Automotive engineer August Horch founded A. Horch & Cie Motorwagen in 1899 in Ehrenfield, Cologne, Germany. Ten years later, he promptly departed, following a squabble with the supervisory board. Undeterred, he began anew. Legally unable to use his surname as an imprimatur, Horch chose – at his son’s suggestion – to use the Latin rendition of his name, and thus “Audi” Automobile Works debuted in 1910, this was the beginning of Audi history.
From its inception, Audi catered to automotive technophiles and elitists. Horch’s sleek sport cars dominated the illustrious International Austrian Alpine Run, winning the team prize from 1912 – 1914. Audi pioneered the use of left-hand steering, soon to become an industry standard, with the introduction of the 1921 Audi K-type. In 1934, a phenomenal automobile developed by the legendary Ferdinand Porsche (see also Porsche car history) added to Audi’s racing repertoire. Early Audis featured state-of-the-art interior amenities and dynamic mechanical technology, setting the stage for years to come.
For several decades Audi floated around the corporate scene under the shadow of various owners. Audi’s “Four Rings” insignia relates to the merge of Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer in 1932, creating Auto Union AG, based in Chemitz, Germany. At the onset of World War II, Audi factories were hastily revamped for military use and became a primary source of off-road automobiles for Nazi Germany. Ousted by Soviet conquerors, Audi – renamed Auto Union GmbH – relocated to Ingolstadt, Bavaria in 1949, financially supported by loans from the Bavarian Government and U.S. Government via the Marshall Plan. Auto Union GmbH focused on creating world-class sport motorcycles and compact two-stroke-engine automobiles. Daimler-Benz (see also Mercedes Benz history) bought out the company in 1958, but grew disinterested, and so in 1964, Auto Union GmbH was purchased by Volkswagen (also check out Volkwagen (VW) history).
Volkswagen quickly dumped DKW and focused on Audi’s novel four-stroke technology. The innovative Audi 60 and best-selling 100 (A6) were developed and sold during this epoch. In 1969, Auto Union GmbH merged with major motorcycle manufacturer NSU. Afterwards, Volkswagen further consolidated its holdings by adopting NSU under its own trademark. Several seminal cars debuted during this administration, including the Audi 80 (A4), ecological 50 (VW Polo) and the legendary 4WD, turbocharged Quattro coupe, which dominated rally racing during its lifetime.
In 1986, with NSU and Auto Union losing global competitiveness, the official brand name was changed to Audi AG, and so it remains to this day.
Audi remains on the cutting edge of technology. It uses galvanized aluminum space-frames to prevent corrosion, decrease weight and improve handling, as exhibited in the acclaimed Audi A8. The Audi A5′s leather-stuffed, gadget-brimming interior competes with international competitors Mercedes-Benz and BMW’s 3-series and 5-series. AWD, dual-clutch and CVT transmissions and electronic user interfaces make contenders like the preeminent R8 and off-road Q5 top candidates in their classes. Ecological technology includes clean-diesel technology, lightweight chassis, electric engines and standard fuel-stratification injection. Audi remains true to its perennial slogan: “vorsprung durch technik” – “innovation through technology” and by staying true to this slogan this is no the end of Audi history by far.