(public limited company)
Number of locations
São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil
Chairman of the Supervisory Board
convertible roof components
research and development
|Owner||Valmet Automotive and Webasto Group|
|Divisions||Automotive 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
Wilhelm Karmann GmbH, known commonly as Karmann, in Osnabrück, Germany, was until 2009 the largest independent motor vehicle manufacturing company in Germany. From 1901 the company fulfilled roles from design to production and assembly of components for various automobile manufacturers; including Chrysler, Porsche and Volkswagen Group.
The company was established in 1901, when Wilhelm Karmann purchased Klases, a coachbuilder since 1874, and renamed the business. The company then grew together with the expanding automobile industry.
1938 Karmann Adler Convertible
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). 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.Karmann built the cars in Rheine with 280 horsepower (209 kW) 343 cu in (5.6 L) V8 engines. About 90% of the necessary components were shipped by boat from the U.S. 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 SpykerC8 Spyder.
Other facilities at Sunderland UK, Puebla Mexico, and Plymouth Township U.S. manufacture roof systems for the Nissan Micra C+C, Volkswagen New BeetleCabriolet, 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.
1992 Volkswagen Golf Karmann Cabriolet
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.
Falling demand along with other financially connected businesses forced the company to file for protective insolvency on 8 April 2009. Insolvency practitioner Ottmar Hermann followed some of the approach seen with the earlier insolvency of Woolworths' German business, and the Karmann business is emerging with little independence, but supported by significant cash investment from long-standing customer Volkswagen.
On 8 April 2009, Karmann filed for bankruptcy protection due to the sharp decline in demand for cars, and the company's financial obligations. Volkswagenrevealed on 24 October 2009, that it had made an offer to acquire long-time partner Karmann. 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. Karmann's North American operations were sold August 2010 to Webasto Group.