New 2009 Audi logo.
Germany, 1909 to date.
Founded by the creator of Horch cars, August Horch, at Zwickau in East Germany, Audi became part of the Auto-Union in 1932, was nationalized in 1945, and became defunct until 1965, when the name "Audi", after Heinrich Fikentscher, the 10-year-old son of Horch's business partner, came up with the brilliant suggestion to translate the name Horch, a German imperative form meaning "Listen!", into Latin - "Audi" was resumed at the "new" Auto-Union works at Ingolstadt in Western Germany.
The Audi of today is one of Germany's leading cars, now part of the great VW Group, following Audi's merger with NSU's car side.
The History of the Four Rings. A brief summary.
The Audi emblem of the four rings denotes one of Germany's oldest automobile manufacturers. It symbolizes the merger in 1932 of four previously independent motor vehicle manufacturers: Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer. These companies are the foundation stones on which the present-day AUDI AG is built.
At the end of the 19th century, there were already a number of car manufacturers in Germany. One of them was August Horch & Cie., founded on November 14, 1899 in Cologne. August Horch was one of the pioneer figures of automotive engineering. Before setting up business on his own, he worked for Carl Benz in Mannheim for three years as Head of Automobile Production.
In 1904, August Horch relocated his company to Zwickau and transformed it into a share-issuing company. However, in 1909 August Horch withdrew from the company he had founded, and set up a new enterprise under the name of "Audi".
The company established by August Horch in Zwickau on July 16, 1909 could not again take its founder's name for reasons of fair trade. Horch found a new name for the company by translating his name, which means "hark!", "listen!", into Latin. So it was that the second company to have been set up by August Horch commenced operations under the name Audi Automobilwerke GmbH, Zwickau, on April 25, 1910.
In 1885, the two mechanics Johann Baptist Winklhofer and Richard Adolf Jaenicke opened a repair business for bicycles in Chemnitz. Shortly afterwards they began to make bicycles of their own, since demand at that time was very high. These were sold under the brand name Wanderer, and in 1896 the company itself began to trade as Wanderer Fahrradwerke AG.
Wanderer built its first motorcycle in 1902. The idea of branching out into automobile production was finally put into practice in 1913. A small two-seater by the name of "Puppchen" heralded in Wanderer's tradition of motor car production that was to last several decades.
Originally founded under the name Rasmussen & Ernst 1902 in Chemnitz, the company was moved to Zschopau in the Erzgebirge region in 1907. The company initially manufactured and sold exhaust-steam oil separators for steam-raising plant, mudguards and lighting systems for motor vehicles, vulcanization equipment and centrifuges of all kinds.
The company's founder Jorgen Skafte Rasmussen began to experiment with a steam-driven motor vehicle in 1916, registering DKW as a trademark. In 1919 the company, by now renamed Zschopauer Motorenwerke, switched to the manufacture of small two-stroke engines, which from 1922 on served as a springboard for its success in building motorcycles under the brand name DKW. The first small DKW motor car appeared on the market in 1928.
Auto Union AG, Chemnitz.
On June 29, 1932, Audiwerke, Horchwerke and Zschopauer Motorenwerke - DKW merged on the initiative of the State Bank of Saxony to form Auto Union AG. A purchase and leasing agreement was concluded at the same time with Wanderer, for the takeover of its Automobile Division. The new company's head offices were in Chemnitz.
Following the merger, Auto Union AG was the second-largest motor vehicle manufacturer in Germany. The company emblem, with four interlinked rings, symbolized the inseparable unity of the four founder-companies. The brand names Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer were retained. Each of the four brands was assigned a specific market segment within the group: DKW assumed responsibility for motorcycles and small cars; Wanderer built midsize cars; Audi manufactured cars in the deluxe midsize class, and Horch produced deluxe top-of-the-range automobiles.
Auto Union GmbH, Ingolstadt.
In 1945, after the end of the Second World War, Auto Union AG was expropriated by the occupying Soviet forces. The company's leading figures consequently moved to Bavaria, where a new company was founded in Ingolstadt in 1949 under the name of Auto Union GmbH, to uphold the motor vehicle tradition of the company with the four-ring emblem. The first vehicles to leave the company's production line after its new start were DKW's successful models with two-stroke engines — motorcycles, cars and delivery vans.
A new Auto Union model appeared on the market in 1965, the company's first post-war vehicle with a four-stroke engine. To emphasize this dawning of a new era, a new product name was likewise needed: the traditional name of Audi was resurrected. A short time later, the last DKWs rolled off the production line in Ingolstadt. From then on, the new models with four-stroke engines were produced under the brand name "Audi". A new era had begun in another sense, too: the Volkswagen Group acquired the Ingolstadt-based company in 1965.
NSU was founded in 1873 in Riedlingen, on the Danube, by the two Swabian mechanics Christian Schmidt and Heinrich Stoll. Seven years later they moved the company to Neckarsulm. For its first twenty years, the company manufactured knitting machines.
