The cars in the Audi range today can trace a heritage back more than a century to the Horch Motorcar Company, named after the founder August Horch. However a mere eight years after the first Horch car was rolled out the founder was bought out of his own company. After a court case determining whether the founder could retain his family name for a new company, Horch was denied. It was at this point that Audi was born; horch meaning listen in German and Audi meaning listen in Latin.
The early stages of the Audi development saw a range of cars that excelled in the motor sport arena. Predominantly the cars relied upon six and four cylinder engines licensed from Peugeot. At the beginning of the Nazi period Audi formed a company made up from the original Horch manufacturer, DKW and Wanderer, naming it Auto Union. It was at this point that the four rings emblem that we see on the Audi range today was born. During the war the company was instrumental in the war effort manufacturing armoured cars and light transportation vehicles.
After the war Auto Union was broken up due to factories and headquarters lying in different parts of the now divided country. DKW became the most powerful of the four during the next decade until Volkswagen was able to buy out all four brands of the union. At this point an executive decision was made to forget the two stroke engines that were characteristic of the DKW range in preference for more comfortable and efficient four stroke engines. Part of this move meant forgetting the DKW brand in favour of Audi.
In the modern era Audi finally became the brand it is today, separating itself from the various mergers throughout its history. At this time (1970) the company was introduced to American shores with a range made up of small and saloon cars. The most important of this new generation was the Audi 50, a car that is seen as seminal by many due to its obvious likeness of the later Golf and Polo models produced by Volkswagen.
Audi are probably most famous however for producing a car that revolutionised drive systems and the world of rally racing. It was in 1980 that the Quattro was introduced to the range, a coupe that utilised a turbocharged engine and a unique four wheel drive system. This car was unbelievably successful in rally racing at a time when most competitors had discounted the benefits of a complicated all wheel drive system. The doubters were soon silenced however as the Quattro went on to dominate the rally world until the rest of the pack caught up with the technological developments.
Despite this the Audi range has consistently been labelled with a 'grandfather image'. That was until the late nineties when a range of sporty models were developed. These cars captured a growing market for performance cars that could be used on a daily basis. The pursuit of performance however has not ceased since this time, the latest car to be developed by the company was the R8, an all out sports car of undeniable beauty and ability. This latest inception has been developed to compete with Aston martin, Porsche and other European manufacturers but at a price of almost sixty thousand pounds it is anything but affordable.
Audi today have advanced from humble beginnings to be one of the predominant car manufacturers in Europe. Predictions for this year estimate that more than one million cars will be sold showing that the company is going from strength to strength. Long considered to be the little brother of the German car manufacturing industry; this four ringed company has finally come into its own.
Car industry expert Thomas Pretty looks into the development of the Audi range and the cars that have shaped the brand image.