the late 1800's the automobile was invented. The technical foundations
of motorised transport had been decided: the thing would have four
wheels, one in each corner, and would be propelled by an internal
combustion engine. That much was certain, but not much else. At this
time, there were many heroes of the automobile: Gottfried Daimler and
Carl Benz of Germany, Siegfried Marcus of Austria, and the Americans,
George Baldwin Seldon and Henry Ford.
for Audi, it is a young, ambitious engineer, August Horch, who begins
our story of exceptional progress. In 1896 Horch discovered the exciting
possibilities of the new technology, and signed on with Benz, then the
most influential figure of the automobile world. Horch would become one
of the most important men in European automobile history - he helped
found and name the car companies Horch (1899) and Audi (1909).
1899. Bursting with his own creativity and ideas, Horch left his
position as manager of motor construction at Benz to found August Horch
and Cie in Cologne, Germany. The next year, he built his first car,
equipped with a shock-free, two-cylinder engine. Soon afterwards, he
developed the rear-mounted gear-box and the OHV engine with overhead
inlet valves. By 1908, the company was turning out over 100 cars
In 1909 Horch left his own company to form another. Unable to
trade under his own name, he chose 'Audi' - the Latin translation of
Horch ('Listen' in English). Audi Automobilwerke GmbH began business.
'One of my life's dreams has come true' August Horch.
Horch built the elegant 'Audi Type K' for the discriminating tastes of
the elite. Many of these 1919 innovations would become standard
later on - for example left-hand steering and the central position of
In 1919, the war of Independence started in Ireland which
would last until 1921. The following year, the Irish civil war
began which lasted until 1925 and saw brothers fighting brothers.
The end of the civil war saw a free state Government coming into power
with Eamonn DeValera as Taoiseach.
In 1926, the Berlin Automobile Exhibition showcased the new
Horch 303. Horch immediately became the marque of top quality in German
automobile history. The eight-cylinder engine would become standard for
all models after 1927.
At the 1931 Salon de Paris, August Horch became the leading
name in the German automobile market. The star of the exhibition was a
yellow lacquered Cabriolet with a brown top and green morocco
upholstery. But its main feature was less cosmetic - a 12 cylinder V
engine with a six-litre cylinder capacity, a marvel of innovative
Horch, DKW, Wanderer and Audi linked forces in 1932 to create
Auto Union AG. The union was symbolised by the four rings. From
the start, Auto Union AG was Germany's second largest automobile
was the most affordable marque, and had 18 % of the German market
in 1938. Wanderer was positioned in the mid range sector, with Audi at
the upper mid range.
The premium sector was reserved for Horch, which captured over 50 %
of this market segment. Many of the drivers who enjoyed the thrill of a
Horch sports convertible were well-known celebrities. Many of the
distinguished passengers to ride in a large Horch saloon were
politicians or even members of royalty. Thomas Mann, Alfred Neven Du
Mont and Werner Kraus all had the pleasure of driving one of the best
cars ever built.
Auto Union developed a separate department for racing cars. The
sixteen-cylinder engine designed by Ferdinand Porsche created a
sensation. Sceptics laughed at its innovations, especially the engine
position behind the driver. But 27 years later this became the norm in
Formula One cars. In 1934 Hans Stuck drove the Rennwagen to break
the world record at its first official race.
One of the co-founders of the Auto Union was Baron von Oertzen. He
emigrated to South Africa in 1935, and was the first to market
German cars on three continents - Asia, Africa and Australia.
In Germany that year, a streamlined version broke a new record at
the Frankfurt autobahn - 406,3 km/h. In
1939, every fourth car registered in Germany was made by Auto Union.
when private cars were finally replacing bicycles in Germany, the
outcomes of the second world war had the most serious impact on Auto
Union. The plants were dismantled, and Auto Union was dissolved by the
The directors reacted smartly, and built a new company - Auto Union
GmbH, based in Ingolstadt. The new Auto Union concentrated on DKW
delivery vans and motorcycles. All these models were marked with a 'W'
for 'West' to distinguish them from similar models produced in Saxony
for East Germany. Car production only started again in 1950.
In 1950, Stephen O' Flaherty was awarded the VW franchise for
Ireland The First Volkswagens assembled outside of Germany were
assembled in Dublin from 1950.
In 1956, a plastic-bodied DKW set new
long-distance records on the Monza race track in Italy - over 4000 miles
in 48 hours and 5 000 miles in 72 hours. From 1954 to 1964
the Auto Union achieved over 100 championship titles, 150 overall wins
and 2500 class wins.
In Germany 1958, Daimler Benz bought 88 % of the share
capital of Auto Union, and a year later began constructing ultra-modern
facilities in Ingolstadt. The
first DKW Junior rolled off the assembly line at Ingolstadt. Customer
demand pushed dealers to their limits. DKW production continued until
the mid sixties, when the factory was sold to Volkswagen.
December 1964, Auto Union was transferred to the Volkswagen
Group. The day of the two-stroke engine was over, and Auto Union
engineers had begun working full-time to develop a competitive
four-stroke model. Meanwhile, the VW 'Beetle' helped maintain production
levels - From 1965 to 1969, between three and five hundred VW's were
produced each day at Ingolstadt.
In September 1965, Audi launched its first post-war four-stroke
engine. The Audi brand was chosen because Audi had been the only pre-war
Auto Union car with front-wheel drive and a four stroke engine.
