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Company history

Reconstruction 1946-1959

Reading time: 10 minutes

At the end of the second world war, Bosch had lost its international sites for the second time. Large parts of its production facilities lay in ruins. The two following decades were devoted to reconstruction, but also to harnessing new lines of business.

Drawing of a constructor working at a building.

With handcarts and shovels — reconstruction at Bosch

By 1945, more than 50 percent of the Bosch plant facilities in Germany had been destroyed by Allied bombs. Its key role as a wartime supplier of military vehicles had made Bosch a strategic target. Now the company had to clear up, construct, and create work for the associates.

Some of the destruction was still visible long after the end of the war. The badly damaged tower of Bosch’s first factory in Stuttgart (1945)
Some of the destruction was still visible long after the end of the war. The badly damaged tower of Bosch’s first factory in Stuttgart (1945)
One year after the end of the war, signs of construction were clearly visible at most of the decimated factory facilities in Stuttgart. (1946)
One year after the end of the war, signs of construction were clearly visible at most of the decimated factory facilities in Stuttgart. (1946)
Quality control of spark plugs in the Bamberg plant (1950). The traditional product first manufactured by Bosch in 1902 was one of the pacesetters of the economic upturn post-1945.
Quality control of spark plugs in the Bamberg plant (1950). The traditional product first manufactured by Bosch in 1902 was one of the pacesetters of the economic upturn post-1945.
Bosch celebrates the one-millionth diesel-injection pump in the foyer of the Feuerbach plant (1950). It was also here this successful product first went into production in 1927.
Bosch celebrates the one-millionth diesel-injection pump in the foyer of the Feuerbach plant (1950). It was also here this successful product first went into production in 1927.

Spark plugs and saucepans — surviving the postwar period

In order to be able to re-employ the associates and pay their wages, Bosch got going again by manufacturing cooking pots from steel helmets, handcarts, and umbrellas in the factory ruins. Associates could either use these appliances themselves or trade them for other essentials. The first more complex products were spark plugs — for the Allies’ military vehicles.

The indicator lights that went into production here in 1949 were a complete novelty. They replaced the automobile direction indicators that Bosch had started producing in 1927. (1950)
The indicator lights that went into production here in 1949 were a complete novelty. They replaced the automobile direction indicators that Bosch had started producing in 1927. (1950)
After the end of the war, Bosch refocused on its old strengths — research and development and the product innovations these create. Bosch researchers started developing an electron microscope in 1948 for their own material research. (1950)
After the end of the war, Bosch refocused on its old strengths — research and development and the product innovations these create. Bosch researchers started developing an electron microscope in 1948 for their own material research. (1950)
Quality had always been a key criterion at Bosch. Random testing — such as here in horn manufacturing — was therefore obligatory. (1950)
Quality had always been a key criterion at Bosch. Random testing — such as here in horn manufacturing — was therefore obligatory. (1950)

Executor of Robert Bosch’s will and chairman of the board of management

Robert Bosch had died in 1942. The executors of his estate reconstructed the company according to his wishes and testament post-1945. The aim was to generate profit, but also to channel some of this surplus into charitable causes. Hans Walz ran the company as the successor of its founder till 1963.

In the will he wrote four years before his death in 1942, Robert Bosch called for the “strong“ further development of the company. He did not set a specific course, but instead laid down orientation points to help the executors, pictured here, manage the company. (1954)
In the will he wrote four years before his death in 1942, Robert Bosch called for the “strong“ further development of the company. He did not set a specific course, but instead laid down orientation points to help the executors, pictured here, manage the company. (1954)
Hans Walz succeeded Robert Bosch as head of the company (1953).
Hans Walz succeeded Robert Bosch as head of the company (1953).

Antitrust proceedings — the fear of losing everything

The National Socialists’ aspirations to global power had only been achievable with the aid of mighty economic companies. Which is why the Allies sought to break up large German corporations, including Bosch. However, the company had grown organically, which meant its individual parts were not viable on their own. In the end, the Bosch company remained almost intact, although it had to disclose its patents for all competitors to use.

Bosch turned to motor racing to help reconstruct business during the 1950s, having originally set up its “race service” for maintenance work and fitting spare parts in 1937. The successful use of Bosch technology under the harshest conditions was good advertising for its reliability and endurance.
Bosch turned to motor racing to help reconstruct business during the 1950s, having originally set up its “race service” for maintenance work and fitting spare parts in 1937. The successful use of Bosch technology under the harshest conditions was good advertising for its reliability and endurance.
The Bosch headquarters in Stuttgart’s Breitscheidstrasse was illuminated every night (1951). This is where Bosch managers and the Allies’ representatives battled over the company’s future in antitrust proceedings.
The Bosch headquarters in Stuttgart’s Breitscheidstrasse was illuminated every night (1951). This is where Bosch managers and the Allies’ representatives battled over the company’s future in antitrust proceedings.
Drawing of a stylized globe with the landmarks of famous capitals worldwide.

“Made all over the world” — new pathways to an international company

Before Hitler seized power, more than 50 percent of Bosch sales came from international business. But after 1945 it was almost zero, and the company’s international assets had been expropriated. Thanks to good relations with longstanding partners and because of fast-growing markets in countries such as Brazil and India, the construction of a global network gradually took off. All the same, it would take until 1960 for international sales to once again exceed 20 percent at Bosch.

