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The Audi automobile factory in Zwickau was founded in 1910 by August Horch. After the closure of the motor vehicle manufacturer A. Horch & Cie. Zwickau the businessman Horch searched for an alternative name in order to re-establish the production fast again and found the Latin term “Audi”. A lucky find, because Audi is so catchy and its meaning “Hark” or “Listen” can also be translated with a wink into the German “Horch”, which is the founder’s name.
There is also a drastic change in road traffic which should go back to August Horch – his engineers were the ones that put in 1921 the steering wheel on the left instead of on the right side, and this is still largely the case as far as German cars are concerned. The model Horch 303 from year 1926 was also the first automobile from Germany, whose engine operated with 8 cylinders and manufactured in series.
Already in 1928, the company was taken over by the Zschopauer motor factory J.S. Rasmussen AG due to the negative impact of the crisis. Audi as the subsidiary affiliated company also took over Horchwerke AG in 1932 as well as a plant of the brand Wanderer and thus a part of the company Auto Union. In this way four brands were merged. This act was the basis for the Audi logo: the four interrelated rings are still the hallmark and trademark up until today.
In the area of Saxony after the Second World War and after the removal of the company from the local trade register by Soviet occupation forces the business was relocated in West Germany and the company was re-founded in 1949 based in Ingolstadt. As the “new” Auto Union GmbH, the company initially focused on the brand DKW (German, “Dampf- und Kraftwagen“ for steam and motor vehicles), which was once produced by Rassmussen AG. In 1950 the DKW masterclass F89P was released.
After various changes such as the purchase by the large-scale manufacturer Friedrich Karl Flick and Daimler-Benz AG in 1958, finally the acquisition by Volkswagen in the 1960s and at the latest through the fusion with the NSU motor company to Audi NSU Auto Union AG in 1969, the brand Audi was highlighted more and became the eponymous brand again. The first Audi, equipped with a four-stroke engine, was already launched in 1965 by the Auto Union. Parts for the VW Beetle were also produced at the factory in Ingolstadt. However, at the same time, the Audi 100 model was developed, which since 1968 became the first major post-war success.
The Audi 100 was produced for four generations up to 1994 and laid decisive foundations for the later success of the company. Its successor, the Audi A6, followed the last model of the Audi 100. With the model A6 the brand Audi finally succeeded to beat the competitor Mercedes in the upper middle class in 2005. Even though Mercedes remains top seller, the Audi’s model A6 belongs eventually to the best-selling models of its class in Europe.
In 1971, the Audi 80 was released as the first “city car and travel vehicle” - as it was advertised at that time - and for many decades became the middle class classic par excellence.
The bestseller was developed with a special innovative braking system and the modular system, which was also used a short time later for the benefit of the VW Passat. Already in the first six years, between 1972 and 1978, a million copies of the Audi 80 were produced.
Thanks to fine technical innovations the manufacturer has earned a strategic advancement of the brand Audi in the direction to the upper class. For example, Audi was able to convince the public through the five-cylinder engine from 1976, the turbocharger technology of 1979 and 1980 by the all-wheel drive Quattro. The Audi Quattro is one of the most sustainable innovations of its time, since all-wheel-drive technology was not available in any other car before. The quattro drive got established on the road.
Since 1985, the renaming of the company to Audi AG meant that Audi NSU Auto Union AG belonged to the past. Product and company name now was the same.
With the manufacture of automobiles with eight- and twelve-cylinder engines, a further step was taken in the area of the luxury class.
As a result of the continuous expansion of the product line, for example through the introduction of the V8 Audi A8, Audi earned its name in the 1980s. With the V8, Audi finally entered the upper class with its own distinctive features, as it was Germany's first car to be offered with a permanent four-wheel drive and four-speed automatic transmission.
After all, the Audi A 4, which is the most widely produced automobile and is used primarily for commercial purposes, has been the successor of the famous Audi 80 since 1994. In October 2011 the ten millionth vehicle of the successful middle-class model was produced.
The portfolio also includes the Q-Series off-road and sports vehicles, which are characterized by the increasing numbering of the model and increasing capacity (up to Q7). The Audi TT and R8 are offered in the sport sector. Audi has also developed an emission vehicle and an electric vehicle to establish itself in the emerging market for environmentally-conscious driving.
Already in the 1930s, Audi took part in the various motor sport events with the Grand Prix racing cars of the Auto Union. The final entry, which was to seal the next ascent to one of the most successful brands in motorsport, was achieved by the quattro or all-wheel drive and the turbo engine. In the 1980s Audi was particularly successful in the rally with the help of this equipment.
In the same way, other important victories were won in the DTM (German Touring Car Masters) and at the 24-hour race in Le Mans. With the prohibition of all-wheel drive in Touring Car Series 1998 Audi switched to front and rear drive. Meanwhile, the transition is taken by the model A4 DTM and its successor. Finally, Audi could not be defeated at the American Le Mans Series from 2000 to 2008.
This year, the exit from the FIA WEC and from the 24-hour race of Le Mans after the end of the season was notified. Audi plans instead to participate in the next season 2017/18 as a factory team at the Formula E.