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Coordinates: 52°15′57″N 8°4′40″E / 52.26583°N 8.07778°E / 52.26583; 8.07778 (Karmann-Werk, Osnabrück)

Wilhelm Karmann GmbH i.L (public limited company in liquidation)
GmbH -
(public limited company)
IndustryAutomotive industry
Founded1901 (1901)
FounderWilhelm Karmann
Defunct2010 Edit this on Wikidata
HeadquartersOsnabrück, Germany
Number of locations
Osnabrück, Germany;
Rheine, Germany;
Bissendorf Germany;
São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil
Area served
Key people
Jobst Wellensiek
Chairman of the Supervisory Board
Productsconvertible automobiles;
niche vehicles;
convertible roof components
ServicesAutomotive design;
research and development
Websitewww.karmann-mobil.de/ Edit this on Wikidata
Karmann buildings in Osnabrück

Wilhelm Karmann GmbH, known commonly as Karmann, in Osnabrück, Germany, was until its 2009 insolvency proceedings the largest independent motor vehicle manufacturing company respectively contract manufacturer in Germany.

Since 1901 the company fulfilled different roles in the car industry including design, production and assembly of components for a wide variety of automobile manufacturers(OEM); including Chrysler, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen Group. The company was broken up in 2010 with its convertible roof components purchased by Webasto, Magna Steyr and Valmet Automotive— and with the Osnabrück based divisions car production, vehicle development, tools and assempbly systems transferred to Volkswagen[1].


The company was established in 1901, when Wilhelm Karmann purchased Klages, a coachbuilder since 1874, and renamed the business.[2] The company then grew together with the expanding automobile industry.[2] Karmann is widely known for its work on convertibles/cabriolets, coupés and other niche models.

After the Second World War and the reconstruction of the plant destroyed in the war, Karmann focused mainly on Volkswagen AG as a contract manufacturer and developer. As early as 1935/36, Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Porsche had asked company founder Wilhelm Karmann to investigate the possibilities of developing a prototype for a Volkswagen convertible. The chaos of war prevented the idea from being pushed forward and cooperation with Volkswagen from starting 15 years earlier. On August 1, 1949, Wilhelm Karmann signed an order from Volkswagen for 1,000 "four-seater, four-wing convertible Type 15" - the Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet. Over the next 50 years, a total of 2,548,765 of these "1,000 units" were produced for Volkswagen over the course of the next 50 years[3][4].

In addition to the Beetle Cabriolet and the Karmann Ghia, all convertibles for the VW Golf, VW Scirocco and VW Corrado models were produced for Volkswagen. In the 1960s[5][6] . Karmann expanded and set up further vehicle plants in São Bernardo do Campo (Brazil) and Rheine. In the years after 1965, complete vehicles and bodies of the BMW Coupé 2000 C/CS (four-cylinder), later also the larger BMW E9 six-cylinder coupés (2.5 CS, 2.8 CS, 3.0 CS/CSi) were produced in the Westphalian plant Rheine. The "wedding" (installation of the engine in the body) and final assembly took place at the Munich plant. In the late 1970s and 1980s, Karmann produced the body shell of the BMW 6 Series Coupé and the convertible models of the Ford Escort as complete vehicles. From the beginning of the 1990s, the Mercedes CLK Cabriolet (A209 and A209), the Ford Escort RS Cosworth, the KIA Sportage and from 1997 the Audi Cabriolet (type 89) and the Audi A4 Cabriolet (from 2002) and the Chrysler Crossfire Coupé (2003) and Roadster (2004) were produced as complete vehicles. The shift of production of the VW Golf Sedan (1992/93) and the VW Golf Variant A3 (1997/99) from Wolfsburg to Osnabrueck must be added to this[7][1].

Karmann delivered the Ford Sierra for the American market (as the Merkur brand by Lincoln/Mercury dealers); and Crossfire coupe and convertible for Chrysler, at the time Daimler-Chrysler. Many Karmann models feature a small wagon wheel emblem, the coat of arms of Osnabrück, where the company was founded. A large part of the development of the Chrysler Crossfire was done independently by Karmann, and the vehicle was produced at their Osnabrück facility. Karmann U.S. also supplied the top sub-assemblies for the third-generation Chrysler Sebring (convertible) and Ford Mustang convertible.

