In January 1949, Dutchman Ben Pon arrived in New York with a Volkswagen Beetle. His mission: stir up interest in Volkswagen among U.S. car dealers and sign up franchisees.
But anti-German sentiment in the country -- four years after the end of World War II -- still ran high. At a press conference to introduce the Beetle, Pon referred to VW as the "Victory Wagon." According to Small Wonder: The Amazing Story of the Volkswagen, the press dubbed the small, quirky vehicle "Hitler's car."
Undaunted, Pon made appointments with dealers, all of whom turned him down flat. He ended up selling his Volkswagen model and its spare parts to pay for his hotel room and returned to VW headquarters in Germany.
Later, Volkswagen's managing director, Heinz Nordhoff, tried unsuccessfully to hawk the brand to dealers. U.S. consumers, dealers argued, wanted big cars with powerful engines, not a small, underpowered car with a questionable heritage.