The city of Wolfsburg in Lower Saxony is not merely the hometown of Volkswagen. Wolfsburg is Volkswagen, Germany’s answer to Detroit – but rather more prosperous.
It was founded in the 1930s as a place to house workers building the KdF-Wagen – the car which became the VW Beetle after the Second World War.
Even today, more than half of the town’s 120,000 inhabitants work at the local VW plant, a sprawling complex that covers some 6.5 sq km. Many of the rest provide the services which those employees need, such as shops and restaurants.
It goes without saying that the VW logo is more than a little prominent here. It is the first thing you see when you arrive at the central station, looming over the platforms from the building opposite. It’s on offices, car dealerships and pretty much every vehicle on the roads here.
So a crisis at Volkswagen is a crisis for Wolfsburg.
It threatens the entire social and economic fabric of this town. People here are reluctant to speak about the scandal in the United States, wary of showing disloyalty. But it is clear the events of the past week have taken a heavy toll.
“The people and the employees of Wolfsburg are extremely outraged about what has happened,” says Hartwig Eng, a director of the trade union IG Metall.
“They’ve been working for Volkswagen for three or four generations and that’s why they’re so angry, and justifiably so.”