Karmann assembled complete knock down (CKD) kits in an agreement with American Motors (AMC).[8] In 1968, AMC introduced the Javelin, a new competitor in the U.S. "pony car" segment. AMC did not have a manufacturing subsidiary in Europe, therefore, Karmann assembled the American-designed car for distribution in Europe.[9] Karmann built the cars in Rheine with 280 horsepower (209 kW) 343 cu in (5.6 L) V8 engines.[10] About 90% of the necessary components were shipped by boat from the U.S.[11] All were SST trim versions and their name, Javelin 79-K stood for AMC's "79" model number and the "K" for Karmann.

A small number of vehicles are also produced in Brazil São Bernardo do Campo. The Osnabrück facility also produced the chassis and body panels of the Spyker C8 Spyder.

The production facilities in Osnabrueck, in Chorzow Polen (assembly systems), in Yokohama Japan, in Sunderland UK, Puebla Mexico, and Plymouth Township U.S. manufactured roof systems for convertibles including the Mercedes-Benz CLK, the Renault Mégane CC, the Nissan Micra C+C, the Pontiac G6, the Sebring, the Ford Mustang, the Bentley Continental, the BMW 1er and the Volkswagen New Beetle Cabriolet[7].

The Karmann Ghia Story[edit]

The VW Karmann Ghia Type 14 is Karmann's best-known vehicle model. Wilhelm Karmann had the idea in 1953, one year after taking over his father's car body company in Osnabrueck. Karmann wanted to produce a sporty and open two-seater on the technical basis of the VW Beetle. Volkswagen was also interested in a sporty roadster that would be loved by American soldiers stationed in Europe and taken to the USA.

Luigi Segre, the boss of Carrozzeria Ghia in Turin, was included in the plan on the occasion of the Geneva Automobile Salon. A chassis of the beetle was shipped from Osnabrueck to Italy and Luigi Segre put a self-designed body on the chassis. To Karmann's amazement, Luige Segre presented him in Paris not a roadster but a coupé[5].

Shortly afterwards, the automobile artwork was presented to the VW General Director in Osnabrueck. VW boss Heinrich Nordhoff liked the coupé with its flowing lines and rounded shapes, and he agreed to build the car on the same day. In the first year of production, a total of 10,000 coupés were delivered instead of the planned 3,000 units.

The VW Karmann Ghia became a sales success with over 360,000 units, even if the performance of the car with only 30 HP and 115 km/h top speed did not correspond to the sporty appearance. 1957 followed the Karmann Ghia Cabriolet and 1961 followed the bigger type 34, the Karmann Ghia 1550, who’s Design also came from the Carrozzeria Ghia[12][1].

In the quantities produced by Karmann, the Karmann Ghia Coupés and Cabrios were later slightly surpassed by both the Golf Cabriolet and the Scirocco; only when the first Karmann Ghia types were added together via Coupé and Cabrio was the Karmann Ghia the most successful Karmann vehicle[13].

Car production[edit]

Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Type 34 (1961–1966)
Karmann Cheetah Concept 1970.
Chrysler Crossfire convertible top in operation

Since its beginning in 1901, Karmann built more than three million complete vehicles of the models as follows,[citation needed] exceptions as indicated:

