How Famous Volkswagens Got Their Names

Volkswagen, or “people’s car” in German, started its journey with the iconic Beetle in 1937, aiming to build affordable cars for everyone, in an era when one out of fifty Germans owned a car. It went to become the largest car manufacturer in the world in less than a century.
Volkswagen Atlas 9 photos
Photo: Volkswagen AG
Volkswagen ArteonVolkswagen  AtlasVolkswagen BeetleVolkswagen CorradoVolkswagen EosVolkswagen Golf GTIVolkswagen PassatVolkswagen Touareg
Whether they are easy to pronounce or not, Volkswagen has graced its vehicles with many interesting names, which all have an equally interesting story.


We start our insight into VW’s names with arguably the most beautiful car of the current lineup. The Arteon borrows its name from the Latin word for art, "artem," which emphasizes Volkswagen's focus on harmonious design. The name fits like a glove since the four-door coupe is exquisitely designed.


The largest vehicle built on the MQB platform, which it shares with cars like the Arteon, Passat B8, and Golf k7, gets its name after a titan, Atlas, which in Greek mythology was condemned to support the celestial heavens for eternity. The name is fitting for the large, seven-seater SUV.


The first Volkswagen to grace the tarmac was officially named Type 1, but as it gained popularity, the people started to affectionately refer to it as Kaefer, which is German for Beetle.

Volkswagen Beetle
Photo: Volkswagen AG
It became the most popular car in the German carmaker’s history and as the translation of its nickname made the jump to several other languages, it became the official moniker of the car by the late ‘40s.


This liftback coupe has become a cult hero for the brand’s fans. It was built from 1988 to 1995 to eventually replace the Scirocco and featured the famous VR6 engine, the grandfather of the modern W12. It gets its name from the Spanish verb “correr” which means run or sprint.


The sport compact convertible was VW’s first production coupe since the Corrado and featured a five-piece foldable and retractable hardtop. Like the Atlas, the name was inspired by Greek mythology, borrowing the goddess of dawn’s name.


This model is surely the most popular modern-day Volkswagen and was developed to replace the Beetle in the mid-'70s.

Volkswagen Golf GTI
Photo: Volkswagen AG
Eight generations later, The Golf is still around and even having an all-electric version. Legend has it that it was named after a key manager’s horse, although the official version alludes to the German translation of the Gulf Stream.


Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro and released in 1973, it was Volkswagen’s first modern-era vehicle. The name is rooted in the same wind motif as many of the brand’s models, “Passatwinde” meaning trade winds in German.


The SUV built exclusively for North American markets shares its name with a town in New Mexico that has been known for centuries for its breathtaking views and culture. It is also a tribute to former Taos-resident John Muir, who authored a repair book and manual dedicated to past VW models.


The mid-size SUV that shares platforms with the Porsche Cayenne and the Audi Q7 was named after the nomadic people of the Sahara Desert and it might have the most difficult to pronounce model name of them all.
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About the author: Vlad Radu
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Vlad's first car was custom coach built: an exotic he made out of wood, cardboard and a borrowed steering wheel at the age of five. Combining his previous experience in writing and car dealership years, his articles focus in depth on special cars of past and present times.
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