Coachbuilder Karmann closes doors as final car comes off the line

The coachbuilder perhaps best known for the VW Karmann-Ghia has closed yesterday after the last car rolled off the assembly line; a Mercedes-Benz CLK was the last car fully produced by Karmann the largest independent automobile company in Germany. According to a report by The Local, a labor dispute coupled with the current state of the automotive industry have sealed the fate of the company. Founded in 1901 as a builder horse-carriages, just a year later Karmann had built his first car body the Dürkopp Company in Bielefeld. Since 1949 Karmann has produced over 3.3 million vehicles, including the iconic Porsche 356 and more recently the Volkswagen New Beetle Convertible. Volume production convertibles have been the main source of income for Karmann, building entire cars for larger manufacturers like Chrysler, Volkswagen, and Mercedes. Like the rest of the automotive industry production has been declining quickly and despite attempts to restructure the company has been forced to end it’s over 100-year history of auto manufacturing.

The company is shifting its focus to parts manufacturing and will continue to supply the automotive industry. “We could no longer avoid shutting down the vehicle assembly line because auto manufacturers’ strategies have changed,” the company’s administrator Ottmar Hermann said. Karmann management is placing the bulk of the blame with the costs of union benefits, but union spokesmen Hartmut Riemann of the IG Metall union responded: “It is outrageous that the insolvency should be blamed on the social plan costs when they are not even paying severance pay.” Already the US division of Karmann has begun supplying the automotive restoration industry with replacement convertible tops, and parts for classic Karmann built vehicles.