Tuesday, January 31, 2023
News A Riot Broke Out 50 Years Ago, At A Volkswagen Dealer

A Riot Broke Out 50 Years Ago, At A Volkswagen Dealer

In April of 1970, a riot took place at a Volkswagen dealer over the use of non-unionized workers.


  • It occurred at Spreen Volkswagen, in West-Palm Beach, Florida.

  • Non-union workers were working on dealership showroom – unionized workers disagreed.


This strange story has nothing to do with the German brand but threats from union workers turned into chaos as they trashed Spreen Volkswagen over its hiring of non-union crews to build a new showroom.

From the story posted by the palmbeachpost.com, the scene was chaotic. The details of why this happened involve the dealership hiring a crew of up to 30 workers to work on its new showroom, one month prior to the incident.

Nothing is said about discussions between the union and the dealership in that timeframe but on the morning of April 6th, 1970, 1,500 men, armed with clubs and wearing helmets, stormed the dealership and proceeded to destroy the showroom, walls, roof and all. The cars on the lot were not spared as 70 of them were torched, smashed, or overturned.

Police dispersed the group 90 minutes into the riot using teargas but not before considerable harm was done. At the time, the amount of damages rose to over $100,000 or $660,000 in 2020 dollars.

As though this incident wasn’t enough, Richard Spreen, the dealership owner, was sued by customers whose cars, which were in for service, got damaged. He, in turn, sued unions and eventually reached a $1 million settlement. Spreen sold the dealership two weeks after the new showroom finally opened in September of 1970.

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Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai

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