The automaker has commissioned a report on the part it played following the coup of 1964.

Volkswagen Group has announced it is opening an investigation into its role during the Brazilian military dictatorship.

Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft has commissioned respected historian Dr. Christopher Kopper of the Faculty of History, Philosophy, and Theology at Bielefeld University to carry out the investigation and deliver an “expert opinion” on the matter.

On April 1, 1964, the Brazilian military staged a coup against the administration of President Joao Goulart, who assumed the office from his role as Vice-President when the democratically elected president Janio Quadros resigned.

The dictatorship that took hold maintained a hard line against freedom of speech and political opposition, and favored foreign ownership of Brazilian industry. Those companies that did not acquiesce were forced into bankruptcy.

Volkswagen do Brasil was established in 1953 and soon became the country’s leading automaker. The Beetle, Type 3, and Karmann Ghia, plus local specialties the Brasilia and Gol were all built during the years of dictatorship, which ended in 1985 with the election of Jose Sarney to the presidency.

VW Board Member for Integrity and Legal Affairs, Dr. Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt, said: “We will clarify the company’s role during the military dictatorship in Brazil with the requisite consistency and perseverance in the same manner as we engaged in the early and comprehensive clarification of issues relating to the National Socialist past and the employment of forced labor.

“We want to shed light on the dark years of military dictatorship and explain the behavior of those responsible at the time in Brazil and, if applicable, Germany.”

Dr. Kopper will carry out his investigation in Germany and Brazil, and will report regularly to an internal committee. His findings will be made available to the public once the investigation has been completed in a year or so.

VW also reaffirmed that it is committed to filling the vacant post of Head of Historical Communications. “The Volkswagen Group continues to engage with its historical responsibility,” Head of Group Communications Hans-Gerd Bode said. “Historical Communications plays a very important role in this context. That was never in doubt.”