every flat surface. As a single mom (at that time) when we went for a ride, her favorite game was to test my knowledge of the luxury vehicles on the road. It wasn’t good enough for me to say “It’s a Porsche”….I had to say “It’s Porsche 911 Carrera”!
Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Maseratis were really rare in St. Louis or its’ neighboring counties during the 80s, as were all of the luxury sports models produced in Germany! So, when going for 4-hour ride, the game was kind of boring because they were so few and far between. However, I worked for Apple Computer and took at job at their corporate headquarters in Cupertino, California – where it was a whole new game! For all of the west coast, but certainly in Silicon Valley, those cars were extremely prevalent! The game then became “pick out and name the car that isn’t an exotic foreign luxury model”!!
Now that I live in Germany (for the second time), all those German brands are obviously everywhere, although the luxury sports models are less common. Of course, in any part of Germany that is home to US military bases, you will find a fair share of Ram 1500 pick-up trucks, as well as other American brands. However, this might be a good time to interject that many of us who have lived here before, traded those in for a smaller vehicle before transporting overseas. We learned our lesson the first time with vehicles that are too large for the very narrow roads throughout Europe, as well as the very small parking places. Most of those larger vehicles belong to military families who live on base where the roads and parking places are less of an issue…………until they leave base!! It can be quite challenging to maneuver even a mid-sized car in and out of the off-base parking lots.
Back to German automobiles: Although I’ve heard some Germans covet an American made truck or classic car, those are not what most drive! There are tons of Opels on the roads (probably due to the lower cost of ownership and maintenance), and I see fewer Porsches; the cars I see most frequently are BMWs, Audis, and Mercedes. And the cars I see (off-post) most frequently driven by Americans are BMWs!
This may have something to do with the fact that US Military personnel can take advantage of tax-free purchase opportunities through AAFES with, and even have them delivered to an AAFES location stateside. (Read More)
And I can tell you from experience that you can anticipate better and less expensive service and maintenance on these vehicles in Germany!!
Why Germany is seen as The Car Center of the World
As much as we Americans would like to suggest otherwise, when people around the world think cars, they will first think of Germany. Japan and the United States both give some strong competition, and Italy and England provide some luxury specialty cars, but one country stands above the rest. Here is how Germany managed to be the car capital of the world.
They started it all. In 1879, a German man named Karl Benz patented the first internal combustion engine. Without this invention, the various models people had been tinkering with for road vehicles (using steam, for example) wouldn’t have launched us to where we are today. A few years later, Benz also built what is considered the first car. These two patents put Germany on the map as where it all began.
Tradition. This is connected to the last one, but out of Karl Benz’s invention, came a car company that is still around today – Mercedes-Benz. To have a company with this long of a tradition that is still producing excellence is quite impressive. The other companies that have popped up since then have had to make a name for themselves while competing with the original gold standard of the car industry.
Speed. Even if we can’t often legally use it, we like to know our vehicles are capable of smoking every other car on the road. Well, the Germans design cars not just to look fast, but to be able to be safely driven at very high speeds. The German highway system often has no required speed limit, which allows drivers to use their horsepower. Cars there need to be able to perform at these top speeds, and German cars do.
Precision Engineering. German cars are built by highly professional engineers that choose a vocational track before they even complete their equivalent of high school. Manufacturing is a respected field in the country, and the people take pride in the craftsmanship their car brands have built a reputation for.
Marketing. In the end, even with a great product, a lot of how we view cars comes down to successful marketing. Audi, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Porsche all have very positive associations in the public’s mind, not just because they are high-quality vehicles, but also because they have very successful marketing campaigns. Even after two world wars against the Germans, during which Volkswagen helped fuel their war machine, VW was able to convince Americans, only a couple decades later, that they were the peace and love company of the VW Bus and Love Bug. Now that’s good marketing.
So, if you’re wondering why Germany is seen as the king of cars, just remember these points. From the very beginning, they’ve been producing excellence and innovating the cars of the future.
The automobile industry in Germany generated roughly 426 billion euros in total sales in 2018, compared to 423 billion euros the year before. The most recent numbers for gross production value in German car manufacturing showing production was worth almost 498 billion euros.
New registrations of passenger cars in Germany 2019, by brand......
This statistic shows the number of new registrations of passenger cars in Germany in 2019, by brand. From January to December 2019, roughly 667518 thousand passenger cars of the brand Volkswagen were registered in Germany, making it the most registered car brand that year in this ranking. (Source: Statista.com)
Not all German cars are actually manufactured in Germany
BMW, Volkswagen and Mercedes, which is owned by Daimler, all have major manufacturing plants in the United States and employ nearly 50,000 American workers.
