The beginnings of Audi are in November 1899 as one of the first car manufacturers in Germany, but the luxurious car didn’t have a smooth start. With its interesting past, present filled with cutting-edge technology and future of continued success, this car is one that has attracted car enthusiasts for more than a century.
Racing Disagreements and the Birth of a Legend
August Horch launched the car company Horch & Cie. in 1899. The company was based in Cologne Germany, but Horch was from Prussia, where he worked as a blacksmith. He earned a degree in engineering and continued his career in the shipbuilding industry before working as a production manager for Benz and later becoming an automobile mogul with his own company.
Horch built his first car with his new company in 1901. In 1906 he and his company competed in the Herkomer Run and won, beating out contestants driving cars like the Benz and Mercedes. This win helped launch the company into popularity.
However, a few years later Horch & Cie. leadership was unsure whether the business should be involved in auto sports, while Horch was confident it was a good move. The disagreement led him to leave Horch & Cie. in 1909 and form his own car company, using the Latin translation of his last name, Audi, which means “hark.”
With this new company, Horch entered the racing scene again and was very successful. For three years in a row, from 1912 to 1914, Horch and his racing team won the Austrian Alpine run, which made the Audi a household name.
Horch stayed with his company until after World War I. In 1920 he relocated to Berlin to work as an independent car expert. He went on to serve on the board of Auto Union and become an honorary professor at Braunschweig University of Technology.
Audi has always been on the cutting edge, with a tradition of producing first-of-its-kind car models. These models featured the newest technology and gave customers something they couldn’t get anywhere else.
The First Lefty Car: Audi Type K
Interestingly, Audi was the first manufacturer to offer a car with a left-hand drive. The Audi Type K was unveiled in 1921 at the Berlin Motor Show. The first of its kind car was available in a few styles: a four-seat touring car, a four-door sedan and a two-door coupe-cabriolet.
Unfortunately, experts believe only between 190 and 750 Audi Type Ks were ever produced, even though the model is now recognised as one of the most advanced and technical cars of the era.
The First German Eight-Cylinder Car: Horch 303
The Horch 303 went into production in 1926 as the first-ever eight-cylinder automobile to go into mass production in Germany. The car had dual overhead camshafts that were driven by a vertical shaft and a displacement of the 3132 cc and boasted a 60 horsepower engine.
The First Upper Mid-Size Class: Audi 100
The Audi 100 was launched in 1958 and helped the company break into the upper mid-size class of cars and was one of Audi’s most popular models.
The Fuel Efficient Model: Audi 100
Audi created an efficient way of refining diesel direct injection for car diesel engines. When combined with a turbocharger, the result was the potential to make a car that was extremely fuel-efficient: the 1968 Audi 100.
The Million-Car Seller: Audi 80
The Audi 80 was a huge success in 1972. More than a million of them were made and sold in just six years.
The Energy Aware Model: Audi 50
In 1974, the Audi 50, also known as the VW Polo, became the smallest Audi and was designed with the 1970s energy crisis in mind.
The Four-Wheel Drive Leader: Audi quattro
The Audi quattro, unveiled in 1980, was also hugely successful as the first high-performance, four-wheel drive car. Until Audi launched this car, this kind of technology was only seen in off-road cars and trucks.
The four-wheel drive technology was popular in motor sports, leading to record times in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb and a TransAm Series win by driver Hurley Haywood. This technology was so successful it was later implemented in all Audi cars.
The First All-Aluminum Body: Audi A8
Announced in 1994, this model was the first to have a body made completely out of aluminum.
The Multitronic: 2002 A4
In 2002, Audi produced the A4, which used a new, cutting-edge platform with available multitronic Continuously Variable Transmission with FrontTrak.
The Four Audi Rings
Car expert or not, nearly everyone recognises Audi’s logo, made up of four interconnected rings. However, what most people don’t know is that each ring represents a different car manufacturer: Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer, which merged in 1932, later becoming today’s Audi company.
Each of these manufacturers has their own unique history that contributes to what Audi is known for today: excellent automobiles.
DKW was founded in 1904 by Jorgen Skafte Rasmussen. The company began as Zschopauer Motorenwerke and built boiler fittings. Rasmussen soon purchased a textile mill and moved his business to Zschopau, Saxony. The name DKW comes from the steam automobile Damfkraftwagen, which Rasmussen worked closely with during World War I.
Horch is the initial company formed by August Horch, which he later left to found Audi. Horch started the company with his partner Salli Herz in 1899. By 1902, Horch automobiles were known to be more advanced and of higher quality than those produced by Mercedes and Benz. It was with this company, in 1904, that Horch created the first six-cylinder engine.
In 1913, the first Wanderer was built to export to foreign countries, but later became available domestically. The car was small and only had a 5/12 horsepower, four-cylinder engine, but was well loved after it appeared in the operetta Puppchen, and soon gained the show’s title as its nickname.
Auto Union AG
When Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer combined in 1932, they created Auto Union AG, which gained popularity for its racing cars, light motorcycles and luxury saloon cars. This organisation also created the first car to exceed speeds of 400 kilometres per hour on a normal road.
Today, Audi is well known for its superior quality and design and continues to be a leader in the automobile industry. Its unique and interesting history has made it a top-quality company that produces unbeatable cars to this day.