During the 1950s, manufacturing was still performed mainly in Germany. Sophisticated transportation logistics were required to send exports all over the world. This package conveyor system was state-of-the-art technology at that time. (1951)
During the 1950s, manufacturing was still performed mainly in Germany. Sophisticated transportation logistics were required to send exports all over the world. This package conveyor system was state-of-the-art technology at that time. (1951)
Bosch started setting up manufacturing facilities all over the world during the 1950s. The Bosch location in Clayton near Melbourne supplied the Australian automotive industry with electrics such as ignition systems, windshield wiper systems, horns, generators, starters, and lighting. (1960)
Bosch started setting up manufacturing facilities all over the world during the 1950s. The Bosch location in Clayton near Melbourne supplied the Australian automotive industry with electrics such as ignition systems, windshield wiper systems, horns, generators, starters, and lighting. (1960)
The Bosch research vehicle in the Stuttgart fleet courtyard is equipped with countless different headlights and horns that are used all over the world. This was for conducting test drives in road traffic. (1954)
The Bosch research vehicle in the Stuttgart fleet courtyard is equipped with countless different headlights and horns that are used all over the world. This was for conducting test drives in road traffic. (1954)

Elegance in perfection — consumer technology

In the early 1950s, Bosch brought products to market that reflected the German and European economic miracle and satisfied the people’s consumer demands as hard times drew to a close. Examples included kitchen appliances and power drills for do-it-yourselfers. Linchpin products such as car radios sold in their millions.

Among the products launched during the 1950s were washing machines, here on the cover of an advertising brochure from 1958.
Among the products launched during the 1950s were washing machines, here on the cover of an advertising brochure from 1958.
Bosch had launched its first refrigerator as early as 1933, but they only became truly affordable when time- and money-saving mass production commenced after the war. (1958)
Bosch had launched its first refrigerator as early as 1933, but they only became truly affordable when time- and money-saving mass production commenced after the war. (1958)

Bosch kitchen appliance

Sales scenario for the food processor at the Stuttgart sales outlet (1962)

A “new era” dawns in the kitchen

The Bosch food processor was called two key things at its launch. The name of this model was “Neuzeit” and it was heralded as the “countrywoman’s helper”. Customers in urban environments were promised a new era of cutting-edge household technology that would simplify domestic chores.

The appeal to rural households was how much easier this machine would make processing large volumes of food. One reason was the prevalence of large households with many children, another the need to quickly prepare harvests of fruit and vegetables quickly to preserve them for later use — for instance by freezing portions of the produce or making jams and preserves.

The “Neuzeit” was a multi-function device that could cut, knead dough, grate, press, and even peel potatoes.

Photo: Sales scenario for the food processor at the Stuttgart sales outlet (1962)

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Re-establishing old favorites — gasoline injection in automobiles

The technology used in many Bosch products still stemmed from the pre-war era. But it would take innovations in order to become and remain competitive. Gasoline injection, which Bosch had developed for aircraft engines, appeared as an innovation in automobiles at the start of the 1950s, although it took decades to take hold as standard.

The Gutbrod Superior was the first passenger car to be fitted with Bosch gasoline injection. This cut consumption by up to 20 percent compared to carburetors and boosted performance. (1952)
The Gutbrod Superior was the first passenger car to be fitted with Bosch gasoline injection. This cut consumption by up to 20 percent compared to carburetors and boosted performance. (1952)

The Bosch Combi

A “Bosch Combi” for do-it-yourselfers — with its practical carry case (1952)

The home power tool

The do-it-yourself craze became a lucrative business for Bosch. Launched in 1952, the “Bosch Combi” electric power tool could be used in many different ways according to the chosen attachment — as a drill, screwdriver, sander, or even a hedge-cutter. This offering spawned a completely new business segment in Europe for what was still mainly male purchasing power — “do-it-yourself”, which took place mainly in cellars and garages.

The complete kit with standard attachments was sold in a case or in a wooden cabinet for wall-mounting. Bosch developed a second key line of power tools this way, to complement its professional power tools range for construction sites, including hammer drills.

Photo: A “Bosch Combi” for do-it-yourselfers — with its practical carry case (1952)

Electronics — a line of business with consequences

Bosch began developing electronic components in the mid-1950s. The first of these was the “variode”, which Bosch started producing in 1958. Transistors followed suit, and then from 1970 integrated circuits. Viewed critically by skeptics but enthusiastically developed by their proponents, they sowed the first seed in the field of electronics, which is now a core business for Bosch.

An unspectacular component — hardly the size of a pea and indistinguishable in the photo of a generator regulator. After going into series production in 1958, this innovative semiconductor component improved the way the generator charged the battery — particularly when idling in stationary traffic.
An unspectacular component — hardly the size of a pea and indistinguishable in the photo of a generator regulator. After going into series production in 1958, this innovative semiconductor component improved the way the generator charged the battery — particularly when idling in stationary traffic.
The early electronic components from Bosch were based initially on germanium, then later silicon, crystals. This picture shows the manufacturing of a germanium crystal. (1961)
The early electronic components from Bosch were based initially on germanium, then later silicon, crystals. This picture shows the manufacturing of a germanium crystal. (1961)

Robert Bosch: The man, the employer, the visionary