Behind the badge – Audi

We‘re used to seeing badges on cars, and know the desirable ones, the ones we like, the ones we don’t like, but how much do you know about the history behind the badge? They all have a history and some are more interesting than others and Audi is an especially involving story.

August Horch took his first job in the industry courtesy of Karl Benz, who hired him to manage his factory in Mannheim. After three years of learning under Benz, Horch decided the time was right to strike out on his own and founded Horch & Cie Motorwagenwerke in 1899.

Initially making 2-cylinder and later 4-cylinder cars, Horch left the company in 1909 after difference of opinion with the company’s board and founded a new car company in the same the year. He couldn’t use the Horch name so translated his name into Latin, ‘Audi’. Between 1912-14 Horch’s cars gained three consecutive victories at International Austrian Alpine rally. One of the most challenging of the time.

Wanderer originated as a bicycle repair shop then started building bicycles and then motorcycles. Their first car in 1913 was known as Puppchen – English Moppet.

DKW was one of the largest motorcycle makers of the time. Danish founder Jorgen Skafte Rassmussen began experimenting with a steam powered automobile in 1916. It wasn’t a success so he started working on two-stroke engines. DKW became one of the most important motorcycle makers of the pre 1st world war period and started building cars in 1928. They were the first company to bring cars with front wheel drive.

Global recession meant that demand began to plummet from 1929 and companies began to experience financial problems. The recession led to union of the four brands mentioned above, which was initiated by the State Bank of Saxony, and Auto Union AG became the second largest car maker in Germany by number of vehicles produced.

The four former companies, now merged into Auto Union, maintained their own distinct areas of expertise. DKW made motorcycles and small cars, Wanderer produced mid-size cars while Audi concentrated on deluxe mid-size cars, and Horch was the luxury car arm of the enterprise.

When Auto Union was formed in 1930 the four rings were seen as a badge for the first time. The name Auto Union was across the four rings and later the four rings symbolised the brand we know today as Audi.

Words by Mark Slack

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