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Audi Logo
Type Private company,
subsidiary of Volkswagen Group
(FWB Xetra: NSU)
Founded Flag of Germany Zwickau, Germany (1910)
Founder(s) August Horch
Headquarters Ingolstadt, Germany
No. of locations production locations:
Germany:
Ingolstadt & Neckarsulm;
Hungary: Győr;
Belgium: Brussels;
Brazil: Curitiba;
China: Changchun
Area served Worldwide
Key people Rupert Stadler
Chairman of the Board of Management,
Martin Winterkorn
Chairman of the Supervisory Board (Volkswagen AG)
Industry Automotive industry
Products Automobiles, Engines
Revenue 33.617 billion (2007)
Profit 2.915 billion (2007)
Total equity 37.0%
Employees 53,347 (2007)
Subsidiaries quattro GmbH,
Lamborghini S.p.A.,
Audi Hungaria Motor Kft
Website Audi.com

AUDI AG, (Xetra: NSU) is a German vehicle manufacturer which produces cars under the Audi brand, (pronounced /aˈʊdi/). The name Audi is based on a Latin translation of the word "Horch", itself the German word for “hark."

Audi is headquartered in Ingolstadt, Bavaria and has been an almost wholly-owned (99.7%) subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group (later known as Volkswagen AG) since 1964. Volkswagen Group incorporated Audi when it was acquired as part of Volkswagen's purchase of the Auto Union and NSU Motorenwerke AG (NSU) assets.

Audi's corporate tagline is Vorsprung durch Technik, meaning "Advancement through Technology". The German-language tagline is utilized in numerous European countries, including the United Kingdom, and in various other markets, for instance Latin America, Oceania and parts of Asia including Japan. The North American tagline is "Innovation through technology", however in Canada the German tagline Vorsprung durch Technik is now used in advertising and marketing.

Contents

  • 1 Birth of the company and its name
  • 2 The Auto Union era
    • 2.1 The four-ring logo
  • 3 Second World War period
  • 4 Post-War period
  • 5 The modern era of Audi

Birth of the company and its name

Audi
Audi Type E

The company traces its origins back to 1899 and August Horch. The first Horch automobile was produced in 1901 in Zwickau.[2] In 1909, Horch was forced out of the company he had founded.[3] He then started a new company in Zwickau and continued using the Horch brand.

His former partners sued him for trademark infringement and a German court determined that the Horch brand belonged to his former company.[4] August Horch was barred from using his own family name in his new car business, so he called a meeting at the apartment of Franz Fikentscher to come up with a new name for his company. During this meeting Franz's son was quietly studying Latin in a corner of the room. Several times he looked like he was on the verge of saying something but would just swallow his words and continue working, until he finally blurted out, "Father – audiatur et altera pars... wouldn't it be a good idea to call it audi instead of horch?". "Horch!" in German means "Hark!" or "listen", which is "Audi" in Latin (compare audible). The idea was enthusiastically accepted by everyone attending the meeting. [5] It is sometimes (incorrectly) believed that AUDI is a backronym (a reversed acronym) which stands for "Auto Union Deutschland Ingolstadt".

Audi started with a 2,612 cc (2.6 litre) four cylinder model followed by a 3564 cc (3.6 L) model, as well as 4680 cc (4.7 L) and 5720 cc (5.7L) models. These cars were successful even in sporting events. The first six cylinder model, 4655 cc (4.7 L) appeared in 1924.

August Horch left the Audi company in 1920. In September 1921 Audi became the first German car manufacturer to present a production car with left-hand drive, the Audi Type K.[6] Left-hand drive spread and established dominance during the 1920s because it provided a better view of oncoming traffic, making overtaking manoeuvres safer.[7]

The Auto Union era

Audi
Cover of the 1937 English motor sport magazine with an Auto Union racing car on a banked track

In August 1928 Jørgen Rasmussen, the owner of DKW, acquired the majority of shares in Audiwerke AG.[8] In the same year, Rasmussen bought the remains of the US automobile manufacturer Rickenbacker, including the manufacturing equipment for eight cylinder engines. These engines were used in Audi Zwickau and Audi Dresden models that were launched in 1929. At the same time, six cylinder and four cylinder (licensed from Peugeot) models were manufactured. Audi cars of that era were luxurious cars equipped with special bodywork.

In 1932, Audi merged with Horch, DKW and Wanderer, to form Auto Union.

