A Brief Audi Overview
The world-famous AUDI brand is actually part of the even more famous Volkswagen Group and has operated from its base in Ingolstadt, Germany since the early 20th century. Audi vehicles are of course instantly recognizable due to their iconic brand symbol which comprises of four intersected rings arranged side by side. The Audi group specialize in high performance and high specification luxury vehicles that are sold and eagerly purchased worldwide.
Although Audi vehicle production is mainly in Germany the group do have other production facilities located worldwide including, since August 13 1988, in China following the signing of a contract by AUDI AG and First Automotive Works (FAW) for the licensed production of the Audi 100 model at a factory based in Changchun, which is in northern China.
Fact 1: The Famous and Iconic Audi “Intersected Rings” Symbol & How It Came into Being.
The iconic Audi interlinked rings were initially designed to represent an early event in Audi’s history when four separate German automotive brands merged in 1932 in order to form a single entity known as “AutoUnion,” which later on became known simply as Audi. The three brands, in addition to Audi, that formed the fellowship of the Audi rings were: DKW, Horch and Wanderer. Each participating company retained its own brands and identities at first and the new 4 ring symbol now used by Audi for all of its vehicles was initially only used for their high-performance motor sport racing cars, which were highly successful, winning many events. Wanderer finally ceased manufacturing vehicles completely towards the end of the second world war in 1945, being mainly concerned with making military vehicles at that time. The number of rings however was not decreased and the four ring configuration has remained the same up to the present day.
Unfortunately, it has not been possible to establish exactly who it was that actually came up with the design of the rings symbol but there are suggestions that it was inspired by the very similar Olympic rings symbol, although this is not confirmed. There would be some logic in this since the Olympics represent the very best in terms of athlete’s performance and achievement.
DKW continued building vehicles until 1966 when their F102 model ceased production in Germany. Production of DKWs continued in Brazil and Argentina for a few more years however but by the end of the 1960’s DKW was no more.
Fact 2: The Audi Name – What Does It Mean?
To explain this fully we have to delve deeper into the company’s history. One of the original four businesses in the union of four was Horch, the brainchild of an engineer called August Horch. August Horch was initially a blacksmith but also studied engineering – a subject in which he was eventually awarded a degree. After spending a brief spell in the ship building industry Horch was employed by the well-known automobile industry pioneer, Karl Benz, as an engineer before finally branching out on his own, forming an automobile company and eventually trading as Horch Automobilwerke GmbH. That company was based in Cologne and was mainly involved in producing lower cost twin cylinder open topped vehicles.
The name Audi was actually suggested by the young son of a Horch family friend whose Latin was clearly pretty good. In fact, Horch means “hear” in German and its Latin equivalent is “Audi”. Horch liked the suggestion and in due course it was adopted as the brand name for the business and has remained so up to the present day.
Fact 3: Audi Introduced the Concept of Four Wheel Drive For Performance Vehicles
Although four wheel drive transmission systems for vehicles had been available for quite some time, most notably with the Land Rover which has been available since the late 1940’s, albeit mainly as an agricultural vehicle for use by those who needed to travel on unmade roads, it was not an option for performance or in fact any non-commercial road going vehicles until 1980 when Audi introduced the four wheel drive Audi Quattro at the Geneva Motor Show to huge acclaim and great interest.
Previously, four wheel drive systems had been used mainly on commercial vehicles such as lorries, trucks, military vehicles and various other off-road vehicles. The four-wheel-drive system fitted to the Audi Quattro was very successful where it was initially used in motor sport and it eventually worked its way into the specification of the full Audi automobile range – a pattern that Audi repeated often, effectively using motor sport as a form of testing ground before vehicles became commercially available to the public. Unlike the Land Rover where the 4 wheel drive can be taken out of play when the vehicle is being used on road surfaces where it is not required, the Audi four wheel drive system is a permanent four wheel drive which is always in play.
Fact 4: What Does the Audi Advertising Strapline ‘Vorsprung Durch Technik’ Mean & How Did It Come About?
Although it seems like only yesterday, the famous phrase “Vorsprung Durch Technik” has been used as a slogan in television and other types of adverts for Audi vehicles for well over 30 years. Even people who cannot speak a single word of conversational German can instantly bring this phrase to the surface of their minds and quote it – even if they are not sure what it means – this is a clear demonstration and proof of the fact that advertising really does work and a slogan can become part of everyday language.
In fact, the phrase, “Vorspung Durch Technik,” which is of course German, was first used in 1971 and is usually translated into English as ‘progress through technology’ although the literal translation would be ‘advancement through technology’. This slight variation is due to the fact that there is not an exact equivalent of the German word ‘vorsprung’ in the English language.
Fact 5: What Does The “RS” Mean When Used In Audi Model Names?
