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Since Germany is known for its car industry, I am sure most of you have at least heard about brands like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, VW, Audi, Opel, Ford, and Porsche. But have you ever heard of a car called Trabant? If not, let me turn your gaze toward past times.
After the division of Germany, both East and West Germany made efforts to build a car that was affordable for a breite soziale Schicht (broad social stratum). While the Bundesrepublik (Federal Republic) was successful with the VW Käfer (VW Beetle) in the 1950s, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) had to face a Ressourcenmangel (lack of resources) and insufficient Produktionsstätte (production plants). Nevertheless, the Regierung (government) of the GDR wanted to compete with the economy of the West. Thus, in 1954, the Politbüro (Politburo) commissioned to manufacture an preiswertes Auto (inexpensive car) for the people in East Germany.
The Trabant or “Trabi” was manufactured in Zwickau at the VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke. Between 1957 and 1991 the company produced 3,051,385 cars. Many of them were exported to Tschechoslowakei (Czechoslovakia), Polen (Poland) and Ungarn (Hungary).
In the beginning, the Trabant was celebrated as the East German “Volkswagen”. But later the car became the symbol of a stagnierende Wirtschaft (stagnant economy). The wirtschaftlichen Rahmenbedingungen (economic conditions) and the lack of resources in the GDR did not allow any technological developments of the car. The government controlled the economy and fixed a price of 4,000 DDR Marks (equivalent to 400 Euros) per car as well as an annual production capacity of no more than 120,000 vehicles. A free price system did not exist. Consequently, finding a balance between Angebot und Nachfrage (supply and demand) was out of the question.
This economic circumstance affected the lives of consumers. Buying a car was not as easy as today. Firstly, every person had to order a car, which was followed by a very long Wartezeit (waiting period) of 12,5 years to 15 years. Because of such a long wait, many young people went, immediately after their 18th birthday, to a VEB Vertriebsfiliale (sales office) to order a car.
Meanwhile, the Trabant has reached cult status and caught the eyes of enthusiasts of car tuning.
And here is a commercial, so that you can get a vivid idea of this car.
(die) breite soziale Schicht – broad social stratum
(die) Bundesrepublik – Federal Republic
(der) VW Käfer – VW Beetle
(der) Ressourcenmangel – lack of resources
(die) Produktionsstätte – production plant
(die) Regierung – government
(das) Politbüro – Politburo
(das) preiswerte Auto – inexpensive car
die Tschechoslowakei – Czechoslovakia
Polen – Poland
Ungarn – Hungary
(die) stagnierende Wirtschaft – stagnant economy
(die) wirtschaftliche Rahmenbedingungen – economic conditions
Angebot und Nachfrage – supply and demand
(die) Wartezeit – waiting period
(die) Vertriebsfiliale – sales office