Thinking Small by Andrea Hiott
The Long, Strange Trip of the Volkswagen Beetle

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 6 Critic Reviews



Sometimes achieving big things requires the ability to think small. This simple concept was the driving force that propelled the Volkswagen Beetle to become an avatar of American-style freedom, a household brand, and a global icon. The VW Bug inspired the ad men of Madison Avenue, beguiled Woodstock Nation, and has recently been re-imagined for the hipster generation. And while today it is surely one of the most recognizable cars in the world, few of us know the compelling details of this car’s story. In Thinking Small, journalist and cultural historian Andrea Hiott retraces the improbable journey of this little car that changed the world.
Andrea Hiott’s wide-ranging narrative stretches from the factory floors of Weimar Germany to the executive suites of today’s automotive innovators, showing how a succession of artists and engineers shepherded the Beetle to market through periods of privation and war, reconstruction and recovery. Henry Ford’s Model T may have revolutionized the American auto industry, but for years Europe remained a place where only the elite drove cars. That all changed with the advent of the Volkswagen, the product of a Nazi initiative to bring driving to the masses. But Hitler’s concept of “the people’s car” would soon take on new meaning. As Germany rebuilt from the rubble of World War II, a whole generation succumbed to the charms of the world’s most huggable automobile.
Indeed, the story of the Volkswagen is a story about people, and Hiott introduces us to the men who believed in it, built it, and sold it: Ferdinand Porsche, the visionary Austrian automobile designer whose futuristic dream of an affordable family vehicle was fatally compromised by his patron Adolf Hitler’s monomaniacal drive toward war; Heinrich Nordhoff, the forward-thinking German industrialist whose management innovations made mass production of the Beetle a reality; and Bill Bernbach, the Jewish American advertising executive whose team of Madison Avenue mavericks dreamed up the legendary ad campaign that transformed the quintessential German compact into an outsize worldwide phenomenon.
Thinking Small is the remarkable story of an automobile and an idea. Hatched in an age of darkness, the Beetle emerged into the light of a new era as a symbol of individuality and personal mobility—a triumph not of the will but of the imagination.

About Andrea Hiott

See more books from this Author
Andrea Hiott was born in South Carolina and graduated with a degree in philosophy from the University of Georgia in Athens. She then went to Berlin to study German and neuroscience, and ended up staying and working as a freelance journalist. In 2005, alongside a group of international artists and writers, she cofounded a cultural journal called Pulse. She now serves as editor-in-chief.
Published January 17, 2012 by Ballantine Books. 512 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, History, Professional & Technical, Crafts, Hobbies & Home. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Thinking Small

Kirkus Reviews

See more reviews from this publication

Translated from German, Volkswagen means "people's car," an ironic moniker considering that the company was founded in 1937 by the Nazi trade union.

Jan 24 2012 | Read Full Review of Thinking Small: The Long, Str...

Publishers Weekly

See more reviews from this publication

Given Hitler’s involvement, the story of Volkswagen is a tangle that interweaves combat, Nazis, war crimes, British occupation, the Marshall Plan, the division of the German state and mid-century economic reforms, but Hiott is able tie all the story lines into a compelling and revealing tale of...

Oct 31 2011 | Read Full Review of Thinking Small: The Long, Str...

New York Journal of Books

See more reviews from this publication

“. . . the Beetle is an elegant machine that embodies simplicity at its most sublime. Given birth by a madman, yet nurtured by valiant, caring stewards such as Nordoff and Bernbach, the Volkswagen Beetle is truly an industrial miracle. There is no reason it should have survived the Third Reich, b...

Jan 17 2012 | Read Full Review of Thinking Small: The Long, Str...

San Francisco Chronicle

A car affordable to the masses - a Volkswagen, or "people's car" - was Hitler's least insane, longest-lasting pet project.

Jan 22 2012 | Read Full Review of Thinking Small: The Long, Str...

Tulsa World

The Volkswagen Beetle has a unique and colorful history, with principal characters that include the Nazi dictator who personified evil, the legendary designer of Germany's most celebrated race cars and the Jewish advertising executive who pioneered a creative revolution on Madison Avenue.

Jan 22 2012 | Read Full Review of Thinking Small: The Long, Str...

Business Week

After decades of getting short shrift, compact cars are now poised to outsell their larger rivals in America.

Jan 05 2012 | Read Full Review of Thinking Small: The Long, Str...

Reader Rating for Thinking Small

An aggregated and normalized score based on 117 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review