Before World War II, Auto Union used the four interlinked rings that make up the Audi badge today, representing these four brands. This badge was used, however, only on Auto Union racing cars in that period while the member companies used their own names and emblems. The technological development became more and more concentrated and some Audi models were propelled by Horch or Wanderer built engines. During World War II, the Horch/Auto Union produced the Sd-Kfz 222 armored car, which was used in the German army during the war. It was powered by an 81 hp (60 kW) Horch/Auto Union V8 engine which had a top speed of 50 miles per hour.

Another vehicle which was used in World War II to shuttle German military officials safely was known as the Kraftfahrzeug (KFZ 11) or the Horch Type 80. The military used it as a light transport vehicle.

The four-ring logo

The Audi emblem is four overlapping rings that represent the four marques of Auto Union. The Audi emblem symbolizes the amalgamation of Audi with DKW, Horch and Wanderer: the first ring represents Audi, the second represents DKW, third is Horch, and the fourth and last ring Wanderer.[9]

Second World War period

The build up and onset of World War II encouraged the development and production of special vehicles for military purposes in the 1930s. The Auto Union became an important supplier of vehicles to Germany's armed forces.[10] Following the outbreak of war, civilian production was interrupted in May 1940.After this, the company produced exclusively for military purposes.[11] The Auto Union plants were heavily bombed and severely damaged.

In 1945 on the orders of the Soviet military administration in Germany, the Saxon plants of Auto Union were dismantled as part of war reparations.[12] Following this, the company’s entire assets were expropriated without compensation.[13] On 17 August 1948 Auto Union AG of Chemnitz was deleted from the commercial register[14] The company's Zwickau factory was located in what was the Soviet occupied zone of Germany and was expropriated to become the Volkseigener Betrieb (or "People Owned Enterprise") Automobilwerk Zwickau AWZ for short (which translates into English as Automobile factory Zwickau). These actions had the effect of liquidating Germany's Auto Union AG.

A new Auto Union was launched in Ingolstadt, Bavaria with loans from the Bavarian state government and Marshall Plan aid.[15] The reformed company was launched 3 September, 1949 and continued DKW's tradition of producing front-wheel drive vehicles with two-stroke engines.[16] This included production of a small but sturdy 125 cc motorcycle and a DKW delivery van, the DKW F89L also known as DKW-Schnelllaster. Many employees of the destroyed factories in Zwickau came to Ingolstadt and restarted the production.

In 1950, after a former Rheinmetall gun factory in Duesseldorf was established as a second assembly facility the company's first post-war car went into production: the DKW Meisterklasse F 89 P, available as a saloon and a four-seater Karmann convertible.[17] The van and sedan were based on the DKW F8 and the DKW F9 pre-war constructions.

The former Audi factory in Zwickau, now a under Soviet control, manufactured models similar to the German versions. Production of these models, IFA F8 and IFA F9, began in 1949. West German and East German/Russian models were equipped with the traditional and reknowned DKW two-stroke engines.

Post-War period

In 1958, Daimler-Benz acquired 87% of Auto Union and in the next year 100%.

In 1964, Volkswagen acquired the factory in Ingolstadt and the trademark rights of the Auto Union. Two-stroke engines became less popular towards the middle of the 1960s as customers were more attracted to the comfortable four-stroke engines. In September 1965, the last DKW model, the DKW F102, got a four-stroke engine implanted and some front and rear styling changes. Volkswagen dumped the brand DKW because of its two-stroke smell, relaunching the Audi brand. The new model was classified internally as the F103 and sold as simply the "Audi" (the name being a model designation rather than the manufacturer, which was still officially Auto Union) but later came to be known as the Audi 72. Developments of the model were named for their horsepower ratings and sold as the Audi 60, 75, 80, and Super 90. These models sold until 1972. [18] [19] [20]

In 1969, Auto Union merged with NSU, based in Neckarsulm, near Stuttgart. In the 1950s, NSU had been the world's largest manufacturer of motorcycles, but had moved on to produce small cars like the NSU Prinz, the TT and TTS versions of which are still popular as vintage race cars. NSU then focused on new rotary engines based on the ideas of Felix Wankel. In 1967, the new NSU Ro 80 was a space-age car, well ahead of its time in technical details such as aerodynamics, light weight, and safety but teething problems with the rotary engines put an end to the independence of NSU. Today the Neckarsulm plant is used to produce the larger Audi models: the R8, and the "RS" model range.

The mid-sized car that NSU had been working on, the K70, was intended to slot between the rear-engined Prinz models and the futuristic NSU Ro 80. However, Volkswagen took the K70 for its own range, spelling the end of NSU as a separate brand.

The modern era of Audi

The new merged company was known as Audi NSU Auto Union AG, and saw the emergence of Audi as a separate brand for the first time since the pre-war era. Volkswagen introduced the Audi brand to the United States for the 1970 model year.

