The History of Audi

   

Audi AG is a German manufacturer of cars marketed under the Audi brand, headquartered in Ingolstadt, Germany and a wholly-owned (99.55%) subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group (Volkswagen AG) since 1964. Volkswagen Group relaunched the Audi brand with the 1965 introduction of the Audi 60 range. Shortly thereafter the name was acquired as part of Volkswagen's purchase of the Auto Union assets from former owner, Daimler-Benz.
The company name is based on the surname of the founder August Horch, the name itself an English cognate with the English word "hark", meaning listen — which when translated into Latin, becomes Audi.
In 1909, Horch was forced out of the company he had founded. He then started a new company in Zwickau and continued using the Horch brand. His former partners sued him for trademark infringement and the German Supreme Court  finally determined that the Horch brand belonged to his former company so Horch reinvented his new company as Audi.
In September 1921, Audi became the first German car manufacturer to present a production car, the Audi Type K, with left-handed drive.
In August 1928 Jørgen Rasmussen, the owner of DKW, acquired the majority of shares in Audiwerke AG. In the same year, Rasmussen bought the remains of the US car manufacturer Rickenbacker, including the manufacturing equipment for eight cylinder engines. These engines were used in Audi Zwickau and Audi Dresden models that were launched in 1929. At the same time, six cylinder and four cylinder (licensed from Peugeot) models were manufactured. Audi cars of that era were luxurious cars equipped with special bodywork.
In 1932, Audi merged with Horch, DKW and Wanderer, to form Auto Union. It was during this period that the company offered the Audi Front which was the first European car to combine a six cylinder engine with front-wheel drive, using a unit shared with Wanderer but turned through 180 degrees so that the drive shaft faced the front.
Before World War II, Auto Union used the four interlinked rings that make up the Audi badge today, representing these four brands. This badge was used, however, only on Auto Union racing cars in that period while the member companies used their own names and emblems.
Reflecting the economic pressures of the time, Auto Union concentrated increasingly on smaller cars through the 1930s, so that by 1938 the company's DKW brand accounted for 17.9% of the German car market while Audi held only 0.1%.
The former Audi factory in Zwickau, restarted assembly of the pre-war-models in 1949. These DKW models were renamed to IFA F8 and IFA F9 and were similar to the West German versions. West and East German models were equipped with the traditional and renowned DKW two-stroke engines.
A new West German head quartered Auto Union was launched in Ingolstadt, Bavaria with loans from the Bavarian state government and Marshall Plan aid. The reformed company was launched 3 September 1949 and continued DKW's tradition of producing front-wheel drive vehicles with two-stroke engines. This included production of a small but sturdy 125 cc motorcycle and a DKW delivery van, the DKW F 89 L.
In 1958 Daimler-Benz took an 87% holding in the Auto Union company, and this was increased to a 100% holding in 1959. However, small two-stroke cars were not the focus of the company's interests, and while the early 1960s saw major investment in new Mercedes models, the Auto Union business at this time did not benefit from the economic boom of the time to the same extent as competitor manufacturers such as Volkswagen and Opel. It appears that the decision to dispose of the Auto Union business was based on its lack of profitability. Ironically, by the time they sold the business it also included a near production-ready thoroughly modern four stroke engine, which would enable the Auto Union business, under a new owner and with the benefit of a rediscovered name, Audi, to become one of Germany's most successful car-makers during the second half of the 1960s.
In 1964 Volkswagen Group acquired a 50% holding in the business, which included the new factory in Ingolstadt and the trademark rights of the Auto Union. 18 months later Volkswagen bought complete control of Ingolstadt, and by 1966 were using the spare capacity of the Ingolstadt plant to assemble an additional 60,000 Volkswagen Beetles per year. Two-stroke engines became less popular during the 1960s as customers were more attracted to the smoother four-stroke engines. In September 1965, the DKW F102 got a four-stroke engine implanted and some front and rear styling changes. Volkswagen dumped the DKW brand because of its associations with two-stroke technology, and having classified the model internally as the F103, sold it simply as the "Audi."
In 1969, Auto Union merged with NSU, based in Neckarsulm, near Stuttgart. In the 1950s, NSU had been the world's largest manufacturer of motorcycles, but had moved on to produce small cars like the NSU Prinz, the TT and TTS versions of which are still popular as vintage race cars.  Today the Neckarsulm plant is used to produce the larger Audi models A6 and A8. The Neckarsulm factory is also home of the quattro GmbH, this subsidiary is responsible for development and production of the Audi high performance cars: the R8 and the "RS" model range.
The new merged company was known as Audi NSU Auto Union AG, and saw the emergence of Audi as a separate brand for the first time since the pre-war era.
The Audi image at this time was a conservative one, and so, a proposal was accepted to develop the four-wheel drive technology in Volkswagen's Iltis military vehicle for an Audi performance car and rally racing car. The performance car, introduced in 1980, was named the "Audi Quattro," a turbocharged coupé which was also the first German large-scale production vehicle to feature permanent all-wheel drive through a centre differential. Commonly referred to as the "Ur-Quattro" , few of these vehicles were produced (all hand-built by a single team), but the model was a great success in rallying. Prominent wins proved the viability of all-wheel drive racecars, and the Audi name became associated with advances in automotive technology.
In 1985, with the Auto Union and NSU brands effectively dead, the company's official name was now shortened to simply Audi AG.
The Audi emblem is four overlapping rings that represent the four marques of Auto Union. The Audi emblem symbolises the amalgamation of Audi with DKW, Horch and Wanderer: the first ring represents Audi, the second represents DKW, third is Horch, and the fourth and last ring Wanderer.
As part of Audi's centennial celebration in 2009, the company updated the logo, changing the font to left-aligned Audi Type, and altering the shading for the overlapping rings.
Audi's corporate tagline is Vorsprung durch Technik, meaning "Progress through Technology".

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