History of Audi: A Trailblazing Saga of Innovation and Luxury

Immerse Yourself in the History of Audi Experience


First, weavers

Four companies are responsible for the birth of Audi. NSU appeared in 1873 and was initially dedicated to manufacturing weaving machines: the first of the four rings has just seen the light of day. At the end of the decade, the company moved from Riedlingen to Neckarsulm, Germany.


Afterward, bicycles

In 1885 the mechanics, Johan Baptist Winklhofer and Richard Adolf Jaenicke, set up a bicycle repair business in Chemnitz. Soon after, they start to manufacture them themselves and market them under the Wanderer brand. The second ring of the current Audi appears. Meanwhile, NSU  is also launching the production of these two-wheelers.


At last, cars

On  November 14, 1899, August Horch founded the car factory that bears his name. Wanderer takes the “surname” Fahrradwerke; there is very little left for your bikes to become motorcycles.


The birth of Audi

At this time, great changes occur: NSU begins producing motorcycles and, shortly after, automobiles. It appears  DKW, manufacturer (under the original name Rasmussen & Ernst)  boilers, mudguards, and lighting systems for vehicles motor. Horch, whose first car hit the road in  1901, moved his company to Zwickau and transformed it into a shareholders’ company, although he abandoned it in 1909. Immediately create a new company. Since he cannot use the same name, he translates his last name into Latin (listen !, in German): this is how it appears Audi Automobilwerke GmbH, which began operations on April 25, 1910.



 Wanderer made his dream of building cars come true in 1913  with the Puppchen, a  small two-seater that started a tradition that will later extend for decades. DKW is registered as a trademark and experiments with vehicles powered by steam engines. In 1919, the company – renamed Zschopauer Motorenwerke – produced small two-stroke engines. After the First World War,  Audi distinguished itself by being the first brand to place the steering wheel on the left and the gear lever in the car’s center.


The decline of luxury

DKW  achieved success as a motorcycle manufacturer in 1922. Six years later, it launched its first car on the marketAudi built a  six-cylinder mechanic in 1923. Four years later comes the eight-cylinder engine, associated with the Imperator model: it is not very successful, as the luxury car segment has begun declining. In 1928,  Jörgen Skafte Rasmunssen, director of the DKW empire, bought Audi . With a  daily production of 25 vehicles, Wanderer manufactures the Type W 10, equipped with a 1.5-liter 30 hp engine. Finally, NSU discontinued its production of four-wheelers in 1929 to focus, again, on motorcycles.


Together but not mixed.

 On June 29, 1932, Audiwerke, Horschwerke and Zschopauer Motorenwerke DKW  merge at the initiative of the State Bank of Saxony: Auto Union AG is born.  In addition, a purchase and lease agreement is concluded with Wanderer to acquire its car division. Auto Union becomes the second-largest vehicle manufacturer in Germany  (one in four registered automobiles in the country in 1934 leaves its factories); its emblem, the four interlocking rings, symbolizes the indissoluble association of the founding companies. 

The companies retain their name, and each one specializes in a market segment:

  • DKW produces motorcycles and small utility vehicles.
  • Wanderer builds midsize cars.
  • Audi keeps midsize luxury vehicles.
  • Horch takes care of high-end cars.

The Type 853 with an inline eight-cylinder engine, considered the most beautiful Horch ever made, appeared in 1935.  For the first time in history, Bernd Rosmeyer, an official Auto Union driver,  exceeds 400 km / h on a public highway: The event takes place during Speed ​​Week, October 25-29, 1937.


The end of the war

World War II ends and  Auto Union AG, which had received orders to comply with official instructions (it had to dedicate its production to military demands), was appropriated by the Soviet occupation forces. The company’s top executives move to Bavaria:  Ingolstadt welcomes, on September 3, 1949, the founding of the new Auto Union GmbH.  In 1950 it began its activity in Dusseldorf.


The arrival of Daimler-Benz

The two-stroke DKW vehicles are the first to come out with the four-ring emblem from the new company’s assembly line. In 1954, Friedrich Flick, the majority shareholder of the iron and steel company Eisenwerk-Gesellfschaft, acquired a financial stake in Auto Union. Years later, he recommended its absorption by Daimler-Benz. Finally,  Daimler bought 88% of the shares on April 24, 1958. A year later, it controls 100%. On the other hand, after a 30-year hiatus, NSU resumes car production at its headquarters in Neckarsulm: the Frankfurt Motor Show sees the birth of the Prinz, a four-seater car. In 1957, the original Wankel powerplant completed its first tests on the NSU engine bench.


Four-stroke engines… and Volkswagen

 The latest two-stroke engine DKWs are produced Since then, the models with four-stroke mechanics have been built under the Audi brand, a name that the company adopts for its new stage. NSU Motorenwerke AG presents the Wankel Spider at the German Motor Show (1963), the world’s first car powered by a series-produced rotary piston engine.  

In 1965, another Auto Union car arrived on the market, which had transferred production to Ingoldstatd in 1961: it is the first vehicle the company created in the postwar period with a four-stroke engine. The Volkswagen Group acquired the corporation, which merged with NSU in 1969; Audi NSU Auto Union AG was born. Between May 1965 and July 1969, almost 348,000 units of the mythical “Beetle” were assembled.

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