Progress with tradition
VDO is today one of the world’s leading automotive suppliers and one of the largest providers of parts and services for passenger cars and commercial vehicles. The company has been a byword for progressive electronic and mechatronic solutions since the birth of the automobile.
The 125th anniversary of the invention of the automobile is not just a reason for celebration for the vehicle manufacturers. That is because the history of the supplier industry also began here, without which Daimler & Co would never have managed to get their “coach with combustion engine” moving in the first place. VDO can also be considered one of the pioneers of the early days of the automobile. The company is today an important brand within the Continental Group and one of the world’s leading suppliers of parts and services for passenger cars and commercial vehicles. The roots of the company stretch all the way back to the birth of the automobile.
At the very latest, VDO became a familiar brand to every driver along with the worldwide success of the VW Beetle. It was in this vehicle that the masses first came across the three-letter trademark from 1939 onwards. It was displayed on the speedometer of the most successful car in the world, as VDO produced the speedometer exclusively for Volkswagen. However, the history of the company extends back as far as the 1920s. It was then that Otto Schulze invented the speedometer, which was manufactured by the OSA Apparate GmbH company of Frankfurt Senator Adolf Schindling from 1923 onwards. A merger with parts of DeutscheTachometerwerke GmbH (Deuta) resulted in the formation of Vereinigte Deuta OTA in 1928. This represented the birth of VDO Tachometer AG, whose three letters established themselves worldwide in the following years as a synonym for reliable and precise measuring instruments. In 1938, VDO was the largest and most capable manufacturer of measuring instruments for motor vehicles in the whole of Europe. The Frankfurt plants alone produced over 100,000 units every year, which were supplied to almost all renowned German automotive manufacturers for installation on the production line.
VDO manufactured products capable of measuring and controlling almost all characteristics of passenger cars and commercial vehicles. The initial products were largely mechanical but subsequent products came to rely increasingly on electronics. The company was also able to establish itself as an instrumentation specialist for other modes of transport: ship’s captains, pilots, even excavator operators and train drivers came to trust the indicators from the measurement specialist VDO.
The Second World War was a setback for the company because most of the production plants were destroyed. Production was restarted in 1949. The first new products after the war were speedometers for bicycles and mopeds, which developed quickly into a great success. However, measuring instruments for motor vehicles were also in high demand worldwide. The company profited from and grew with the German “economic miracle” and, alongside display instruments for bicycles and automobiles, other products were added to the range such as parking meters.
Now under the name of “VDO Adolf Schindling” and operating as an independent corporation since 1973, the company introduced numerous innovations which went on to enjoy worldwide success: VDO invented the electric cruise control system, installed the first quartz crystal clock directly into the cockpit, developed the instruments into a central information system with integrated on-board computer and became, for example, the first manufacturer to introduce a comprehensive head-up display.
After first being taken over by Mannesmann, then merging with parts of Siemens AG for several years, VDO became an important brand of the Continental AG corporation in December 2007. Today, the company is driving the change from analog to digital tachographs in commercial vehicles, is a byword for technological expertise in telematics and fleet solutions and provides an unmatched infrastructure of services for commercial passenger and goods transport.
Today, the VDO brand is a central pillar of the Commercial Vehicles & Aftermarket (CVAM) division of Continental and is represented worldwide with an extensive network of sales and service companies. Under the brand, Continental, as one of the worlds leading automotive suppliers, markets electronic products, systems and services which make commercial and special-purpose vehicles safer, cleaner and more economical while also allowing them to operate more efficiently on a day-to-day basis.
The product range thus includes, for example, control and monitoring systems for powerplant and on-board electronics, components for instrumentation, panels and cockpits as well as fleet solutions for trucks, buses and special-purpose vehicles. Furthermore, the range also includes a wide range of products and services for specialist motor vehicle garages and spare parts for the independent retail sector and independent garages. VDO also ensures the supply of genuine parts once automotive manufacturers discontinue production of a vehicle.
Milestones and important facts in the history of VDO
1902 Otto Schulze registers a patent for the eddy current speedometer; sales start in Germany from 1908 onwards through O.S. Autometerwerke E. Seignol in Frankfurt/Main.
1921 Together with Georg Häußler and Heinrich Lang, Adolf Schindling founds OSA Apparate GmbH (OSA = Otto Schulze Autometer).
1923 The first in-plant manufacture of a speedometer.
1925 Renaming of the company to OTA Apparate.
1928 Merger with speedometer division of Deuta-Werke to create VDO Tachometer AG – Vereinigte Deuta OTA, or VDO for short – the VDO trademark is created in 1929.
1939 A mass-produced VDO speedometer is installed for the first time in the VW Beetle.
1951 Renaming of the company to VDO Tachometer Werke Adolf Schindling GmbH.
1957 First foreign factory in Australia (VDO Instruments Australia Ltd., Melbourne).
1972 Renaming of VDO Tachometer GmbH to VDO Adolf Schindling GmbH.
1973 The company becomes a stock corporation: VDO Adolf Schindling AG.
1986 VDO Adolf Schindling AG is floated on the stock exchange.
1991 Mannesmann takes over a majority shareholding of VDO Adolf Schindling AG.
1994 Complete takeover of VDO by Mannesmann AG.
1997 Renaming of company to Mannesmann VDO AG.
2001 Merger of Siemens Automotive and Mannesmann VDO to create Siemens VDO Automotive AG.
2007 Siemens AG sells the Siemens VDO Automotive division to Continental AG.