Volkswagen’s Long, Strange Trip Through Pop Culture

How Did the Sensible German Automobiles Come to Symbolize Both Counterculture Cool and American Family Fun?

It looks like Volkswagen is going to owe billions for the illegal sleight of engineering hand that enabled its once-vaunted diesel car engine to cheat on emissions tests. The German carmaker’s impending payout is the result of one of the largest consumer class-action settlements in U.S. history. But let’s not forget that the culprit in this case is not just any company, it is Volkswagen—arguably one of the most beloved brands in U.S. history.

And we VW enthusiasts are especially bummed out.

Volkswagen—the “people’s car”—occupies a special niche in American popular …