The largest BMW assembly plant in the world is located in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Last year, it posted a new production record of more than 400,000 vehicles — 70% of which were exported to other countries.
Volkswagen has a large factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that produced 112,000 vehicles last year. And Mercedes makes 300,000 cars and SUVs a year in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama.
It's a booming business: The total number of cars produced by German automakers in the United States has increased by 180,000 since 2013 to 804,000, according to the German carmakers’ association. (Source: CNN Business)
So much for Americans who don’t want one of these cars because they prefer "vehicles manufactured in the USA" !
" One might ask, is there a difference between German brands manufactured in Germany verses those manufactured in America. According to this guy……….there’s a definite difference!”
One might ask, is there a difference between German brands manufactured in Germany verses those manufactured in America. According to this guy……….there’s a definite difference!
You can find similar opinions relating to Audis, BMWs and VWs, which are also not all manufactured in Germany. But you know what they say about “opinions” and the fact that everybody has one! I am not in a position to say one way or the other. I believe Porsches are the ONLY German automobile that is manufactured solely in Germany (Stuttgart to be exact)! But even Porsche has a manufacturing plant in Bratislava, Slovakia for their Porsche Cayenne SUVs. BTW – Please do NOT pronounce this German car brand as PORSH! The correct pronunciation of Porsche is PORSH-UH. It’s a family name that comes from the company’s founder, Ferdinand Porsche (PORSH-UH).
So, let’s review the 6 most popular German-made automobiles individually……
Audi began production in 1909 and their headquarters are in Ingolstadt, Germany. The company received its name from their founder, August Horch. Audi in German means “listen.”
In 1932 Audi merged with Horch, Wanderer, and DKW to form Auto Union UG. That’s where the four linked rings in the Audi logo come from. Then, in 1966, they became part of the German automobile giant: the Volkswagen Group. Audi arguably builds some of the best German cars in the world.
Mercedes-Benz has been in business since 1926. The car manufacturer operates out of Stuttgart, Germany and was founded by Gottlieb Daimler who worked with Karl Benz. Since their inception, they’ve been seen as a manufacturer of luxury cars. If someone drives a Mercedes brand vehicle, it’s naturally assumed that they have money, and the Mercedes-Benz logo has become synonymous with quality, emblazoning some of the best cars in the industry.
Over the years they’ve produced numerous types of vehicles including trucks, limousines, vans, and buses. In fact, the Mercedes-Benz 600 was a luxury vehicle that became a popular limousine model. They were produced from 1964 through 1972.
Because Mercedes vehicles are seen as a luxury item, it makes sense that famous people drive them. In fact, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class seems to be exceptionally popular. Some of the most well-known Mercedes brand vehicle drivers include Floyd Mayweather, Kim Kardashian, and Sylvester Stallone. That’s why they’re ranked as one of the top German car manufacturers.
BMW has been around since 1916 and is headquartered in Munich, Bavaria. It was founded by Franz Josef Popp and it stands for Bayerische Motoren Werke (Bavarian Motor Works), often recognized instantly by the iconic BMW logo. Their greatest successes come from the engine, which continues to improve over time. That’s what makes it one of the best German car brands in the world.
Since their inception, they’ve released many luxury passenger cars, sports cars, and SUVs. Their U.S. sales did drop slightly in 2017 to 305,685 vehicles which was a 2.4% decrease over 2016. On the other hand, they did rise 4.2% in worldwide sales for the year with 2.09 million vehicles sold.
BMW USA offers a wide variety of luxury vehicles. They range from the X1-X7, 2-Series-8-Series, Z4, M Models, i3, and i8.
Because of their status as the builders of some of the greatest cars of all time, there have been many celebrities caught behind the wheel of a BMW. In recent years, some of the famous people include Jessica Alba (X6), Halle Berry (i3), and Heidi Klum (6-Series convertible).
Volkswagen has been one of the popular German car brands since 1937 when Ferdinand Porsche started the company. They currently have their headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany and were known as “the car of the people.” Over time, Volkswagen went on to acquire Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Skoda, and SEAT. It is the ultimate German brand, and a giant in the automotive industry, putting many American car brands to shame.
While they don’t sell as many as the other German car brands, Porsche is still a well-known automaker. They started in 1931 by Ferdinand Porsche once again. Their current headquarters are in Stuttgart, Germany. They specialize mainly in sports cars and gained a lot of reputation from their racing career. Many of their older cars are worth a good deal of money today.
Current sports car models include the 718 Cayman, GTS and Boxster, as well as the 911 Carrera, Targa, GTS, Turbo, GT2 RS and GT3. They also produce a Panamera sedan plus the Macan and Cayenne SUVs.
