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Today the Audi name is synonymous with the expression "vorsprung durch technik," which means advantage through technology. But the company has a history going back more than 100 years to the pioneering days of automobile manufacture.
In 1899, August Horch established his first company A. Horch & Cie in Cologne. His first car had a 4-5 hp horizontal engine with several innovative design features, and this vehicle was introduced to the public in 1901. The company relocated to Reichenbach in 1902, but the popularity of the Horch cars made it necessary to move again to a larger factory. So in 1904 A. Horch & Cie. Motorwagen - Werke AG was established in Zwickau. In 1909, August Horch entered into a bitter dispute with the supervisory board of the share - issuing corporation that he had created. He left the company and tried to set up Horch Automobil - Werke GmbH, but lost the legal battle to retain the Horch name. So the Audi brand was born - a Latin translation of "horch" (hark in English) -and in 1910 Audiwerke GmbH was established. By 1911, August Horch was entering motorsport events such as the International Austrian Alpine Run. Individual success on the 1911 event led to Audi entries winning the team prize each year from 1912 to 1914.
In 1921 Audi became the first German manufacturer to produce a car with left hand drive. Prior to that cars had been right hand drive, a configuration dating back to the age of the horse and carriage, when the coachman sat on the right. Meanwhile the old Horch-werke company in Zwickau had been working on a luxury 8-cylinder car, and in 1926 the 3132cc Horch 303 Berlin became available. In 1927 the DKW motorcycle company also moved into the car market with a vehicle powered by a 2-cylinder engine. Yet another company, Wanderer (established in 1913), had became a significant producer of small cars. In June 1932 the four motor vehicle brands Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer joined forces to create Auto Union AG, and adopted the four rings emblem that is today's Audi logo.
The new Auto Union company was involved in all segments of the market, from motorcycles to luxury cars. The Auto union racing cars were extremely successful with high performance engines complementing aerodynamic design and lightweight construction. But Auto Union were also involved in the production of special vehicles for military purposes, and following the outbreak of war in 1940 civilian vehicle manufacture ceased.
The unfortunate consequence of military involvement was that after the war the Auto Union factory was dismantled, and in 1948 the name Auto Union AG was deleted from the Commercial Register. In 1949 various loans were available to regenerate German industry, and Auto Union GmbH was formed in Ingolstadt. At first production was aimed at motorcycles, to be followed by a small DKW delivery van, and then the first post-war DKW car. Motorcycle production carried on until 1958, at which time the Auto Union company became a fully owned subsidiary of the Stuttgart-based Daimler Group. The company ownership changed again in 1965, and since that time Auto Union (latterly Audi) has been part of the Volkswagen Group.
The Audi 100 was introduced in 1968; it became a best seller and ensured the future independence of the Audi brand. The Audi 80 followed in 1972, a car which went on to sell over one million within six years. Then came the Audi Quattro, a four wheel drive high performance sports coupe. This car caused a genuine sensation at the 1980 Geneva Motor Show, and the Audi Quattro with its permanent four wheel drive went on to enjoy world-wide success in motorsport. Through the 1980's, continuing development led to the appearance of quattro (4 wheel drive) versions of the entire model range, the production of an all-alloy V8 engine, and (in 1989) an Audi 100 with a five-cylinder diesel direct injection engine.
From 1994 new models of the Audi 80 became known as the A4, whilst the Audi 100 became the A6. For some years Audi had been working on the use of aluminium to produce lighter production cars, and this culminated in the announcement of the Audi A8 at the 1994 Geneva Motor Show. The A8 had an all-aluminium body, a V8 engine, and was aimed squarely at the premium end of the market. Since then the small Audi A2 was launched in 2000; this is the first volume built aluminium car.
CJ Clark, 07/03.
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