Because of their history and social mindset, people in Germany have a special relationship to their cars compared to people of other nations. This attitude is referred to as the German car culture.
German car culture began with the invention of the automobile. German inventors and engineers made significant developments in the automobile's early history. Nikolaus August Otto invented and later patented the first four-stroke engine in 1876. In 1887, Karl Benz, later the founder of Mercedes Benz, patented the first auto powered by an internal-combustion engine in 1886. In addition to these early developments, Volkswagen later made great strides in putting mass-produced cars in the hands of the general population after World War II.
Germany also has a solid racing history. In the first automobile race ever (1894), only 15 of 102 cars crossed the finish line, all 15 of them powered by engines produced by the Daimler Motor Company, which was launched in Germany in 1890. As European road racing gained popularity, Germany participated with its own teams, winning blue ribbons and respect in international racing circles.
Germany today has several well-known racetracks, most famous of which is the Nürburgring. Founded in 1927, it is the longest in the world. Sometimes referred to as simply, "The Ring," race enthusiasts come from all over the world to drive this course and to witness professional races. Also popular are the Hochheimring, founded in 1932; the EuroSpeedway Lausitz, the newest; the Motorsport Arena Oschersleben; the Sachsenring; and the Norisring street circuit in Nuremberg.
German Auto Industry
Today, Germany is the third largest automobile manufacturer (the U.S. and Japan are first and second). Famous car brands BMW, Audi, Mercedes Benz, Daimler Chrysler and Volkswagen are all German. Interestingly, German automakers tend to share technology among themselves and to maintain more reciprocal relationships than automakers in other countries.
Driving in Germany
The Autobahn is a national system of highways similar to the Interstate system in the U.S. There are over 6,800 miles of Autobahn, as well as an extensive secondary highway system. The Autobahn, dating from the 1930s is designed for fast driving, with gentle curves, a thick roadbed and grades no more than 4 percent, as well as many other safety characteristics. The most famous feature is the lack of speed limit in many areas; people come from all over the world just to drive on it. What makes the Autobahn and other roadways desirable and fun to drive on is that Germans adhere to strict and respectful driving habits. In fact, Germans must reach the age of 21 and attend an expensive and lengthy driving school before they obtain a driving license.
A love of technology in general pervades Germany. A governmental agency, the TÜV, or Technischer Überwachungs-Verein, which translates as Technical Inspection Association, is a large entity devoted to overseeing any technology produced in the country. In fact, every vehicle must pass a rigid TÜV inspection before it can be driven on German roads. Another clue to the German kinship with technology is the well-known term, "German engineering," which universally denotes high-quality craftsmanship. In fact, engineering is one of the most respected professions in Germany.
As part of the social fabric of Germany, many clubs exist for enthusiasts, with subjects as diverse as music, firearms and sewing. The car clubs are especially popular, and, generally, each club is focused on one type of car, such as the Volkswagen Golf. There are even clubs for non-German cars.