In a comment on co-blogger Bryan Caplan’s post this morning, I mentioned the fact that in the 1980s, star East German figure skater Katarina Witt was given a Trabant as a reward for her productivity. Many East Germans were allowed to buy Trabants but, as with most consumer items, there was a lengthy queue.

Here’s a video about the Trabant. Watch it and you get some appreciation for what East Germans thought of as a reward for outstanding performance.

A couple of facts:

The top speed was under 6o mph.

It was a 2-stroke engine that achieved 26 hp.

Watch the video and you’ll learn a lot more about this Communist consumer item.

Personal story

In October 1999, I taught an economics course  in the MBA program in Prague run by the Rochester Institute of Technology. Wandering around Prague during my off time, I saw a handful of Trabants on the road. In October 2000, I was back to teach again and I didn’t see a single Trabant on the road.

After Communism, Trabants were replaced largely by Skodas. The comparison between the two is stark.

UPDATE: Co-blogger Bryan Caplan sent me this 4-minute video on the Trabant assembly line’s quality control.