German automaker Audi traces history to 1899

Audi celebrated 100 years in business in 2009. The original compnay was formed on Nov. 18, 1899, by August Horch (1868-1951) and started business as A. Horch & Cle. in the Ehrenfeld district of Cologne. The auto manufacturer that later became Audi was formed in July, 1909, when Horch left his originial company to form a new firm.

In Ehrenfeld, Horch developed his first car, which was completed in early 1901. The company moved to Reichenbach in Saxony in March 1902.

The first Horch car took to the road in 1901. It had a horizontal engine with an output of about 4-5 horsepower, and was designed with an additional small piston to absorb the vibrations of the crankshaft. Horch referred to this as his "impact-free" engine. It also featured an alloy crankcase, a pioneering achievement in car manufacturing.

August Horch, founder of Audi                   J.S. Rasmussen, founder of DKW

At left, the first Horch car was a model "Phaeton" with a 5-horsepower engine. The first trial run of a  Horch motor car took place in the beginning of 1901. From left, August Horch, his wife, Anneliese, a friend and Horch`s associate Salli Herz.

The success of Horch cars made it necessary to expand the size of the factory. On the advice of his business associates, Horch decided to establish a share-issuing company, called A. Horch & Cie. Motorwagen-Werke AG, and built a new location in Zwickau. Production started in 1904, beginning a long tradition of car manufacturing in Zwickau.

1906 saw the launch of the "Sulmobil," a three-wheeled vehicle with a 3.5 horsepower motorcycle engine. The "Sulmobil," however, was not a success. As a result, the first "Original Neckarsulm Motor Car," with a 1308 cc four-cylinder engine and 10 horsepower, went into production the same year.

In 1909, August Horch had a dispute with the supervisory board of A. Horch & Cie. Motorwagen-Werke AG and as a result, left the company he had begun. Shortly after, on July 16, 1909, he established a second company, Horch Automobil-Werke GmbH, in the same city. Horch lost the ensuing legal dispute over the company name. His solution was to use the Latin translation of his name (which means "hark!"). The new company name, Audiwerke GmbH, became effective on April 25, 1910.

The first Wanderer car went into series production in 1913. This small car, with a 5/12 horsepower four-cylinder engine, had not been on the market very long when it became a stage star in the operetta "Puppchen" (which can be translated loosely as "darling") by Jean Gilbert. The title song was rather catchy: "Darling, you are the apple of my eye, darling, I think the world of you." From then on the little Wanderer was known simply by the name "Puppchen."

The International Austrian Alpine Run was one of the most famous races of its time. For the first time, Horch participated in an Audi in 1911 winning first prize. This encouraged him to enter an Audi team in the challenge trophy in 1912 through 1914. Audi won the team prize all three years.

August Horch, leaning against car following victory in the 1906
Herkomer Run in the H
orch 11/22 horsepower 2.7-liter 4-cylinder



Audi 10/22 hp (Type A), Audi 10/28 hp (Type B) in  May 1911.

The first Wanderer, a 1913 model, the Puppchen, '25 edition of left-hand drive Audi Type K

Right-hand drive originated during the age of the horse and carriage, when the coachman sat on the right-hand side. In September 1921 Audi became the first car manufacturer to present a production car with left-hand drive, the Audi Type K. Left-hand drive, which gave drivers a better view of oncoming traffic and made passing safer, in particular, became the prevailing standard by the end of the 1920s.

In 1922, Zschopauer Motorenwerke began manufacturing its own motorcycles. The sporting successes of the lightweight motorcycles with a 2.25 horsepower two-stroke engine were remarkable. Victories in the Berlin Avus race in 1922 and the triple victory by the DKW team in the ADAC Reichsfahrt the same year made people take notice. The first DKW motorcycle was consequently called the "Reichsfahrt." Over the next six years Zschopauer Motorenwerke/DKW established itself as the world's largest manufacturer of motorcycles.

In 1926, Horchwerke AG of Zwickau presented the Horch 303 Berlin. This was the first German eight-cylinder car to go into volume production. The 60 horsepower engine, designed by Paul Daimler, had dual overhead camshafts driven by a vertical shaft and a displacement of 3132 cc.

Audi Type M Pullman. The six-cylinder Type M was built in limited numbers from 1925 to 1929.