car make / type years number of cars comments
AMC Javelin 79-K coupé 1968 281
Audi 80 convertible 1997–2000 12,112
Audi A4 cabriolet & Audi S4 cabriolet 2002–2008 81,959 base: end 2004
BMW 2000 C/CS 1965–1970 13,696 only body in white
BMW 3.0 CS 1971–1975 21,147
BMW 635 CSI 1976–1989 86,314
Chrysler Crossfire coupé 2003–2008 37,896
Chrysler Crossfire convertible 2003–2008 16,269
Ford Escort FEC convertible 1983–1990 104,237
Ford Escort convertible 1990–1997 80,620
Ford Escort RS Cosworth 1992–1996 8,082
Merkur XR4Ti 1985–1989 42,000 U.S. version of the Ford Sierra XR4i
Land Rover Defender 2002–2005 2,777 in Brazil
Mercedes CLK A208 convertible 1998–2003 115,264
Mercedes CLK C208 coupé 2000–2002 28,706
Mercedes CLK A209 convertible 2003–2008
Nissan Micra C+C 2006–2010
Porsche 356
Porsche 911 1966–1971 911, 911T, and 911E coupes only
Porsche 912 1966–1969 coupe only
Porsche 914 1969–1976 118,949
Porsche 968 1991–1994 11,803 only body in white
Renault 19 convertible 1990–1996 29,222 body in white and soft tops
Renault Mégane I convertible 1996–2003 74,096 body in white and soft tops
Renault Mégane CC 2004-2010 only retractable hardtops
Triumph TR6 1969–1976 94,619
Volkswagen Beetle convertible 1949–1980 331,847
Volkswagen Karmann Ghia coupé 1955–1974 362,601
Volkswagen Karmann Ghia convertible 1957–1974 80,881
Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Type 34 1961–1969 42,505
Volkswagen Golf Mk1 convertible 1979–1993 388,522
Volkswagen Corrado 1988–1995 97,521
Volkswagen Golf Mk3 convertible 1993–1997 129,475
Volkswagen Golf Mk3 Variant 1997–1999 80,928
Volkswagen Golf Mk4 convertible 1997–2001 82,588 base Golf Mk3
Volkswagen Scirocco I 1974–1981 504,153
Volkswagen Scirocco II 1981–1992 291,497

Car production after 2010 restart as Volkswagen Osnabrück plant[edit]

car make / type years number of cars comments
Volkswagen Golf Mk6 Convertible 2011–2016 complete build
Porsche Cayman (Type 981c) 2012–2016 final assembly
Porsche Boxster (Type 981) 2012–2016 final assembly
Volkswagen XL 1 2014–2016 complete build
Porsche Cayenne 2015–2017 final assembly, intermediate between Leipzig and Bratislava
Volkswagen Tiguan Gen 1 2017–present shifted paint and final assembly of last model years
of first generation Tiguan to Osnabrück
Porsche 718 Cayman (Type 982) 2017–present final assembly

Car modules[edit]


The first Karmann motorhomes were launched in 1974 based on the Volkswagen Type 2 'Bay Window' chassis. The bodies were of a sandwich structure. These motorhomes had two beds, kitchen, shower, waste water tank, rear body supports, leisure battery, toilet, water heater and gas heating. Options included the luggage rack over the driver's cab. Approximately 1,000 units were produced through 1979.

With the introduction of the Volkswagen T2/3 - also known as the (T3/Vanagon/Transporter/T25) in 1979, the motorhomes received a permanent overhead area with a bed for two people. Called Karmann Gipsy, 741 were made between 1980 and 1992. This number excludes 30 or more Type 3 Syncro models made between 1986 and 1989, and 7 Syncro 16" models made between 1991 and 1992. In addition 113 Cheetah T2/3's were manufactured between 1986 and 1990 to make a total 891 Volkswagen T3 Karmann Coachbuilt Motorhomes - all produced in Karmann Rheine factory and not at Osnabruck as commonly believed.

From 1978 to 1996, a total of 3,103 Volkswagen LT-based models were produced. These included the LT "M", LT "L 1", LT "L 2", LT "L Distance Wide", LT "L Distance-Wide Gold", LT "H Distance-Wide", LT "H Distance-Wide Gold", LT "S Distance-Wide" and the top-of-the-line LT "Distance-Wide Autovilla".

