Franz Xaver Kögel - a portrait
In the summer of 1931 Reinhold Maier, the first Regional Prime Minister of the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg, outlined the indisputable traits of his fellow Swabians. “In the disposition of the Württemberg population we come across down-to-earth characteristics, which are worth their weight in gold in time of need: unremitting energy, business acumen and thrift, punctuality, cleverness, taste and skill.” Franz Xaver Kögel exhibited all these characteristics throughout his life; he was a ‚no nonsense‘ man, keen about quality considerations well into old age, of a persevering nature and indefatigable in striving for success.
Franz Xaver Kögel trained under the craftsman Georg Schmid of Keplerstraße 6 in Neu-Ulm and when on 1st May 1934 he took over the business, the ambitious young man had long since recognised what opportunities motor transport offered. This was particularly true here in Württemberg, where in the early thirties the sector was exceedingly well developed in comparison with other Federal States in the country. One reason for this was that the south west of the country was home to key firms in the automotive industry and Kögel had role models right on his doorstep.
Along with an apprentice the young master wainwright began manufacturing bodies for trucks and tipper vehicles. One of his first products was a tipper body for a Ford truck with a dual-axle trailer. The Neu-Ulm blacksmith August Welte was producing trailers and substructures for tipper trucks and Kögel fitted these with floors, side walls and other wooden structures. This initial joint venture sowed the first seed for all later developments – and particularly the transition from being a small master craftsman working in his humble workshop to having the status of an international entrepreneur.
Changing situations soon required improvements in the manufacturing equipment of the small workshop and the company soon outgrew its premises. So in 1937 Kögel moved his business to the opposite bank of the Danube, from Neu-Ulm in Bavaria to Ulm in Württemberg. Here, in the Blaubeurer Straße, Kögel acquired a plot of land and had it developed according to his plans.
World War II and the reconstruction
At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 the up-and-coming company was affected by the state prescribed rearmaments programme. In addition to body elements for military vehicles, particularly those made by the Magirus company, the product range was expanded to include grenades and car repairs. In particular, the car repairs to included work on the legendary DKW types „Reichsklasse“, and „Meisterklasse“ – also known as „Kleistermasse“ because of its leatherette-covered wooden frame – and now formed part of the day-to-day routine. In December 1944 an allied air raid completely destroyed the Kögel site.
Franz Xaver Kögel had already glimpsed the opportunity for a new beginning shortly after the end of the war. In June 1945 he used rooms in a former army ordinance depot for his purposes and reconstruction was soon up and running in the Blaubeurer Straße. The resulting two spatially separate manufacturing sites meant that larger objects could now be manufactured. In particular, large driver cabins for long distance trucks were now in demand and other truck manufacturers failed to offer such cabins at this time..
Another blow came in October 1948 when a fire gutted the premises in the former army ordinance depot and “reconstruction” was again the order of the day.
From craftsman to industrial company
The national economy expanded and with it Kögel‘s company, which again embarked on expansion plans in the fifties. In 1956 Kögel became one of the first to move to the new Danube valley industrial estate, after which the former sites were given up. The completion of the first building stage in the Danube valley also marked the final transition from craftsman to industrial company with a whole new range of production possibilities. One of the key areas was driver cabins for Magirus and Krupp, which could now be manufactured on proper assembly lines.Body construction was developing into the second pillar on which the company rested: Coaches with Kögel bodies, Pullmann furniture lorries or vehicles with small box bodies as precursors of refrigerated vehicles began to make their appearance on the roads.
Born on 8th March 1910 in the small town of Wiblingen to the south of Ulm, Franz Xaver Kögel had, at the age of 46, already accomplished a large part of his life‘s work.
Kögel designers soon recognised the possibilities and challenges of combined transport or the development of full plastic sandwich construction for vehicle bodywork at the same time Kögel was developing more and more into a special provider of customised transport solutions. Apart from the constant expansion of the company in Ulm, another production site was opened in Karlsdorf near Bruchsal in 1961. Further sites were to follow in Hanau and Bückberg and also newly established companies such as the firm KAMAG Transporttechnik, focusing on specialised heavy-duty vehicles.
In 1983, after the company had had an independent existence for half a century, son Herbert Kögel took over the reins of the company from the now 73-year-old founder. By this time, Kögel Fahrzeugwerke AG with five works and several subsidiaries had already taken on an international character and held a leading market position in important segments of the key domestic market. Franz Xaver Kögel Senior remained closely attached to his company even towards the end of his active career and could be seen in the office on an almost daily basis. Idling away his time at home was not his way.
“I was always a doer, never a watcher,” is the way the man, who was also a master of staff motivation, aptly described his outlook on life and advancing age did little to change this frame of mind. “F. X. K.” died in 2007 at the ripe old age of 97.
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