In August 1928, J. S. Rasmussen acquired the majority of shares in Audiwerke AG in Zwickau. Here, beginning in 1931, he produced in large numbers the DKW small car with  front-wheel drive. The small car had a wooden body covered in imitation leather and the standard DKW two-stroke engine. This design formed the basis for one of the most successful German small cars of the 1930s, over 250,000 of which were produced at Zwickau plant until 1942.



Audi at 1931 Berlin Auto Show.  

Audi DKW dealers conference in 1931

Rasmussen established his first company in 1904, Zschopauer Motorenwerke, to manufacture boiler fittings. In 1906 he purchased a textile mill in Zschopau, Saxony, and began production there in 1907. During World War I Rasmussen worked on a steam-driven vehicle ("Dampfkraftwagen"), from which the three letters DKW were derived.

On June 29, 1932, the four Saxon vehicle brands — Audi, DKW, Horch, and Wanderer— joined forces to create Auto Union AG. The new company group, based in Chemnitz, was able to serve all market segments, from light motorcycles to luxury saloon cars.

At the 1933 Berlin Motor Show, Auto Union AG presented the new Audi, its first standard-size passenger car with front-wheel drive. The company used a kind of modular design principle for the first time and the Wanderer six-cylinder engine.

Left, Auto Union "Silver Arrow" on the Avus race track, Berlin 1934, Hans Stuck driving.  Right, 1937 Wanderer W 25 K Roadster with supercharged 85-horsepower inline six. 

In 1938, Auto Union AG became one of the first manufacturers in the motor-vehicle industry to conduct systematic rollover and crash tests. Various DKW models with sheet-metal, wooden, and plastic bodyshells were tested in order to examine the unique rollover behaviors of each body type.

With the development and production of special vehicles for military purposes, Auto Union became an important supplier of vehicles to the armed forces in the mid-1930s. Following the outbreak of war, civilian production was interrupted in May 1940. After this, the company produced exclusively for military purposes.

30 men stand on the roof of a DKW  to demonstrate
the strength of the DKW`s wooden coachwork.


Money is tight, but Auto Union has capital where it counts — in the fierce dedication if its workforce and customers. As Dr. Hahn, Auto Union head of sales, recalled: Loyal dealers, more than 90 percent of whom "waited for us, often making considerable financial sacrifices to do so" and customers "...our backbone and our strength. Owners and enthusiasts eagerly anticipated everything we produced and never lost their faith in our products."

On the orders of the Soviet military administration in Germany, the Saxon plants of Auto Union were dismantled in 1945 as reparations. Following this, the company’s entire assets were expropriated without compensation. On Aug. 17, 1948 Auto Union AG of Chemnitz was deleted from the Commercial Register.

A new car manufacturing plant was set up in Ingolstadt with the help of loans from the Bavarian state government and Marshall Plan aid. Auto Union GmbH was established in Ingolstadt on Sept. 3, 1949. Based on established DKW principles — front-wheel drive and two-stroke engine — production of a small but sturdy 125 cc motorcycle and a DKW delivery van began the same year.

 In August 1950, Auto Union produced its first post-war passenger car. The DKW Meisterklasse F 89 P was available as a sedan and a four-seater Karmann convertible. Since the facilities in Ingolstadt were not adequate for the production of this model, Auto Union used the premises of the company Rhein-metall-Borsig AG in Dusseldorf. DKW vehicles were built there until the end of 1961.

As early as 1945, a modest number of motorcycles were built again at NSU in Neckarsulm. Within just a few years the plant became one of the most important manufacturers in this sector. NSU motorcycles were state of the art. On April 12, 1951, the motorcycle racer Wilhelm Herz succeeded in setting a new world record on a section of the Munich-Ingolstadt autobahn by reaching a speed of 290 km/h on a supercharged 500 cc NSU racing motorcycle.

1954 DKW F 89                                                                  DKW 3=6 from the mid '50s

Auto Union launched a new three-cylinder model in time for the 1953 German Motor Show. The "3=6 Sonderklasse" was developed before the war in Chemnitz and was supposed to go into volume production in 1940. The name "3=6" referred to the fact that a three-cylinder, two-stroke engine had the power characteristic of a six-cylinder, four-stroke engine thanks to twice the number of combustion cycles.