The first new car of this regime was the Audi 100 of 1968. This was soon joined by the Audi 80/Fox (which formed the basis for the 1973 Volkswagen Passat) in 1972 and the Audi 50 (later rebadged as the Volkswagen Polo) in 1974. The Audi 50 was a seminal design in many ways, because it was the first incarnation of the Golf/Polo concept, one that led to a hugely successful world car.

The Audi image at this time was a conservative one, and so, a proposal from chassis engineer Jörg Bensinger[21] was accepted to develop the four-wheel drive technology in Volkswagen's Iltis military vehicle for an Audi performance car and rally racing car. The performance car, introduced in 1980, was named the "Audi Quattro," a turbocharged coupé which was also the first German large-scale production vehicle to feature permanent all-wheel drive through a center differential. Commonly referred to as the "Ur-Quattro" (the "Ur-" prefix is a German augmentative used, in this case, to mean "original" and is also applied to the first generation of Audi's S4 and S6 sport sedans, as in "UrS4" and "UrS6"), few of these vehicles were produced (all hand-built by a single team), but the model was a great success in rallying. Prominent wins proved the viability of all-wheel drive racecars, and the Audi name became associated with advances in automotive technology.

In 1985, with the Auto Union and NSU brands effectively dead, the company's official name was now shortened to simply Audi AG.

In 1986, as the Passat-based Audi 80 was beginning to develop a kind of "grandfather's car" image, the type 89 was introduced. This completely new development sold extremely well. However, its modern and dynamic exterior belied the low performance of its base engine, and its base package was quite spartan (even the passenger-side mirror was an option.) In 1987, Audi put forward a new and very elegant Audi 90, which had a much superior set of standard features. In the early 1990s, sales began to slump for the Audi 80 series, and some basic construction problems started to surface.

This decline in sales was not helped in the USA by a 60 Minutes report which purported to show that Audi automobiles suffered from "unintended acceleration". The 60 Minutes report was based on customer reports of acceleration when the brake pedal was pushed. Independent investigators concluded that this was most likely due to a close placement of the accelerator and brake pedals (unlike American cars), and the inability, when not paying attention, to distinguish between the two. (In race cars, when manually downshifting under heavy braking, the accelerator has to be used in order to match revs properly, so both pedals have to be close to each other to be operated by the right foot at once, toes on the brake, heel on the accelerator; a driving technique called heel-and-toe). This did not become an issue in Europe, possibly due to more widespread experience among European drivers with manual transmissions.

60 Minutes allegedly ignored this fact, and some claim rigged a car to perform in an uncontrolled manner. The report immediately crushed Audi sales, and Audi renamed the affected model (The 5000 became the 100/200 in 1989, as it was elsewhere). Audi had contemplated withdrawing from the American market until sales began to recover in the mid-1990s. The turning point for Audi was the sale of the new A4 in 1996, and with the release of the A4/A6/A8 series, which was developed together with VW and other sister brands (so called "platforms").

In the early part of the 21st century, Audi set forth on a German racetrack to claim and maintain several World Records, such as Top Speed Endurance. This effort was in-line with the company's heritage from the 1930s racing era "Silver Arrows".

Currently, Audi's sales are growing strongly in Europe. 2004 marked the 11th straight increase in sales, selling 779,441 vehicles worldwide. Record figures were recorded from 21 out of about 50 major sales markets. The largest sales increases came from Eastern Europe (+19.3%), Africa (+17.2%) and the Middle East (+58.5%)[citation needed]. In March of 2005, Audi is building its first two dealerships in India following its high increase in sales in the region.

Their 2007 worldwide sales have been released as 964,151 vehicles sold, yet another record for the brand. It is predicted that in 2008, they will pass the 1 million unit mark.

Audi has recently started offering a computerised control system for its cars called Multi Media Interface (MMI). This comes amid criticism of BMW's iDrive control, essentially a rotating control knob designed to control radio, satellite navigation, TV, heating and car controls with a screen. MMI was widely reported to be a considerable improvement on BMW's iDrive, although BMW has since made their iDrive more user-friendly.

MMI has been generally well-received, as it requires less menu-surfing with its mass of buttons around a central knob, with shortcuts to the radio or phone functions. The screen, either colour or monochrome, is mounted on the upright dashboard, and on the A4 (new), A5, A6, A8, and Q7, the controls are mounted horizontally. However, an "MMI-like" system is also available on the Audi A3 and A4 models when equipped with the optional Audi Navigation System Plus (RNS-E).

 

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