new drive

Back on the Road

Borgward 2 DPA
Borgward is back.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    There might be new competition in the auto industry if Borgward achieves its ambitious production plans.

  • Facts


    • Christian Borgward, grandson of the founder, has recruited auto industry veteran Karlheinz Knöss as vice-president of the revived brand, who is promising the company can achieve production of  800,000 cars per year by 2020.
    • Mr. Knöss says an SUV model under the Borgward name will be unveiled later this year in time for the International Auto Show in Munich in the fall.
    • The company will reenter the market looking for ways to exploit interest in everything from electric cars to hybrids.
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The Borgward stand at the Geneva Motor Show showed a 50-year old Isabella Coupe painted in sky blue and cream colors, a glossy icon of Germany’s economic miracle. It was more than fifty years old.

Since the company went out of business half a century ago, the coupe was the only vehicle it had to put on display. Nonetheless, the company has a shiny new logo: A rhombus in red and white, similar to the one adorning the old Isabella.

Borgward is back, is the new logo’s message.

Christian Borgward now wants to fulfill his lifelong dream and bring the car brand of his grandfather back to life.

The German carmaker based in Bremen had a rich heritage, offering an array of distinctive vehicles cars from the small Lloyd car, the “leucoplast bomber,” to the elegant Isabella.

But it kept changing models and produced too few cars and eventually, in 1961, it fell victim to a spectacular bankruptcy. Remembering those times, insiders in the car industry still recall a mixture of arrogance and obstinacy that characterized the self-made man who founded the company, Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Borgward.

His grandson, Christian Borgward, now wants to fulfill his lifelong dream and bring the car brand back to life, a plan he announced before the car show.

To accomplish this, he is partnering with Karlheinz Knöss, who has considerable experience in the automobile industry as an expert on strategy and communication. Mr. Knöss’ business cards bear the title “vice president.”


Borgward DPA
New kid on the road. Source: DPA


At the car show, Mr. Knöss was rushed and only had 10 minutes to talk. Perhaps that explains why he answered a question he wasn’t even asked.

He told listeners that no, Foton – China’s largest producer of trucks and commercial vehicles and Daimler partner – is not a backer or investor but a global partner. “And a partner must show that he means business,” Mr. Knöss said.

This underlines who will be the cook and who will be the bottle washer in a relationship commentators have described as a major Chinese investor moving into a still-vibrant brand. The investor is expected to use the partnership to lead buyers in emerging countries to believe they are getting high-quality German workmanship.

Mr. Knöss said Borgward is looking at many partners. As if on cue, Ion Tiriac, the former manager of Boris Becker and a major player in the Eastern European automobile retail trade, walked up. Mr. Knöss played down his appearance, saying Mr. Tiriac is an old friend who was interested in more information.

Mr. Knöss dispelled rumors about producing 50,000 cars per year. “By 2020, we want to be building 800,000 cars a year,” he said.

Listeners countered that Volvo is still trying to achieve that target but only managed 470,000 in 2014 – a record number for the Swedish company. Mr. Knöss responded that Borgward wants to make 1.6 million cars a year by 2025.” Numbers that high would be comparable to Daimler’s current production.


128 Borgward-WTB timeline 01


Though there isn’t a single new car to display, Mr. Knöss insisted an SUV model is in the works and will be unveiled before the year is over. “That will be at the IAA in the fall in Frankfurt,” he said. “And after that, the goal is to present two to three new vehicles per year.” Blueprints for these vehicles have been finished for a long time, he added.

According to Mr. Knöss, Borgward has been flying below the media’s radar in Lucerne, Switzerland, for 10 years. The company plans to move its headquarters to Stuttgart, putting the company back on the map.

Borgward wants to become one of the top names in the auto sector player – an ambition likely to be of interest to Mercedes maker Daimler, Porsche and car parts producer Bosch.

Mr. Knöss said that Borgward will look at all the trends in the industry from hybrid to electric drive to interactive technologies.

He closed the presentation by reassuring listeners that the company has secure financing, “for the coming decades.”


Handelsblatt’s Christian Schnell covers the auto industry. To contact the author:

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