Battered VW Behind 3 Iconic Brands

These well-known companies credit a Volkswagen as a key player in the early days

The original Ben & Jerry’s VW Type 3 Squareback

Many successful companies today got their start as a small business. Some of these well-known brands credit a Volkswagen as a key player in their early days.

Brothers Tom and James Monaghan founded Domino’s Pizza in 1960 when they bought a small pizzeria in Michigan, DomiNick’s. During their first year, both brothers worked tirelessly making and delivering pizzas with the help of a 1959 Volkswagen Beetle, the company’s original delivery vehicle.

Within a year, James sold his share of the pizzeria in exchange for the VW Beetle. The store went on to experience success, changing its name to Domino’s Pizza so that it could be franchised.

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Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, childhood friends, had a similar experience. They founded Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in 1978, with their first scoop shop in Vermont. In addition to the original shop, Ben and Jerry delivered 2.5 gallon tubs of ice cream to restaurants and shops in Ben’s red Volkswagen Type 3 Squareback station wagon. The Type 3 was the pair’s delivery vehicle of choice until 1980, when they upgraded to a refrigerated truck to keep up with growing demand.

Known originally as Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS), Nike got its start in 1964 as an athletic shoe company that specifically catered to runners. The company’s first retail store opened in 1967 in California, and its first employee, Jeff Johnson, played a crucial role in opening and managing the shop, and drove his personal vehicle, a Volkswagen Type 2 bus, to track meets where he sold and delivered shoes to local runners. This outreach was critical in building the company.

Rebranding to Nike came in 1972. Last year, Volkswagen and Nike teamed up to celebrate their shared history. The companies outfitted a Volkswagen ID Buzz Cargo concept van to resemble the original Blue Ribbon Sports delivery van, promoting Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program and Volkswagen’s electric future.

Tennessee’s Volkswagen plant makes the Passat, a midsize sedan, the Atlas, a midsize sport utility vehicle, and the Atlas Cross Sport, a five-seat SUV. In addition, the company announced in 2019 that it would manufacture electric vehicles in Chattanooga, as well, breaking ground on the $800 million expansion of the plant in November.

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