In 1955, NSU Werke AG in Neckarsulm proudly announced a total production volume of 342,583 two-wheeled vehicles (including 45,747 bicycles). This made NSU the world's leading manufacturer of two-wheelers. At the same time, motorcycle euphoria had reached its climax. As their wealth increased, customers became more and more demanding about their personal mode of transport. The car became the people's dream during the economic miracle years.

1959 NSU Prinz II                                                                                        NSU Wankel Spider

Below, the NSU Ro 80 featuring a twin-rotor rotary piston engine.

Following an absence of almost 30 years, NSU returned to car manufacturing in 1957. The company deliberately opted for a small car, designed for average earners and motorcycle owners. The NSU Prinz was unveiled at the 1957 German Motor Show and, from this date on, started to offset the losses of the collapsing motorcycle market.

At the instigation of leading entrepreneur Friedrich Karl Flick, Daimler-Benz AG acquired the majority of and, subsequently, the remaining shares in Auto Union GmbH on April 24, 1958. From this date until the end of 1964, Auto Union was a fully owned subsidiary of the Stuttgart-based Daimler Group.

When Auto Union stopped all motorcycle production activities in autumn of 1958, its new car plant in Ingolstadt went into operation in the summer of 1959. This was one of the most modern production facilities in Europe. In 1962, the Auto Union plant in Düsseldorf was sold to Daimler-Benz.

The open-top two-seater on the NSU stand at the 1963 Frankfurt Motor Show was a sensation. Known as the Wankel Spider, this small car had a single-rotor rotary piston engine at the rear. NSU had been working together with Felix Wankel on a new engine concept since the beginning of the 1950s; instead of a reciprocating piston, a rotor compressed the fuel/air mixture (rotary piston engine).

Once again at the instigation of leading industrialist Friedrich Karl Flick, Volkswagenwerk AG acquired the majority of shares in Auto Union GmbH in December 1964 (effective Jan. 1, 1965). The Ingolstadt-based company became a fully owned VW subsidiary at the end of 1966.

All work on the two-stroke engine came to an end when Auto Union became part of the Volkswagen Group. A four-cylinder four-stroke engine developed previously under Daimler-Benz — known as the "medium-pressure" engine — was installed in the last DKW model F 102 and presented as an Audi in the summer of 1965.

In September 1967, NSU presented a completely new model in the upper mid-size category, the NSU Ro 80. Its outstanding feature was a 115 horsepower twin-rotor rotary piston engine. The car's modern body design was ahead of its time and featured styling elements that only became the norm several years later. The NSU caused a major sensation, but was unable to help the Wankel principle make the breakthrough hoped for.

1969 Audi 100 Avant   

Audi's answer to the energy crisis — the 1975 Audi 50

On Nov. 26, 1968, Auto Union invited dealers and the press to attend the presentation of the newly designed Audi 100 at the Ingolstadt City Theatre. This model, developed by chief engineer Dr. Ludwig Kraus, took Audi into the competitive market segment of the upper mid-size class for the first time. The Audi 100 quickly became a bestseller and formed the basis for a new Audi model series that ensured the future independence of the Audi brand.

Audi entered the U.S. market in 1969, and in the summer of 1972, Audi chief designer Ludwig Kraus presented the Audi 80, a continuation of the model policy started with the Audi 100. This car used a four-cylinder OHC engine — later also adopted by the Volkswagen Group, ultimately becoming the engine with the highest production volume at VW. The Audi 80 was a smash hit — over a million models were built and sold within six years.

September 1974 saw the launch of the Audi 50, the smallest car in the Audi model range and Audi's answer to the energy crisis of the early 1970s. Since this was planned as a high-volume model from the outset, the small Audi was built at VW in Wolfsburg. Six months after the appearance of the Audi 50, this model was also launched on the market as the VW Polo.

In March 1980, a four-wheel-drive sports coupe caused a genuine sensation on the Audi stand at the Geneva Motor Show. The Audi quattro was the first high-performance vehicle with four-wheel drive. This drive concept had previously only been used on trucks and off-road vehicles. The permanent four-wheel-drive system in the Audi quattro enjoyed worldwide success in motor sport and gradually found its way into the entire Audi model range.

In 1982, American motorists get a chance to experience an attainable German sports sedan, thanks to the Audi 4000 with quattro.

In autumn 1986, Audi  presented the third generation of the Audi 80, known internally as the B3. As with the Audi 100/200 model range the year before, the Audi 80 was now also given a fully galvanized body with a 10-year warranty against rust penetration. With a drag coefficient of 0.29, the Audi 80 displayed excellent aerodynamics.

