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Volkswagen Group is a major player in the automotive world. Over time, it’s worked up from a failed-to-launch socialist factory to a luxury and racing segment powerhouse. Let’s go through the list of six brands currently owned by VW Group.

1. Volkswagen

VW logo sign sits atop the square VW AG headquarters building in Wolfsburg Germany
Volkswagen AG headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany | Wirestock via iStock

“People’s Car” in German, Volkswagen has socialist beginnings rooted in the German Labour Front (DAF) of the 1930s and 1940s. Consequently, with the minds of big names like Ferdinand Porsche in the early 19th century, collective (sketchy) efforts and funds from groups advocating personal-use cars, and the hands of many tortured slave laborers forced to manufacture said small cars and, ultimately, military inventory, Germany struggled to produce small, affordable cars the masses could afford and accept until after the Second World War.

The KdF-Wagen, VW’s first official press car, was released at the Berlin International Automobile and Motorcycle Exhibition in February of 1939. Journalists were encouraged to test drive it. Because of the war, by 1941, only a few dozen KdF-Wagens were actually produced and nabbed by the German elite.

Following the American occupation of the factory in 1945, the slave laborers were liberated, and the British took over as administering manufacturer. The Beetle as we know it was born. As a public company, the German federal government claimed up to 50% of the company’s profits. Over time, VW grew its European market and eventually exported to American, African, and South American markets. In 1960 Germany sold 60% of VW shares to the public. Henceforth the company has answered to shareholders, acquiring five other motorized brands along the way.

2. Porsche

A Porsche emblem is shown on a white car hood
Porsche emblem | Smith Collection/Gado via Getty Images

VW and Porsche have close historical ties. Early Porsches borrowed from VW design and engineering, which was born from Ferdinand Porsche’s work through the DAF. In the 1990s, Ferdinand’s grandson, Ferdinand Piech, served as VW’s CEO. Over time, Porsche actually acquired much of VW’s shares and, in the late-aughts, announced plans to take over VW. However, by 2009, Porsche backed down and settled for a merger. After a series of snake-eating-itself legally-driven events, including VW purchasing 49.9% of Porsche AG, VW ultimately agreed to enter into full ownership of Porsche AG. After, VW began selling Porsche AG shares in September 2022. Porsche SE remains the majority shareholder of VW Group.

3. Audi

Audi emblem in close view on a black car with water droplets
Audi emblem | vesilvio via iStock

In December 1964, Volkswagenwerk AG acquired approximately 50% of Auto Union AG. Shortly after, the Audi 50, Variant, 60, Super 90, and 100 followed. Rapid growth continued as Audi climbed the ranks and seated itself in the luxury car segment. VW Group purchased the remaining Audi shares in 2020.

4. Lamborghini

A Lamborghini emblem is shown on a white car
Lamborghini emblem | Ekspansio via iStock

In the 90s, Lamborghini was facing financial struggles. So, its then-owner, Megatech, put its Italian subsidiary up for sale. Lamborghini had contacted Audi about an engine for their Aerosa prototype. Audi heard through the grapevine about the financial woes and alerted its parent to the opportunity. On July 10, 1998, VW Group purchased Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. It remains under the Audi brand group and produces cars, speedboat engines, and a third company responsible for licensing and merchandising.

5. Bentley

A closeup of a Bentley emblem is shown
Bentley emblem | imagefactory-studio via iStock

In July 1998, Volkswagen Group acquired Bentley with the rights to use the Rolls Royce name until 2002. Once the deadline hit, Bentley and Rolls Royce parted ways. By 2002, VW had provided Bentley with the resources to produce the V8 Arnage Red Label and its pride and joy, the V12 Continental GT.

6. Ducati

A row of Ducati motorcycles shown parked in close view
Ducati motorcycles | kittijaroon via iStock

VW Group purchased the infamous Italian motorcycle brand Ducati in 2012. Audi now completely controls the brand. Ducati announced its most successful revenue year ever in 2022.

List source: VW Group. Source for VW-Porsche relationship: Reuters.