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Carl Hahn was born in Chemnitz in 1926, the son of the former sales manager of the Zschopau engine works and later co-founder of Auto-Union-Aktiengesellschaft Dr. Carl Hahn.
After studying business administration at the universities of Cologne and Zurich and economics in Bristol, Carl Hahn became head of export promotion at automaker Volkswagen in 1954. From 1959 to 1964, he then steered the fortunes of "Volkswagen of America" in the USA as head of sales and played a decisive role in the development and expansion of the company. After returning to Germany, Hahn was appointed to the VW Board of Management in 1965, moved to Continental AG Hanover as head in 1972 and returned to Wolfsburg as Chairman of the Board of Management in 1982. Under his leadership, the automotive company grew to become the European market leader, and his tenure included the takeovers of the Spanish Seat and Czech Škoda plants as well as the expansion into China. Finally, in 1993, Carl Hahn moved to the Group's Supervisory Board, where he remained until 1997.
A special concern of the cosmopolitan with Saxon roots was the new start at the old automobile production sites in Zwickau and Chemnitz. After the fall of the Wall in 1989, Carl Hahn's involvement made VW the largest investor in eastern Germany. He thus played a major role in the economic development of the region and was made an honorary citizen of the city of Chemnitz in 1994.
It is a "subject close to his heart" for him, because Hahn is convinced that education, especially early childhood education, can help keep Germany competitive. Because he felt that the study quota in Germany was too low, Hahn had begun to concern himself with educational issues during his time as head of VW. After his retirement, he then delved deeper into the subject, in part through his intensive involvement with his eight grandchildren. And it was the research findings of neurobiologist Martin Korte of the Technical University of Braunschweig that strengthened Hahn's conviction that children should be educated as early as possible - especially when it came to language and foreign language acquisition.
For Carl Hahn, at any rate, the acquisition of knowledge and language is a response to the radically advancing global upheavals. And for him, it is by no means the elite universities that matter: rather, a radical reform of the foundation of the education system, i.e. kindergartens, is necessary to better prepare children for the world of tomorrow, to make them competitive and at the same time happy people.
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