Economic Development

There was a marked contrast in the rate of economic recovery and progress between the Soviet Union and her allies and the countries of Western Europe after World War II.

Western Europe had access to funds from America via the Marshall Plan. This influx of aid - food, money, equipment and technical assistance - helped Europe re-equip her factories and revive agriculture and trade. The plan was rejected by the Soviets who felt it was a plot by America to gain influence in Soviet affairs.

The Soviet Union relied on reparation of goods and equipment from Germany for their sole source of foreign trade. The government focused its reconstruction on heavy industry at the expense of other economic sectors and so the development fo consumer goods was hindered. The greater influx of resources into the West enabled a much faster rate of economic growth and rise in living standards than was possible in the Eastern bloc.

One area where this can be demonstrated is in the development and manufacture of the small, reliable and inexpensive to run family car. Perhaps three of the most iconic cars of the post war era are the Mini, Volkswagen Beetle and the Trabant. The first two are products of rapidly growing Western economies and the third developed by the less prosperous East.

Mini

The Mini was produced by the British Motor Corporation (BMC) and its successors from 1959 to 2000. The car was designed by Sir Alec Issigonis and was revolutionary in its design. Its' space saving front wheel drive layout influenced a generation of car makers. The Mini achieved success as a reliable four seater that was affordable for all.

Volkswagen Beetle

This car is more commonly know as the 'Beetle' and was manufactured in Germany by Volkswagen from 1938 until 2003. In 1938, Adolf Hitler commissioned engineer Ferdinand Porche to produce a vehicle that was capable of transporting two adults and three children at a speed of 62mph (100km/h) and that would cost no more than 200 German Marks. During World War II variants of the car were produced and used by German Officers but production of the familiar Beetle began in 1945. This car was aimed at the mass market and was very popular.

Trabant

The name Trabant means satellite in German and the cars are often referred to as the Trabbi. The Trabant was produced by the former East German car maker Sachsenring AG. It was the most common vehicle in East Germany and was also exported to other socialist countries. Its selling points were that it had room for four adults plus luggage but its smokey performance and two stroke engine meant it took 21 seconds to go from 0-100km/h and had a top speed of 112km/h (70mph). As producing consumer goods was a low priority for the government it could take years for an order to be fulfilled and the economic climate of the East required people to save for years before they could hope to buy one.