The STIHL story, part 2: 1945-1970: STIHL responds to the post-war crisis with “Contra”

When Andreas Stihl developed his first chainsaw in 1926, his aim and vision was to “ease people’s work with and in nature”. STIHL has been the world’s best-selling chainsaw brand since 1971.
Since the company was founded by Andreas Stihl, it has developed from a one-man operation into an internationally active manufacturer of chainsaws and outdoor power tools. In four blog posts we give an insight into the eventful chapters of the company story. Part 2 covers the period from 1945 to 1970.

STIHL responds to the crisis with “Contra”

After the war, Andreas Stihl is confronted with difficult challenges. His trustee, Karl Gutjahr, is able to restart operations at today’s headquarters in Waiblingen-Neustadt in June 1945, but just 80 of the previous 500 employees are still there. The saw business is in a slump because people are repairing used tools and not buying new ones. STIHL is in a crisis.

STIHL works its way back to success with highly motivated employees, some of them from the founding years, and with new products. The legendary “Contra” model is launched in 1959.  The “Contra”, a gearless petrol chainsaw, revolutionizes forestry work. With 12 kg and 6 horsepower, it is lighter and more efficient than all other product on the market. Forestry operations can increase their productivity by up to 200 percent. With this petrol chainsaw, STIHL achieves double-digit revenue growth.

1959: the STIHL Contra

1959: the STIHL Contra

STIHL: a family company

The entry of Hans Peter Stihl and his sister Eva into the company is at first unremarkable, but is later highly formative for its entire further development. Hans Peter Stihl and his sister Eva gradually gain experience important positions. They consult their father on all major decisions.

1959: Eva Stihl, Andreas Stihl and Hans Peter Stihl (from left to right)

1959: Eva Stihl, Andreas Stihl and Hans Peter Stihl (from left to right)

In 1960, Andreas Stihl, now 64 years old, changes the form of the company to a limited partnership (KG) and includes his four children with equal shares as limited partners. STIHL now has 640 employees and generates revenue of approximately 25 million deutschmarks.

Continual innovation

STIHL is the first manufacturer to equip its chainsaws with an anti-vibration handle in 1964.

1964: the first chainsaws which included an anti-vibration handle

1964: the first chainsaws which included an anti-vibration handle

In 1965, an ultramodern plant for the production of saw chains and guide bars is built in Waiblingen-Neustadt. STIHL continues to produce these components itself to this day.

Manufacturing plant for saw chains and guide bars in Waiblingen-Neustadt, 1965.

Manufacturing plant for saw chains and guide bars in Waiblingen-Neustadt, 1965.

A change of generation in the family company

After Andreas Stihl’s death in 1973, Eva and Hans Peter Stihl take charge of business operations. Their brother, Dr. Rüdiger Stihl, joins the company in 1978. Gerhild Schetter (née Stihl) is also a limited partner.

Operations at the factory still require a high degree of manual work, but the rapid growth – two new plants are already under construction – requires a new approach. The siblings Eva and Hans Peter Stihl want to restructure the firm and to create a modern industrial company. Major steps in this direction are the expansion of the production facilities and the development of a sales organization. STIHL makes a start in this direction with a sales branch in Austria.

You can read how the story continued between 1970 and 1995 in our article The STIHL story, part 3: The “do-it-yourself” strategy: production, sales and dealers from a single source (1970-1995).

When did you become part of the STIHL story?

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