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Classic Velocity Blog

The Many Faces of Borgward

Classic Velocity

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Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Borgward began building automobiles in the early 1920s in Bremen, Germany. He started with a 3 wheeled utility vehicle called the Goliath Blitzkarren (lightning cart). It was as much motorcycle as it was car, and was aimed at small businesses. It eventually resulted in orders from the German postal service, and proved to be very successful. In the late 1920s Borgward took advantage of the bankruptcy of nearby Hansa-Lloyd to expand his automobile base by acquiring the assets. Into the 1930s, the brands Hansa , Lloyd, and Borgward continued to be used, along with Goliath. Models such as the Hansa Konsul and the 1700 Sport Cabriolet did well into the late 1930s, as did the Borgward Isabella. All the while, Goliath continued to turn out larger more capable vans and trucks.

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.As it did for almost everything in Germany, the war halted business, and diverted efforts toward either military work or hibernation. Borgward emerged from the war to produce the Borgward Hansa 1500, which had a sedan, an Estate (station wagon), and a lovely Sportcoupe. In 1954 the Isabella was introduced, which proved to be the most successful model to date for the company. It was joined by the P100 sedan in 1959.

 Hansa 1500 Sport Coupe - source: Wikipedia

Hansa 1500 Sport Coupe - source: Wikipedia

Financial problems began just as the 1960s began. Borgward's insistence that Borgward, Hansa, Goliath, and Lloyd be run as separate entities meant that he could not leverage parts and production lines across the companies. This was in a time when Volkswagen, Auto Union, BMW, and Opel were doing so to great effect, driving down costs and increasing production. Then there was the Lloyd Arabella, which was advanced (air suspension, automatic transmission, etc), expensive, and plagued with quality problems. Not a good combination.

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In 1961, the company was forced to become a state-owned entity in order to protect its creditors. That was short-lived as the company was liquidated later that year. However, there is also a somewhat credible theory that argues that despite the problems, Borgward was not insolvent at the time of its demise in 1961. Statements by creditors partially support this view. The theory further argues that one or more of its larger competitors along with one of Bremen's regional Directors orchestrated a campaign to malign the company and drive it out of business. It reportedly had offers from Chrysler, and separately from private backers, that were not able to move forward because of the state's control over the process. The likelihood is that a combination of the efficiency, quality, financial, and political factors brought an end to an innovative company that should have survived. It is particularly ironic as BMW was being saved by the Quandt family at the same time with arguably worse financials (when adjusted for scale). 

But wait, not so fast....The Borgward name is now back in the hands of descendant Christian Borgward. He is president of Borgward AG, and is hinting at exciting news regarding a new car as of November 2013....

Borgward Essen Video August 2013