Neckarsulmer Strickmaschinenfabrik diversified into bicycles in 1886. From then on, the bicycle was to have a decisive influence on the company's fortunes. Motorcycle production commenced at NSU in 1901, and five years later the first motor car was built there. Automobile production activities were halted again in 1929, to allow the company to concentrate on building two-wheelers. It was almost thirty years later, in 1958, that production of cars recommenced in Neckarsulm.
On March 10, 1969, Auto Union GmbH of Ingolstadt merged with NSU Motorenwerke AG, of Neckarsulm. The new company bearing the name Audi NSU Auto Union AG, with its head offices in Neckarsulm, was created retrospectively as of January 1.
1969. Union GmbH and NSU Motorenwerke AG merge.
The two firms Auto Union GmbH and NSU Motorenwerke AG merged in 1969. As a consequence of this, the product portfolio of “Audi NSU Auto Union AG” had expanded to more than ten model ranges encompassing a multitude of technical concepts. Marketing employee Hans Bauer put this technical diversity and finesse in a nutshell by coining an advertising slogan that was as brilliantly simple as it was ingenious: Vorsprung durch Technik!
It is mid-September 1972 and an elaborate marquee construction is being erected on the forecourt of the theatre in Ingolstadt. A short time later, the press premiere of the Audi 80 is due to take place. It is not difficult to see that this marquee is connected to Audi in some way, as emblazoned on the frame in enormous letters reads: AUDI NSU – Vorsprung durch Technik.
A quick flashback: in August 1969, the two firms Auto Union GmbH, Ingolstadt and NSU Motorenwerke AG, Neckarsulm had merged. The two subsidiaries of Volkswagenwerk AG evolved into Audi NSU Auto Union AG, whose creation was backdated to January 1, 1969. Based in Neckarsulm, the new company’s model line-up was an extremely varied one: from the air-cooled engines of the NSU Prinz model line and the water-cooled four-cylinder engines in the Audi 60 and Audi 100 to the fascinating Wankel engine powering the Ro 80. The drive concepts, body constructions and design of the Audi NSU models were equally as diverse: from the front-wheel drive of the Audi models and the NSU Ro 80 to the rear-wheel drive of the NSU Prinz or the TT, and from the lightweight construction of the Audi 100 to the Italian styling of the Audi 100 Coupé S to the futuristic body design of the NSU Ro 80.
It is the sheer diversity of technical concepts within the Audi NSU portfolio that gets Hans Bauer, an employee in the Audi NSU Advertising Department, thinking about an apt advertising slogan in 1971. The result is so simple and so ingenious: Vorsprung durch Technik!
Not long afterwards, the slogan starts to appear on the Audi NSU brochures. Audi 100, Audi 100 Coupé S, Audi 80, Audi 50 and NSU Ro 80 alike – they all now stand for “Vorsprung durch Technik”. Or at least they do until summer 1975. For, as so often happens in the world of advertising, there is always the temptation to attempt to better perfection. Modified versions of the slogan now start to be used in German advertising: “Audi. Ein schönes Stück Technik” (“Audi. A wonderful piece of technology”) and, some time later: “Audi. Gelassen fahren mit perfekter Technik” (“Audi. Serene driving with flawless technology”).
Yet, it proves impossible to better it, with the original slogan being reprised time and time again behind the scenes. In 1980, it finally starts to appear more and more frequently when the Audi quattro is launched. It features in the advertising rather than in the sales documentation. And it is advertising which sends out a very clear signal in May 1984. Europe’s largest neon advertising sign at that time is erected atop a high-rise building directly next to the Ingolstadt North exit of the A9 motorway from Nuremberg to Munich: a reddish-brown Audi oval bearing the slogan “Vorsprung durch Technik”. The lettering tips the scales at seven tonnes, while the trademark weighs four tonnes. 7,500 watts of power are needed to let Audi shine out for all to see at night too and to proclaim exactly where leadership through technology has its roots.
From October 1986 onwards, following the launch of the third generation of the Audi 80 with its fully galvanised body and styling that had been perfected in the wind tunnel, the words “Vorsprung durch Technik” once again make their way into the sales brochures and on-board literature. Ever since, the Audi claim has been an intrinsic element of the corporate identity that is now set in stone – perfection just can’t be bettered.
The last NSU left the production line in March 1977, and from then on the company manufactured exclusively Audi cars. About this time, the company's bosses began to consider streamlining the company's rather cumbersome name of Audi NSU Auto Union AG. With the objective of giving the company and its products the same name, in 1985 Audi NSU Auto Union AG was renamed simply AUDI AG. To coincide with the change of name, the company's registered headquarters were transferred from Neckarsulm to Ingolstadt.
Together with the two traditional companies Auto Union GmbH and NSU GmbH, Audi Tradition nurtures and presents the deep and diverse history of Audi. The Audi museum mobile at the Ingolstadt plant is open every day of the week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
(text courtesy Audi AG)
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