Adolf Hitler - speech before representatives
of the German automobile industry
February 15, 1936
I believe it is particularly fitting on a day such as this, if merely to counter the forgetfulness of mankind, to stress those factors which have been psychologically responsible for the sorry decline of our automobile industry and thus of our transportation industry as a whole, that is to say of that industry which can currently be described as the single most powerful industry and which is thus called upon to put its unique and characteristic stamp on today’s age.
1. One factor responsible for this decline on the part of the consumer was the view originating in the social-democratic theory of equality, that it was necessary for the human race to become a race of primitives, which was to be accomplished by proletarianizing the standard of living for all so as to arrive at a level shared by as many as possible. This more than primitive idea proceeded on the limited assumption that human progress was rooted in the collective masses and was therefore to be valued or rejected as a collective manifestation.
The fact is, however, that every act of human progress, seen from a mental and objective point of view, originates with a very few individuals; from a mental viewpoint, because the invention is born only of the imagination of individuals and not of the cross-section of a collective endeavor; objectively, because each human invention, regardless of whether its value is recognized or underestimated, always appears initially to be an additional pleasure in everyday life and thus a luxury article for a more or less limited circle. It is not an isolated incident, but rather unfortunately quite often the case that this circle is regarded by the amiable collective of fellow mankind as being crazy-as this was, in fact, the case with our great inventors Benz and Daimler. Thus a truly progressive development is only possible given respect for individual creative power and for the similarly unique mental receptivity and actual marketability.
It is not proof of the falseness, but rather proof of the accuracy of this statement that the Marxist state, in order to limp along after mankind on its mental collective crutches, practically borrows the individual engineers, draftsmen, managers, inspectors, chemists, etc., from individually organized economies to enable it to cultivate its original Marxist economy with their generous assistance. This merely serves, of course, to show that just as the rest of the world was able to achieve culture without Bolshevism; Bolshevism itself would be unable to survive as a Communist entity all of its own without the help of the rest of the world.
This insight is significant because concentrated support particularly for our modern transportation industry is dependent upon the complete liberty of a Volk to make use of it, not only in terms of legislative liberty, but above all in terms of psychological liberty. It is just as antisocial to buy oneself an automobile as it once was to insert a piece of modern glass in one’s window instead of using the traditional oiled hide. The evolution of such an invention necessarily proceeds from a very few persons, also its being put into practice, to then spread to increasingly larger circles, ultimately reaching everyone. Thus it was no coincidence that the lowest percentage of automobiles-after Communist-Marxist Soviet Russia-was seen in Germany which, at that time, also had a Marxist government.
2. Due to the fact that, in the long term, the ideology of the masses cannot and will not forever stand in opposition to the ideology of those in government and vice versa, it was only too natural that, originating from this common root of ignorance and irrationality, those in government acted on the Marxist theory of primitiveness, and for their part, also regarded the automobile as something unnecessary-and thus as something superfluous- and set taxes accordingly. A capital error, I might add, which served to show how badly our own bourgeois economic views were already failing. For the theory of so-called luxury tax articles is absurd wherever and whenever in all human probability the luxury article promises to become an article of general use. Above all, one should not tax those products which are in the process of development, but rather those whose development can clearly be deemed to be finished.
It goes without saying that, on the basis of such false thinking, all those specific steps which could be conducive toward promoting the development of this so incredibly promising and propitious industry were neglected or even completely ignored. Fiscal authorities and police headquarters cooperated to choke off and stamp out the development of German road traffic and with it the transportation industry as thoroughly as possible, and- this is one compliment which must be made to the Marxist-Centrist governments-they succeeded brilliantly in their joint attack. Whereas in America approximately twenty-three million automobiles were on the roads and three to four million were being manufactured annually, the combined efforts of the leadership of Volk and state succeeded in limiting the number of automobiles in Germany to barely 450,000 and in reducing the number produced in the year 1932 to 46,000.
3. The economy itself. It was bad enough that the leadership of Volk and state, under the influence of such ideas, had no comprehension of the development of motorization; it is at least as bad that the German economy, albeit perhaps unconsciously, gave in nonetheless to quite similar thoughts.
