May 10, 1904 – Audi is founded, sort of

August Horch in a Horch in 1908.

Audi has a long and storied history, stretching back more than a century. It all began on this day in 1904, when engineer August Horch founded Horch & Cir. Motorwagenwerke AG in the German city of Zwickau. Horch had previously worked for Karl Benz, but had left the company to strike out on his own.

How did Audi get its name?

Horch & Cir. Motorwagenwerke AG quickly gained a reputation for building high-quality automobiles, and the company expanded rapidly over the next few years. However, due to issues with the chief financial officer at Horch, August Horch left the company to found a new automaker, August Horch Automobilwerke GmbH, on July 16, 1909, also in Zwickau. However, he was forced by the courts to rename the company since “Horch” was already a registered brand and he didn’t have the rights to use the name, despite it being his own. Eventually, on April 25, 1910, the name “Audi Automobilwerke” was officially registered for the company at the Zwickau registration court. The word “Audi” is the Latin equivalent of “Horch,” which means “listen!” in German, similar to the English word “hark.” Interestingly, the Audi name was suggested by the son of one of Horch’s business partners.

1936 Auto Union racecar

In the decades that followed, Audi developed a number of groundbreaking technologies that helped establish it as one of the world’s leading automakers. In 1932, things came full circle when In 1932, the Horch and Audi companies from Zwickau, along with the Zschopauer Motorenwerke J. S. Rasmussen (which owned the DKW brand) and the Wanderer car-production facilities, merged to form the Auto Union corporation of Saxony. This resulted in the creation of the four rings logo. Continued technological development continued, resulting in Audi introducing a front-wheel-drive Auto Union Grand Prix racing cars.

Post War Audi History

Unfortunately, World War II brought production at Audi and other German automakers to a halt. After the war, Audi was initially unable to resume production due to the damage inflicted on its factories and the difficult economic conditions in Germany. However, the company was eventually able to recover, and in the 1950s it began producing a new line of cars that featured innovative technologies like the use of aluminum in body construction.

Audi Quattro
Audi Quattro. By The Car Spy – CC BY 2.0

Following another round of mergers in the late 1960s, the company became known as Audi NSU Auto Union AG. Through the 1970s, Audi continued to push the boundaries of automotive technology with the introduction of its “quattro” all-wheel drive system. This technology, which debuted on the Audi Quattro rally car in 1980, revolutionized the way that performance cars handled in difficult driving conditions. It also helped Audi establish a reputation as a brand that was not only innovative but also focused on performance and handling. Then in 1985, with Auto Union and NSU effectively out of business, the company simply became known as Audi AG.

Audi Today

In the 1980s and 1990s, Audi continued to build on its reputation for innovation and performance with the introduction of a number of new technologies, including advanced aerodynamics, electronic stability control, and direct injection. The company also expanded its lineup to include a wider range of vehicles, including luxury sedans and SUVs.

Audi R8. By Alexandre Prévot from Nancy, France – CC BY-SA 2.0

Today, Audi is known as one of the world’s leading automakers, with a reputation for producing high-quality, technologically advanced vehicles that offer both performance and luxury. The brand is part of the larger Volkswagen Group, which includes other well-known brands like Volkswagen, Porsche, and Lamborghini. Despite the challenges of a rapidly changing automotive landscape, Audi remains committed to innovation and excellence, and is poised to continue shaping the future of the industry for many years to come.

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