The fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 led to fundamental social changes, and Czechoslovakia’s centrally managed command economy became a thing of the past. The difficult process of privatisation got underway. In the first phase the state, as the owner, launched the transformation of the company into a public company, to be bolstered by a strong strategic partner. The best bid, which guaranteed the preservation of the traditional Czech ŠKODA marque and its own development department, came from Volkswagen, which was then the biggest automobile manufacturer in Europe. The agreement was finally signed on 16 April 1991. Over the following nine years, Volkswagen came to hold a 100% stake in the firm. By then, ŠKODA was already manufacturing more than 2.5 times the production volume from the pre-privatisation era.