The brand has its roots in the Horch company, which produced its first vehicle in 1899. When founder August Horch was forced out of the company, he started over. Unable to use his own name, he branded his new automobile Audi, a Latin translation of Horch.
Horch left the company in the early 1920s, and in 1928, Audiwerke AG was purchased by DKW. In 1932, the Horch and Wanderer automobile manufacturers joined forces with DKW, and Auto Union--along with its Audi brand--was born.
Auto Union produced models for four brands, including Audi. The Audi Front 225 featured innovative front-wheel drive and an inline six. But the most beloved Audi offering of the 1930s was the 920 of 1939, a sleek innovative machine. The company competed in motorsports under its Auto Union banner, and the four-ring badge--symbolizing the union of the four companies--was worn proudly on every race car. With 25 percent of the German car market, only a war could stop Auto Union.
- Founder: August Horch
- Established: July 16, 1909, Zwickau, Germany
- CEO: Rupert Stadler
- Website : http://audi.com
In Sept. 1949, a new Auto Union was formed. Soon the enterprise was turning out small cars powered by noisy two-stroke engines. In 1958, Daimler-Benz acquired Auto Union, but it was an unhappy marriage; in 1964 Daimler sold a majority of its shares to Volkswagen. Soon Volkswagen acquired another small automaker, NSU AG, and combined its resources with those of Auto Union to form Audi NSU Auto Union GmbH.
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The company launched the Audi 100 in 1968, and the car saw some success as did other Audi offerings. But the automobile that put Audi on shopping lists was the turbocharged Quattro of 1980. Featuring a four-wheel-drive system, the car was an outstanding performer. Soon four-wheel-drive became a staple of the brand and helped position Audi as a premium offering.
After all the misfortune that the brand had endured, a television report that alleged unintended acceleration nearly killed Audi's North American presence. The claim was proven to be false--Audi vehicles were engineered for enthusiasts, and the brake and accelerator were close enough to allow heel/toe operation in cornering. Unfortunately, the allegations put a damper on sales and nearly forced Audi to withdraw from the United States.
But by the mid-1990s, the allegations had been forgotten and sales recovered. The 1996 A4 was heralded as an innovative offering, and the TT's distinctive style turned heads. Bolstered by a stretch of dominance at Le Mans and in international sports car racing, Audi was on its way to recovery. Today Audi offers a range of stylish automobiles, ranging from the hatchback A3 to the R8 sports car, each wearing the four-ring badge of Auto Union.