Today Audi is a respected and revered brand throughout the world. But there were times when the brand wasn’t taken seriously, the company changed hands and even closed for many years. Let’s learn something new about Audi.
The Name of the Company Was Suggested by the Son of the Founder’s Partner
At the origin of Audi was the German engineer and entrepreneur August Horch. The name sounds familiar, doesn’t it? At the beginning of the 20th century, August Horch left the automobile company August Horch & Cie, which he had founded, because of a disagreement with his business partners. Motorwagen Werke AG and decided to found a new brand.
At a meeting of the founders, the question of the name came up. Two companies had the same last name, and it was awkward and silly. The meeting took place in the apartment of one of Horch’s business partners, Franz Fikentscher. His son, who was doing homework, suggested translating Horch’s last name into Latin. This turned out to be Audi, i.e. “to listen” or “to heed”. And so we stopped there.
The memorable meeting at Fikentscher’s apartment took place in the summer of 1909, and soon the first car of the new brand appeared. No wonder that the Audi Type A with a 2.6-liter 22-horsepower engine was technically similar to the Horch 18/22. After all, the models had the same creator.
Audi and Horch Crossed Paths in an Unexpected Way
The economic crisis in Germany, which began after World War I and seized the entire 1920s, was as challenging to the German car industry as it’s hard for sportsbook visitors to pick which team to bet on. Dozens of firms disappeared forever, while others had to merge to survive.
In 1928, four German brands – DKW, Wanderer, Horch, and Audi – traded independence for financial stability. In the structure of the new concern Auto Union, each brand was assigned its market niche. The lower price segment is DKW cars, the next step is Wanderer. At the top of the chain, there was the elite Horch, and Audi got the role of premium – above average, but not the top one.
That’s when the brand also got its familiar logo: crossed rings symbolize the four brands united under the wing of one concern.
Audi Literally Disappeared After the Second World War
Today we usually speak about Audi as a company from Ingolstadt, but historically the company’s birthplace is quite different. It’s the town of Zwickau, which in 1945 ended up on Soviet territory.
By and large, after the Second World War, Auto Union ceased to exist. Most of the enterprises and assets of the concern remained in East Germany, and the brands Wanderer, Horch and Audi were simply closed.
After some time, the former leadership of the Automobile Union established a new legal entity in West Germany with the same name. But now only DKW remains as part of Auto Union, which settled in Ingolstadt.
Audi cars would return to the market only 20 years later and under curious circumstances.
The Company Was Owned by Mercedes-Benz, but It Was Sold When It Was No Longer Needed
In the late 1950s, the powerful Mercedes-Benz joined Auto Union. Stuttgart considered budget DKW cars as a good complement to the premium models of its own lineup. Serious money was allocated to develop new cars and engines for Auto Union. A lot of work was done, but Mercedes was rather quickly disappointed with the purchase.
In 1964, Mercedes-Benz got rid of Auto Union, ceding it to Volkswagen. At the same time, the buyer got new four-stroke engines already ready for production, and engineering developments of a new generation of passenger cars.
But if Mercedes-Benz saw DKW as a low-cost addition to its lineup, it was the other way around for Volkswagen. Wolfsburg needed a more prestigious brand. So the DKW brand was scrapped, and the brand’s cars were renamed Audi.
One of the Most Iconic Audi Appeared Thanks to the Wife of the VW Director
The EA262 project was considered classified. The VW generals decided to confront the fact of an already-ready driving prototype. Why? In the late 1970s, the concept of a passenger coupe with permanent all-wheel drive seemed like nonsense. When the top management of VW was presented a driving prototype of the future Quattro at a private presentation in January 1978, having painted all the advantages of all-wheel drive on slippery roads, no one was delighted.
Fortunately, one of the members of the board of directors, Ernst Fiala, decided not to rely on chance, but to check the declared advantages of the car in practice. He asked for a camouflaged Audi Quattro prototype for the weekend, went to Vienna, and even let his wife drive it.
Only when Mrs. Fiala appreciated the car’s driving qualities on slippery roads, the future Quattro opened the road to serial production.