Audi AG (German: [ˈʔaʊ̯diː ʔaːˈgeː] ( listen)) is a German automobile manufacturer that designs, engineers, produces, markets and distributes luxury vehicles. Audi is a member of the Volkswagen Group and has its roots at Ingolstadt, Bavaria, Germany. Audi-branded vehicles are produced in nine production facilities worldwide.
The origins of the company are complex, going back to the early 20th century and the initial enterprises (Horch and the Audiwerke) founded by engineer August Horch; and two other manufacturers (DKW and Wanderer), leading to the foundation of Auto Union in 1932. The modern era of Audi essentially began in the 1960s when Auto Union was acquired by Volkswagen from Daimler-Benz. After relaunching the Audi brand with the 1965 introduction of the Audi F103 series, Volkswagen merged Auto Union with NSU Motorenwerke in 1969, thus creating the present day form of the company.
The company name is based on the Latin translation of the surname of the founder, August Horch. “Horch”, meaning “listen” in German, becomes “audi” in Latin. The four rings of the Audi logo each represent one of four car companies that banded together to create Audi’s predecessor company, Auto Union. Audi’s slogan is Vorsprung durch Technik, meaning “Being Ahead through Technology”. However, Audi USA had used the slogan “Truth in Engineering” from 2007 to 2016, and have not used the slogan since 2016. Audi, along with BMW and Mercedes-Benz, is among the best-selling luxury automobile brands in the world.
Automobile company Wanderer was originally established in 1885, later becoming a branch of Audi AG. Another company, NSU, which also later merged into Audi, was founded during this time, and later supplied the chassis for Gottlieb Daimler‘s four-wheeler.
On 14 November 1899, August Horch (1868–1951) established the company A. Horch & Cie. in the Ehrenfeld district of Cologne. In 1902, he moved with his company to Reichenbach im Vogtland. On 10 May 1904, he founded the August Horch & Cie. Motorwagenwerke AG, a joint-stock company in Zwickau (State of Saxony).
After troubles with Horch chief financial officer, August Horch left Motorwagenwerke and founded in Zwickau on 16 July 1909, his second company, the August Horch Automobilwerke GmbH. His former partners sued him for trademark infringement. The German Reichsgericht (Supreme Court) in Leipzig, eventually determined that the Horch brand belonged to his former company.
Since August Horch was prohibited from using “Horch” as a trade name in his new car business, he called a meeting with close business friends, Paul and Franz Fikentscher from Zwickau. At the apartment of Franz Fikentscher, they discussed how to come up with a new name for the 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 “hear”, which is “Audi” in the singular imperative form of “audire” – “to listen” – in Latin. The idea was enthusiastically accepted by everyone attending the meeting. On 25 April 1910 the Audi Automobilwerke GmbH Zwickau (from 1915 on Audiwerke AG Zwickau) was entered in the company’s register of Zwickau registration court.
Audi started with a 2,612 cc inline-four engine model Type A, followed by a 3,564 cc model, as well as 4,680 cc and 5,720 cc models. These cars were successful even in sporting events. The first six-cylinder model Type M, 4,655 cc appeared in 1924.
August Horch left the Audiwerke in 1920 for a high position at the ministry of transport, but he was still involved with Audi as a member of the board of trustees. In September 1921, Audi became the first German car manufacturer to present a production car, the Audi Type K, with left-handed drive. Left-hand drive spread and established dominance during the 1920s because it provided a better view of oncoming traffic, making overtaking safer.