Thus the economy was likewise incapable of understanding that the automobile must become a tool for the general public, for otherwise the broad potential for development slumbering therein will not be realized. The automobile is either a costly luxury object for very few and thus of no particular consequence in the long term for the economy as a whole, or it should truly give the economy the enormous impetus of which it is intrinsically capable, and then it must evolve from a luxury object for very few to an object of use for all. And this is where the German automobile industry-and I fear this is still a general view-was not yet fully aware of the fact that the development of German automobile production as a whole can only truly be successful if its pricing is commensurate with the incomes of the customer groups it is to reach.
The question as to the number of automobiles Germany can bear is very easy to answer.
a) The desire for automobiles in our Volk is at least as lively as in any other country; I would almost like to say that the yearning for automobiles is so strongly in evidence here because our Volk has been deprived of them. And gentlemen, you can see the best proof of this in the enormous, incomparable numbers of visitors, particularly at these exhibitions. They are the most pointed disproof of the view held by those who believed, only a few years ago, that they could completely dispense with these exhibitions as being merely insignificant and uninteresting. The German Volk has exactly the same need to use automobiles as, for instance, the American people. It is superficial to regard a quantity of twenty-three or twenty-four million automobiles in America as natural and understandable and 500,000 or 600,000 as such in Germany, although in terms of numbers the German Volk makes up somewhat more than half of the population of the North American Union. No, the people’s requirement is given in Germany, too.
b) The prerequisite for the fulfillment of this desire can, however, be no different from the rest of the world. That means that the price of an automobile must correspond to the income of its potential buyer. And that means that there will be people who are in a position to sacrifice 20,000 marks and more for an automobile because their income is proportionate. But the number of these people will not be large. Lowering the cost to 10,000 marks will result in a much greater number of respective able buyers. And lowering the cost of a car to 5,000 marks will mobilize an even greater group with corresponding incomes. All this means: If I hope to achieve a volume of three or four million automobiles in Germany, then the price and maintenance costs for these automobiles must be graded to correspond to the incomes of the three or four million potential buyers. I advise the German automobile industry to proceed on the basis of these ideas and gather information on the income situation of the four or five million best-situated Germans, and you will then understand why I am so ruthlessly determined to have the preliminary work for producing the German Volkswagen carried on and brought to a conclusion, and, gentlemen, I am talking about a successful conclusion.
I do not doubt that the genius of the constructor44 entrusted with the task as well as the subsequent manufacturers, in connection with the highest insights into national economy on the part of all those involved, will succeed in putting the costs of acquisition, operation and maintenance for this car in a ratio acceptable to the income of this broad mass of our Volk, as we can see has successfully been accomplished in the brilliant example of America.
It is a regrettable error for anyone to believe in this context that such a development will move the buyers of better and more expensive cars to drop down to the Volkswagen. No, gentlemen, this car will act to mobilize millions, of whom hundreds of thousands will all the more easily find their way to better and more attractive cars as a result of their continuously rising standard of living.
The Ford car did not displace better and more expensive American automobiles-on the contrary: it served initially to loosen up and mobilize the enormous masses of American buyers, From whom particularly the more expensive models later profited.
Hence in finding two or three million buyers for a new German Volkswagen, there will be some who, in the course of their lives, will quite naturally switch to better and thus more expensive cars of their own accord. A great number will never be in a position to purchase an expensive car. Not because these people have no desire to do Mr. Manufacturer Whoever a favor but because they are unable to do so because of their modest income. Yet to simply exclude these millions from the pleasure of this modern means of transport because one is unwilling to run the risk that, of the two or three hundred thousand better-situated people, perhaps a few could buy the cheaper car, would be not only humanly unprincipled, but also economically unwise.
For this would mean nothing but artificially bringing to a halt the most tremendous economical development for our Volk and our country out of both selfish and shortsighted considerations.
I know that I am thus assigning an extremely large task to the German economy, but I also know that Germans are no less capable than anyone else in the world. And matters which have been solved in one corner of the globe can and must be solved in Germany as well.
1. The crisis of Germany’s fuel supply, whose paramount significance we can gauge particularly at the present time45 in political terms, can be considered overcome. Our chemists and inventors have truly accomplished wonders, particularly in this sector as a whole. And trust in our determination to put this theoretical solution into practice! 2. In this exhibition, you will find for the first time tires made of German synthetic rubber. And it is my pleasure to inform you and the German Volk at this time that the performance tests which have been conducted by the Wehrmacht for nearly a year now have shown that this synthetic rubber surpasses natural crude rubber in terms of life and durability by ten to thirty percent.