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Wilhelm Karmann GmbH
GmbH -
(public limited company)
IndustryAutomotive industry
Founded1901 (1901)
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
DivisionsAutomotive Global Service GmbH, Osnabrueck;
Karmann Engineering-Services GmbH, Bissendorf;
Karmann-Rheine GmbH & Co. KG, Rheine;
Karmann Rheine – Verwaltungs GmbH, Rheine
Karmann-Ghia Żary – Roof Systems, Żary, Poland Edit this on Wikidata
Karmann buildings in Osnabrück
Karmann buildings in Osnabrück

Wilhelm Karmann GmbH, known commonly as Karmann, in Osnabrück, Germany, was until its 2009 bankruptcy the largest independent motor vehicle manufacturing company in Germany.

Since 1901 the company fulfilled roles including design, production and assembly of components for a wide variety of automobile manufacturers; including Chrysler, Porsche and Volkswagen Group. The company was broken up in 2010 with its components purchased by Webasto and Valmet Automotive—with the Osnabrück plant itself transferred to Volkswagen.


The company was established in 1901, when Wilhelm Karmann purchased Klases, a coachbuilder since 1874, and renamed the business.[1] The company then grew together with the expanding automobile industry.[1]

Widely known cars produced by Karmann include the Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet (1949–1980) as well as the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. Between 1955 and 1974, a total of 443,482 VW Karmann Ghias were manufactured, placing their own sports car-style body on the chassis of the Volkswagen Beetle. Subsequently, Karmann assembled the Scirocco, Corrado, and Golf Cabriolet for Volkswagen; 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.

Karmann assembled complete knock down (CKD) kits in an agreement with American Motors (AMC).[2] 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.[3] Karmann built the cars in Rheine with 280 horsepower (209 kW) 343 cu in (5.6 L) V8 engines.[4] About 90% of the necessary components were shipped by boat from the U.S.[5] All were SST trim versions and their name, Javelin 79-K stood for AMC's "79" model number and the "K" for Karmann.

Karmann is widely known for its work on convertibles/cabriolets, providing roof components for convertibles including the Mercedes-Benz CLK, the Renault Mégane CC, and the Volkswagen New Beetle Cabriolet.

Both the headquarters in Osnabrück and the additional facility in Rheine also construct complete vehicles, such as the former Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet, the former Audi A4 Cabriolet, the Mercedes-Benz CLK, and the Chrysler Crossfire. A small number of vehicles are also produced in Brazil São Bernardo do Campo. The Osnabrück facility also produces the chassis and body panels of the Spyker C8 Spyder.

Other facilities at Sunderland UK, Puebla Mexico, and Plymouth Township U.S. manufacture roof systems for the Nissan Micra C+C, Volkswagen New Beetle Cabriolet, and Pontiac G6, respectively.

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.

Car production

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

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


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.[6]


On 8 April 2009, Karmann filed for bankruptcy protection due to the sharp decline in demand for cars, and the company's financial obligations.[7] Volkswagen revealed on 24 October 2009, that it had made an offer to acquire long-time partner Karmann.[8] On 20 November 2009 Volkswagen said that it would buy Karmann's site at Osnabrück, to produce a new vehicle. On 4 November 2010 Valmet Automotive signed an agreement to buy Karmann's roof-component sections in Osnabrück, Germany, and Żary, Poland.[9] Karmann's North American operations were sold August 2010 to Webasto Group.[10]


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ Mitchell, Larry G. (2000). AMC Muscle Cars. MotorBooks/MBI. pp. 43–44. ISBN 978-0-7603-0761-8. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  3. ^ Mederle, Wolfgang A. (18 April 2010). "American Motors - 'Der Karmann Javelin'". Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  4. ^ "1961 to 1970". Karmann Company History. Archived from the original on 6 May 2009. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  5. ^ Strohl, Daniel (17 March 2009). "Javeling Through Europe". Hemmings Daily. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  6. ^ The Karmann Coachbuilt Club
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Elfes, Holger (24 October 2009). "Volkswagen May Take Over Carmaker Karmann, Spiegel Reports". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2 March 2014.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ "Pontos and Finnish Industry Investment to develop Valmet Automotive with Metso; First step is the acquisition of Karmann´s convertible roof business". 5 November 2010. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  10. ^ "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.

External links

This page was last edited on 23 September 2019, at 10:43
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