Many celebrities have been seen vehicles sporting the Porsche logo, especially those that enjoy performance cars. Some of the most popular include Jerry Seinfeld (owned 47 of them), Keanu Reeves (911 Carrera 4S), and LeBron James (911 Turbo S).
ADAM OPEL AG
This might not be one of the German car brands that you know about, but that’s because they aren’t sold here. In fact, they are popular in Germany and they maintain headquarters in Rüsselsheim, Hesse. They’ve been around since 1862 and were founded by Adam Opel.
At first, they only manufactured bicycles but released their first vehicles in 1899. From the popularity, they just grew from there. It’s possible you’ve seen some Opel cars in gangster movies. You’ve also seen the 1969 Opel GT in Starsky and Hutch plus a 1970 Opel GT in Criminal Minds.
BTW, Opel was owned by General Motors for 92 years! In March 2017, Groupe PSA agreed to acquire Opel from General Motors for €2.2 billion, making the French automaker the second biggest in Europe, after Volkswagen. Opel is still headquartered in Rüsselsheim am Main (Germany).
Ford also has a manufacturing plants in Cologne and Saarlouis, Germany, where they make Ford Focus, Ford Fiesta, and Ford Mondeo.
There are quite a few other cars manufactured in Germany, but few Americans have ever heard of them. Among all the “exotic” brands built in Germany, I only included the Opel because it’s a big seller here, and quite honestly, this one is pretty cool!
New this year: BMW said it will retool its German factories to build electric cars and components and shift manufacturing of combustion engines to plants in England and Austria as part of a broader shift toward low-emissions cars.
By the end of 2022 all German factories will make at least one fully electric car. BMW's plant in Munich, Germany, which currently builds 4-, 6-, 8- and 12-cylinder combustion engines, will be retooled to make next-generation electric vehicles with a 400-million-euro investment until 2026.
Pretty cool: For those of you with a 911 budget, as of June 2020 you can now track it remotely from the order to the delivery on your smart phone!!! Check it out!
Looking for another benefit of being in Germany! While most of these auto manufacturers offer US buyers the opportunity to pick up their car IN GERMANY and drive it on the autobahn, before shipping it to the states, most also have factory and museum tours that are easy to schedule if you already live here!!!
Auto Factory and Museum Tours in Germany for Car Buffs and Car Buyers
Munich: BMW Welt by night, with headquarters tower and museum on the right. New BMW owners can pick up their new car here. (PHOTO: Richard Bartz, Wikimedia Commons)
All the German automotive brands offer factory tours, in some cases combined with optional auto museum tours. German car buyers also like to pick up their new Audis, BMWs, Mercedes, Porsches, and Volkswagens directly at the factory. (See How to Buy or Lease a Car in Germany) Ford and Opel are the only automakers in Germany that do not allow buyers to take delivery of their new vehicle at the factory, but they do offer factory tours.
You may not think of Ford as a “German” auto company, but the American Henry Ford opened his first auto plant in Germany in 1912. Some Germans don’t even realize that Ford (pronounced “fort” in German) is not a German company. The American car giant General Motors planted its flag in Germany a bit later, when it purchased an 80 percent interest in Adam Opel AG in 1929. Today Opel is still a division of General Motors.
European Delivery for US Customers
Factory delivery is a popular option for German car buyers. Four German automakers – Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche – also offer their US customers the option of picking up their new car in Germany and combining that with a European trip. All but Porsche offer a 5 to 7 percent discount on the vehicle, combined with free or discounted air fares. Some also offer additional perks such as free meals, museum entrance, and a factory tour. Volkswagen, alone among German car producers, does not offer European delivery for its US customers. (Opel sells its cars in the US through its owner, General Motors. The Swedish carmaker Volvo also offers European delivery in Sweden for US customers.)
Buyers order their new car – with the options they want – through a US dealer, who also helps arrange for delivery in Germany. The US customer then travels to Germany and takes delivery of the new car at the Audi, BMW, Mercedes, or Porsche factory-delivery center. Since EU/German car specs differ from those for the USA, the car for an American buyer will be a US-spec vehicle. The automaker offers special temporary insurance and licensing for Europe. After driving around Germany and Europe, the US customer drops off the car for shipment back to the States. BMW offers 12 shipping drop-off locations across Europe. You and your car are reunited at your local dealership six to ten weeks later. For more details on this awesome delivery feature, and on all of the German auto factory/museum tours, click here!
For the record…………….if Santa is listening, please put me down for a 2020 Porsche 911 Turbo S (shown below)….I’m blaming it on the games my daughter made me play! If Santa ever wins the lottery, I just might have to learn to drive an 8-speed manual transmission to get the full benefit of really driving on the autobahn!