In 1991, the Karmann motorhome design was updated and based on the Volkswagen T4. The Gipsy and Cheetah models names were retained in the form of the Gipsy I (SWB) and Cheetah (LWB). In 1996 two new models were introduced namely the Colorado and Missouri. The Volkswagen Transporter (T5)-based versions were introduced in 2003.[14]

Insolvency proceedings[edit]

On 8 April 2009, Karmann filed for insolvency proceedings due to the sharp decline in demand for cars, and the company's financial obligations.[15] The employment protection contracts of the large OEMs with the unions and the technological progress in vehicle construction led to the fact that the production of niche vehicles was no longer outsourced, but rather carried out within the OEM production network. Volkswagen revealed on 24 October 2009, that it had made an offer to acquire long-time partner Karmann.[16]

On 20 November 2009 Volkswagen took over the factory buildings, machinery, plant and land from the Karmann insolvent estate. With the exception of roof systems, Volkswagen Osnabrueck GmbH today encompasses all former Karmann divisions, from production systems (metal group) to press shop, body shop, paint shop, assembly and technical development[17].

On 4 November 2010 Valmet Automotive signed an agreement to buy Karmann's roof-component sections in Osnabrück, Germany, and Żary, Poland.[18] Karmann's North American operations were sold August 2010 to Webasto Group.[19]Effective 25 February 2010, the Japanese production site of Karmann Japan Co. Ltd. was acquired from the competitor Magna International. Magna Steyr now also manufactured the roof system for the Infiniti G Cabrio in addition to the roof system for the Nissan 370Z Roadster[20].


  1. ^ a b c Wiersch, Bernd (2015). Die Karmann-Story. Bielefeld, Germany: Delius Klasing & Co.KG. ISBN 978-3-667-10121-1.
  2. ^ a b Fisher, Lawrence M. (31 October 1998). "Wilhelm Karmann Jr., 83; Ran German Car Body Maker". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  3. ^ Speech manuscript of Dr. Ferdinand Piëch „Rede zur Feier der 50jährigen Zusammenarbeit von Karmann und Volkswagen“ (celebration of 50 years cooperation between Karmann & Volkswagen), Osnabrück, 1999, November 30th
  4. ^ Karmann Maganzine, December 1999: Article: Wie aus 25 Fahrzeugen 2,5 Millionen werden
  5. ^ a b Knust, Dieter (1996). Vom Kutschenbauer zum Auto-Karossier. Belm (Germany): Meinders & Elstermann GmbH & Co.KG. ISBN 3-88926-896-X.
  6. ^ "Tradition: 60 Jahre Volkswagen Karmann Ghia". Die Welt. 4 September 2013.
  7. ^ a b Karmann at a glance (press information of Wilhelm Karmann GmbH, December 2008)
  8. ^ Mitchell, Larry G. (2000). AMC Muscle Cars. MotorBooks/MBI. pp. 43–44. ISBN 978-0-7603-0761-8. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  9. ^ Mederle, Wolfgang A. (18 April 2010). "American Motors - 'Der Karmann Javelin'". American-Motors.de. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  10. ^ "1961 to 1970". Karmann Company History. Karmann.com. Archived from the original on 6 May 2009. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  11. ^ Strohl, Daniel (17 March 2009). "Javeling Through Europe". Hemmings Daily. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  12. ^ Das Symbol. Belm (Germany): Meinders & Elstermann GmbH & Co.KG / Wilhelm Karmann GmbH. 2005. ISBN 3-88926-893-5.
  13. ^ Karmann Cars – Eine Erfolgsgeschichte. Belm, Germany: Meinders & Elstermann, Herausgeber Wilhelm Karmann GmbH. 2005. ISBN 3-88926-894-3.
  14. ^ The Karmann Coachbuilt Club
  15. ^ Moore, Matt (8 April 2009). "Germany's Karmann Files Bankruptcy". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 14 March 2016. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  16. ^ Elfes, Holger (24 October 2009). "Volkswagen May Take Over Carmaker Karmann, Spiegel Reports". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2 March 2014.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "Unsere Geschichte – Made in Norddeutschland. Kult Karosse Karmann". Norddeutscher Rundfunk. 7 September 2019.
  18. ^ "Pontos and Finnish Industry Investment to develop Valmet Automotive with Metso; First step is the acquisition of Karmann´s convertible roof business". wallstreet-online.de. 5 November 2010. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  19. ^ "Webasto Group Takes over Karmann's Convertible Roof Business in North America". Reuters. 5 August 2010. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  20. ^ "Magna Japan".

External links[edit]