Mutter the words Das Auto, and you’re sure to peek the interest of every Volkswagen fan within earshot. Like dimpled gear knobs and multi-colored ‘Harlequin’ bodywork, the simple, two-word phrase is now synonymous with the German auto (and sausage) brand. However, as some GM and Opel fans may know, Volkswagen wasn’t the first automaker to use the catchphrase.
The Das Auto slogan first appeared on marketing material for the Opel Kadett B, which first hit the market 50 years ago in 1965. The new car exceeded the length of its predecessor, the Kadett A, by a notable 18 centimeters (7 inches) and was available at launch in four versions: a two-door sedan/coupe, a four-door sedan, the Caravan station wagon, and a smaller coupe.
With some 2.6 million units built, the Kadett B ended up becoming the second-most popular Kadett model ever produced. Ironically, over 50 percent of the units produced were exported to 120 countries around the world, without it ever being dubbed a ‘global vehicle’.
In June 1976, Opel introduced the Rally Kadett — a small coupe of the Kadett B initially available with a 60 horsepower, twin-carb 1.1L engine. It did so a full decade before Volkswagen introduced its own sporty coupe, the Golf GTI. A year later, a more potent 1.9L engine making 90 horsepower was offered. The Rally Kadett became immensely popular, claiming victories on all types of tracks. In fact, the car won its class in 222 of the 238 events in which it competed in 1968.
So, Opel created and used Das Auto tagline, and even the compact sports car segment, though Volkswagen has covertly commandeered it since.
So, happy 50th birthday to the Opel Kadett B, the original ‘Das Auto’!