Carl Hahn Dies at 96; Made the VW Beetle Ubiquitous

“Without him, there would likely not have been the ads, which did indeed change the whole story for VW outside of Germany and did indeed result in a lot of needed healing, as well as revenue,” Andrea Hiott, the author of “Thinking Small: The Long, Strange Trip of the Volkswagen Beetle” (2012), said in an email.

While Detroit was wooing car buyers with luxurious behemoths, the black-and-white Volkswagen ads featured a photograph of the diminutive Beetle surrounded by an expanse of white space that spoke simplicity.

The campaign, which Advertising Age ranked as one of the best of the 20th century, featured another ad with the headline “Lemon.” It touted the car’s reliability and resale value and boasted that Volkswagen had more quality-control inspectors in its factory than cars.

In 1964, at the age of 38, Mr. Hahn was named the parent company’s head of sales and left the States, moving to Wolfsburg, the city in the Lower Saxony region of northern Germany where Volkswagen AG is headquartered.

Carl Horst Hahn Jr. was born on July 1, 1926, in Chemnitz, in eastern Germany, to Carl Hahn Sr. and Marie (Kusel) Hahn.

His father, Carl Sr., was a director of DKW, which became the world’s biggest motorcycle maker in the 1920s; he was also a founder, in 1932, of Auto Union, a forerunner to what became Audi AG. He was a practicing Roman Catholic who joined the Nazi Party in 1933 after Hitler signed a treaty with the Vatican in which he guaranteed the church’s rights in Germany, Carl Jr. wrote in a memoir.

Carl Jr. was drafted into the German military as a teenager and served in the tank corps. He was captured near the end of the war and released from a U.S.-run prisoner-of-war camp in late July 1945.