In 2019, Linz, Austria, hired six activists to evaluate the city’s 1,158 street and place names. The activists declared 64, or 5.5%, to be “problematic.”
Some of these allegedly problematic street names have already received new plaques explaining that the street’s namesake is “tainted.”
Four of these street names are about to be changed altogether. At the top of the list is world-famous Austrian automotive engineering pioneer Ferdinand Porsche. Porsche began his career as an electrical engineer and was initially hired by Lohner-Werke, now Bombardier Transportation, to work on some of the earliest electrical cars in history. He was also a pioneer of the gas/electric hybrid. Next he was hired by Austro-Daimler to work on high performance race cars. Porsche launched his own car company in Stuttgart in 1931 called Porsche.
Ferdinand Porche was hired as the lead engineer of the design team for the original Volkswagen W30, later called the Käfer, or “Beetle.” Volkswagen means “People’s Car” and was founded by a new government agency called the German Labor Front [DAF]. Porsche was tasked with designing a practical, low-cost vehicle. This was to be a government-subsidized car for the masses.
The design of the W30 has strong similarities to the Tatra 87 that fellow Austrian Hans Ledwinka designed for Czechoslovakia’s Tatra. The Tatra 87 was the first mass-produced car that was highly aerodynamic. It was also the first mass-produced vehicle with a rear-mounted engine. These are two key elements that Ferdinand Porsche became closely associated with himself.
Tatra sued Volkswagen for copying them. The dictator of Germany blocked the lawsuit. However, Volkswagen eventually paid a settlement to Tatra in the 1950s. However, many would argue that Porsche and Ledwinka, who met often, both drew inspiration from each other. The Volkswagen Käfer went on to become an international sensation. It was produced for a staggering sixty-five years. Even after it could no longer meet new safety mandates in Europe and America, it was still manufactured and sold in Mexico and South America. In 1997, Volkswagen launched the New Beetle, which had a front-mounted engine, but maintained the same overall look as the original.
Of all the vehicles created as government-subsidized cars by socialist totalitarian governments, Volkswagen is the only one to have become an international success.
Production of the W30 was put on hold because of WWII. At that time, the Volkswagen and Porsche factories produced jeeps, the Kübelwagen, and the amphibious Schwimmwagen, for the German army. During the war, Ferdinand Porsche designed a fully electric transmission and drivetrain for the Panzer VIII Maus, which made the radical monster tank possible.
After WWII, the French government recruited Porsche to work for Renault to help produce the Volkswagen-inspired Renault 4CV. When Porsche and the head of Renault clashed, the French government briefly imprisoned Porsche and threatened him with “war crimes” to force his continued cooperation.
The city of Linz has declared Porsche to be tainted by his connections to the National Socialist dictatorship of Germany.
Volkswagen and Porsche live on today as the manufacturers of some of the most desirable cars in the world. Porsche specializes in highly customizable, high-dollar luxury vehicles.
The Porsche car company said, “In our view, erasing history in public space does not lead to any social progress.”
Austria itself became part of National Socialist controlled German in 1938.