Scarcely any industrial product manufactured in the German Democratic Republic became as well known in the capitalist world as its private passenger motorcars. Private car ownership in East Germany was based on two car types that were produced for over 20 years with only minor changes being made to them in this period. Such long running consistency in models is not only surprising in comparison with western car manufacturers, but was also unique in the so-called eastern block. To explain the obvious innovation problems this article focuses on the development of the industry in the 1970s. This decade can be regarded as a transitional phase between a more or less innovative period in the sixties and a period of continuing decline thereafter. By examining the specific problems of the East German automobile industry the article also illustrates general deficiencies in the functioning of centrally planned economies and elucidates the general economic development of the GDR since the 1970s.
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