The 598 hp Audi Sport quattro S1 conquered the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in record-shattering time for the third year running in 1987. in 1988, victory in the TransAm Series for driver Hurley Haywood and the Audi Team proves that quattro conquers more than bad roads and less-than-ideal conditions.

In 1989, following more than 13 of years development, Audi engineers succeeded in refining diesel direct injection, which had previously only been used on trucks, for car diesel engines. In the autumn of 1989, the Audi 100 was presented at the Frankfurt Motor Show with a 2.5-liter five-cylinder TDI engine.

1994 Audi A8

In March 1994, Audi presented its new model in the premium segment, the Audi A8, at the Geneva Motor Show. This was the first production model with an all-aluminum body. At the same time a new naming process was introduced for the Audi models. From then on the Audi 80 was known as the A4, the Audi 100 was called the A6. They were followed in 1996 by the Audi A3, the first representative of the compact class. Production of the Audi A2, the first volume-built aluminum car, commenced in June 2000.

In 1994 the A4 was named as the successor to the Audi 80 and its immediate success exceeded anything that had been anticipated. In 1995, the A4 constituted a significant portion of sales, heralding Audi's "comeback" in the U.S. market. Approximately 18,000 Audi vehicles, including the A4, were delivered — a 44 percent improvement on the previous year's figure.

The world's first all-aluminum volume production car — the A8 — was introduced to American drivers. Aluminum frames weigh up to 40 percent less than comparable steel designs. Additionally, aluminum loses very little of its quality in recycling. The A8 set new standards in body technology.

Audi sold its 1 millionith car in the U.S. in 1999. New offerings included popular models like the S4, the A6 2.7 T and 4.2, and, representing the sports car ideal, the TT.

Audi TT sports car was introduced in 2000

In 2001, Audi introduced the all-new 2002 A4 built on an innovative platform with available multitronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with FrontTrak.

The All-new A6, the S4 Cabriolet, the A8 L W12, and I, Robot's RSQ
The S4 Cabriolet, a convertible featuring thrilling performance, began a year of exciting product releases in 2004.

The A3 was introduced in 2005 making a triumphant debut in the U.S. and ushered in a whole new category combining performance, design, technology, and utility into one intriguing package. The A4 and A4 Avant, S4 and S4 Avant, and A6 Avant all received significant face lifts.

In 2006, Audi Introduced the RS 4 and a high-speed engine concept with the latest generation of quattro drive. Asymmetric/dynamic distribution of torque, result in a startling 420 horsepower with 90 percent of the torque consistently available between 2250 and 7600 rpm.

Audi also introduce its first SUV to the U.S. market in 2006. The Audi Q7 arrived in U.S. showrooms in June with a 350 horsepower 4.2-liter V-8 engine with FSI direct-injection technology.

The Audi R8 supercar

Audi announced its entry into the most discerning segment of the car market with its R8 mid-engine sports car. The R8 is the embodiment of superlative road behavior, pioneering technology and fascinating design. The 420-horsepower V-8 FSI engine, quattro permanent four-wheel drive and the aluminum space-frame body endow the R8 with outstanding qualities to challenge for leadership of this segment, as do its excellent everyday suitability and Audi's typical standards of perfection in quality and finish.

In 2007, Audi announces it will back clean diesel under the name of Bluetec together with Volkswagen and DaimlerChrysler. By means of this joint campaign, the three car manufacturers intended to demonstrate the benefits of modern diesel technology to consumers in the U.S. — excellent performance, high fuel-efficiency, low-emissions output and low-maintenance.

At the 2007 North American International Auto show Audi demonstrated the possibilities of TDI technology with the majestic V12 TDI power-unit. The Audi Q7 V12 TDI raised the bar in the burgeoning sports utility vehicle segment. Its six-liter twelve-cylinder diesel unit confirmed the tremendous technological expertise at Audi's fingertips.

At the 2007 Geneva Auto Show Audi expanded into a highly emotionally charged segment of the market with the A5 coupe. The Audi S5 is an extra sporty offering to complete the new series. A powerful V-8 FSI engine gives the S5 a dynamic edge, which underscores its athletically accentuated design.

2009 Audi A6                                                2008 Audi S5