The prefix RS is seen on numerous Audi vehicle model numbers and is taken to be indicative of the vehicle being a high performance option. In fact, in 1994 Audi’s high performance Quattro GmbH division launched a new high performance sub-brand which was given the name RS. The RS is short for “RennSport”, in German which translates to ‘racing sport’ in English.
Quattro GmbH quickly launched the first model to sport the two-lettered RS badge with the introduction of the RS2 Avant. This model was a revamp of the Audi 80 ‘B4’ model. Audi enlisted the help of Porsche to develop the RS2 Avant. The RS2 Avant was fitted with Porsche 993-generation 911’s wheels, together with fog lights and exterior mirrors. Porsche also designed the RS2’s brakes and suspension systems for this model of vehicle.
Fact 6: Audi Came Very Close to Not Being Called Audi at All
When August Horch fell out with his co-directors on the board of the original Horch company in 1909 he left the business and set about launching a new enterprise based in the Saxony region of Zwikau. At first, he intended to use his own name for the new business, i.e. August Horch, but he was prevented from doing so by legal action taken by the partners of the original company on the grounds of it being a trademark infringement were he to do so.
Were it not for that threatened legal action, the marque we now know and love as Audi could easily still be known as August Horch or, more likely, just Horch.
Fact 7: Audi Was Once a Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Daimler Benz
As the second world war came to an end and Germany gradually rebuilt its industrial base, the combined automobile manufacturing business comprising Audi, Horch, DKW and Wanderer became a single manufacturing entity known simply as “Auto Union GmbH” and was established in Ingolstadt, Germany, on the 3rd September 1949. This situation continued until April 24th 1958 when Daimler-Benz AG acquired a controlling interest in the group. This partial acquisition was shortly followed by their finally acquiring complete ownership.
Daimler retained their ownership of Auto Union GmbH until late 1965 when another motoring giant showed its hand and pitched in to make a bid to take control of the business – more of which later.
Fact 8: It Is 1968 and Audi Changed Hands Once Again but Remained In German Ownership – This Time With the Mighty VW
After some time spent standing in the side lines, Volkswagenwerk AG finally acquired the majority of shares in Auto Union GmbH in December 1964. These things take time to develop however and it was some two years later before Audi finally became a wholly owned VW subsidiary, effective since late 1966.
Some three years later VW had completed yet another takeover, this time of NSU Motorenwerke AG. In March 1969 they merged NSU Motorenwerke AG with the Ingolstadt-based Auto Union GmbH to create the newly named Audi NSU Auto Union AG.
All remained relatively stable until January 1985 when Audi NSU Auto Union AG was given a brand new name, this time the much shorter and more easily remembered “AUDI AG”. At around this time the company moved its head office to Ingolstadt and the company together, with the vehicles it made, shared the same name which was of course, just, Audi.
Fact 9: When Was the First Horch (later Audi) Automobile Built?
Although it took some time for Audi to become established as a marque in the motor manufacturing industry and to be regarded as a volume producer of motor vehicles for public use on the roads, the company, originally established by August Horch did in fact produce vehicles very early in the twentieth century.
The defining moment in the history of Audi was when its founder first launched a vehicle that was in regular production and generally available to buy. That historic event took place more than a century ago in 1901. At that time the company was known as Horch & Cie. Motorwagen Werke and were based in Cologne.
It would be very difficult to find a working example of such an early Horch vehicle although Horch models that were produced in the 1930’s are still fairly easy to find – although, as you might expect, they do come at a price!
Fact 10: Audi’s Factories Were Once Seized by the Russian Army
Yes, it’s true. Initially Russia had signed an accord with Hitler’s Germany, this was a strategic move by Adolph Hitler, made in order to ensure that German forces did not face a two-pronged attack from both the USA/UK allies as well as from Russia forces. As it turned out, this did not go well for Germany and in August 1942, Winston Churchill visited Moscow in Russia, along with the prominent American, W. Averell Harriman, in order to engage in strategic talks that would remove Russia as a threat to the allied forces. There he met and had talks with the Russian ruler, Stalin, and as a result of this visit and the talks with Stalin, Russia became an ally of Britain and the USA in the fight with Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
Shortly after the end of the second world war in 1945 the then-named Auto Union AG factory sites in Saxony were abruptly seized by the Soviet Union’s occupying forces. The sites were demolished or dismantled and were no longer used for vehicle production. The company did however set up a distribution depot in Ingolstadt to supply spare parts for vehicles that were already in use in the Western zones.
In 1949 the newly established Auto Union GmbH was officially registered, and that registration is entered in the commercial register of businesses in the city of Ingolstadt for that time. Soon after, the production of vehicles at Ingolstadt resumed, starting with the DKW RT 125 W motorcycle and the DKW F 89 L high-speed van. These vehicles were initially made in converted buildings that had once served as garrisons for the army of the Third Reich.