There's just some things that you never see coming. Like the time I found that, thanks to a simple mistranslation, I spent a decade praying to Count Chocula. Or, even more improbably, the German carmaker Borgward, gone for 54 years, will be making a comeback at the Geneva Auto Show. Borgward? Really?
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm delighted at the prospect of a resurrected Borgward. It's just that as far as dead marques go, Borgward isn't exactly on the tip of everyone's brain. I mean, sure, painful car geeks like me will be excited, but compared to some other dead brands who've flirted with a comeback, like Saab, for example, Borgward seems an unlikely choice.
Borgward does have a very respectable history, though. They were started in 1919, and began by making useful three-wheeled delivery vehicles, which they continued to make under the Goliath name. For a time, Borgward was the third-largest automaker in Germany, and one could argue they were instrumental in establishing the entry-level premium segment. Borgward owned three other badges as well: Hansa, Lloyd, and Goliath.
Borgward sold about a million cars in their lifetime, the most well-known and popular of which was the 1954-1962 Borgward Isabella, originally called the Borgward Hansa Isabella. The Isabella only was a 2-door car, but came in a sedan, wagon, cabriolet, and a very attractive 2+2 coupe.
Borgward declared bankruptcy in 1961, and, confusingly, after all creditors were paid off, the firm still had about 4.5 million marks left over, suggesting the bankruptcy was unnecessary. Adding to the controversy, Borgward's fatal financial issues started when they were denied a loan they had previously been assured of, leading to many conspiracy theories regarding exactly why.
So, the company lay dead for over 50 years, until 2008, when Christian Borgward, grandson of the original founder, reformed the company with some partners in Switzerland as Borgward AG. Here's what Borgward themselves say about the resurrection from their press release:
Thirty years of innovative design, a production of more than one million vehicles retailed worldwide combined with the success of such automotive icons as the famous Isabella have driven Christian Borgward, grandson of Carl F.W. Borgward and President of Borgward AG, to plan the revival of the legendary brand. "Relaunching Borgward is a childhood dream come true for me", says Borgward, inspired by the unique heritage of his grandfather's legacy. Together with his partner Karlheinz L. Knöss and a team of highly skilled experts all over the world, Borgward has been working over a decade on the rebirth of the brand and his vision of turning it into a modern, profitable and world-class global car company again. "We began shaping and designing the future of Borgward nearly ten years ago and are now ready for the next step. Incorporating the values and cutting-edge technologies that Borgward stood for, combined with our ambition, drive and commitment to succeed, I believe we are now perfectly placed to open up this new chapter in Borgward's history", says Knöss. "Geneva is an important step into our promising future and we cannot wait to be back there".
The Borgward name and trademark seem to have been sold to Chinese truck manufacturer Beiqui Foton Motor Co., and a WHOIS shows the current Borgward.us registered to Beiqui Foton. The Borgward.com site is not, and the trademark owned by Beiqui Foton currently has a request for an extension to file an opposition.
Based on this, it seems that perhaps there was once a partnership with Beiqui Foton to use their Diamler-Benz licenses for a revived line of cars, but that's all speculation, and if there was a partnership, the name disputes seem to suggest it's soured.
I guess we'll all find out what's going on in Geneva. Based on the silhouette graphic used at the end of their promo video up there, my guess is we'll see a 2+2 sporty/premium coupe inspired by the basic design of the old Isabella Coupe. Personally, I'd love to see either a return to the padded vinyl bodies of the early LP 300 or a revived Lloyd LT series, which were fantastic early mini-vans.
By the Great Chocula, I'm really curious to see how this all plays out.