Brand loyalty was handed down in my family like an heirloom or a recipe.
In the early 1960s, my parents' affinity for Volkswagen products coincided with the phenomenal and intelligent Doyle, Dane, Bernbach advertising campaign and the rise of countercultural consumerism.
In our flat-roofed house, driving a rear-engine vehicle was as important as poetry and literature, the hi-fi in the living room and Ray-Ban sunglasses.
During World War II military service, my father developed an appreciation for the simplistic elegance of horizontally opposed air-cooled engines in both VW vehicles and shaft-drive BMW motorcycles.
My two teenage kids are VW enthusiasts. For three generations of our family, both new and used VWs have been inexpensive, durable, efficient and full of good-humored character. Volkswagens are vehicles you can drive, race, modify, rally, repair, camp in or live in. How many brands can offer all that?
VW ownership can sometimes signal vaguely liberal sensibilities.
You will be considered a conservationist and environmentalist -- even if your vintage Beetle or Bus leaves a grapefruit-sized oil spot where it's parked. The economical efficiency of VWs can be taken to extremes, like the pizza delivery guy I know in Toledo, Ohio, with 350,000 miles on his 1986 diesel Jetta. He runs a 50-50 mix of diesel and grease that he gets from a Chinese restaurant.
Longevity can be counted on and becomes a point of pride. A well-maintained VW of any age can make odometer readings irrelevant.
Several cross-country trips in 200,000- and 300,000-mile vehicles have shown me this. No worries, anyway. Availability of VW parts is as diverse as fairground food.
The community of VW clubs, events and fellow owner tech help supports the ownership experience in a way that current automotive marketing customer relationship management initiatives could never engender.
VWs were made to run on the autobahn. Engines tend to live long lives because, from an engineering standpoint, they are understressed. A long, healthy, understressed life is a noble objective, and it makes me want to be more like my VWs in that regard.
Within the VW experience, the friendships I've made and the sense of community I have shared have become every bit as significant as my destinations.
A long, strange trip? Bring it on.
Keith Price is the director of sales and marketing at AutoWeek, a sibling publication to Automotive News. His VW collection consists of a 1958 Microbus, 1980 Dasher, 1986 and 1987 Quantum Syncro station wagons and a 1988 Cabriolet. All were acquired several states away and driven home to Michigan.