The next three years saw
launches in Germany of the medium-sized Audi 75, the Audi Super 90, and
the Audi 60 in its compact class.
Things were also looking up for another German car manufacturer - NSU
AG. They were a sensation at the Frankfurt Motor Show with the premiere
in the deluxe car class of the NSU Ro80. Twelve international
journalists voted it 'the 1967 car of the year'. However, the
massive development costs meant that NSU was ripe to join forces with a
powerful associate company.
1967 Motor Distributors obtained the Audi franchise for the
Republic of Ireland.
saw the unveiling of the first Audi 100 - a fundamentally new car which
helped renew the value of Auto Union. In 1969, Auto Union
GmbH and NSU Motor Works formed a joint company - Audi NSU Auto Union
Audi NSU were quick to unveil an entirely new car, the Audi 80 which was
developed by chief design engineer, Ludwig Kraus. The Audi 80 was voted
'Car of the Year 1969' in four countries. The Audi 100 was
launched in 1972.
Two years later in Germany, the Audi 50 was launched. The Audi 50 was
the last in the 'building block' series that included Audi models 80 and
100. With modern overhead camshaft engines, front-wheel drive,
weight-saving design and tailgate, it paved the way for the
international success of the future Audi and VW models.
The first ever 5 cylinder petrol engine was introduced with the second
generation Audi 100, in 1976. In 1977 the millionth Audi
100 came off the production line. In the same year, production of the
NSU Ro80 stopped after a production run of 10 years. The
Audi 200 was launched in 1979.
1980 marks the landmark introduction of the first high
performance car built on four-wheel drive principles - the Audi Quattro
Coupe. Quattro is an Audi patented system that spreads the car's power
across all wheels, so the driver experiences improved handling, greater
stability, lower tyre wear, better traction and therefore better safety
in all road conditions.
The quattro astonished the critics. The prototype shot up the Turracher
Hohe, Europe's steepest mountain pass, without any traction problems.
The tradition of excellence has continued up until today with
breath-taking triumphs around the world. The Audi quattro was marketed
to the general public in 1980.
The oil embargo in the early 70's had made fuel consumption a concern
for all car manufacturers. Reducing fuel consumption was a driving force
at Audi because of the important goal to reduce the environmental damage
caused by emissions.
Audi gave proof to its pro-environment stance at the Frankfurt Motor
Show in 1981. The Audi vision of the car for the Year 2000 was a
full-sized deluxe saloon, with lower requirements for fuel and raw
materials, as well as greater safety, operating economy and practical
A trend-setter because of its genuine innovations, the third generation
Audi 100 had similar aims to the Audi vision for the Year 2000.
Aerodynamic body design - with a drag coefficient of Cd 0.3, lighter
body sections, new or greatly revised engines for fuel economy, and
advanced levels of safety all signalled the future for car design and
After its 1982 launch, the innovations of the Audi 100 were
recognised and praised around the world.
1983 marked another impressive step towards
environmentally-friendly driving. Audi was the first German manufacturer
to receive a general operating permit for cars with catalytic converter
Audi continued to be a world leader in rallies. Drivers like Hannu
Mikkola, Michele Mouton and Stig Blomqvist helped Audi become
Manufacturers World Rally Champion in 1982 - the first German car
company to win this title.
The Audi quattro changed the shape of rallying internationally. In 1984,
Audi Sport won the Manufacturers world Rally Championship and the rally
drivers championship. Stig Blomqvist was behind the wheel - of a quattro
NSU Auto Union AG was renamed Audi AG in 1985.
In 1986, two important innovations find their place in our
history: fully-galvanised, rust-resistant bodies and the procon-ten
The first innovation allowed Audi to guarantee their cars against
corrosion for six years. The second innovation, procon-ten, was an early
precursor of airbag passenger technology, and considerably reduced the
chances of a driver hitting the steering wheel when in an accident.
These innovations won Audi many international awards, including the
German Industry's Innovation Prize for an outstanding ability to develop
and realise new ideas.
By 1986, Sarel van der Merwe was a household name in South
Africa. Driving an Audi Sport quattro he had clinched the SA Rally three
times running. In 1987, it was Geoff Mortimer who drove an Audi to
The Audi Turbo was launched in South Africa in 1988, and to
celebrate, Audi imported a special motorsport version - a 2,2 litre
turbocharged car that used unleaded fuel. The mission was to set a new
Landspeed record in South Africa. Sarel van der Merwe had the honours of
taking Audi to triumph once again. The new record was 358,9 km/h.
But there was a price to pay - the traffic authorities gave Sarel a
ticket for exceeding the speed limit on a public road!
Having cleaned up on the rally tracks, Audi Sport cruised onto the USA
racetracks. The Audi quattro won the USA Trans-Am Manufacturers and
In 1989, Audi introduced the first direct injection diesel engine
with a turbo-charger (TDI) - a triumph for automobile diesel engines.
A modified Audi 100 TDI drove 4814 km and crossed nine countries in
Europe on one tank of petrol. Its average speed was 60,2 km/h, and it
consumed only 1,7 litres per 100 km.
Another innovation in 1989 was the Audi duo hybrid system. A
conventional petrol or diesel engine drove the front wheels and a 9,3 kW
electric engine drove the rear. So for driving in the country, the Audi
duo had the usual acceleration, range and top speed. But the electric
engine eliminated exhaust emissions and noise for driving in the city.
The driver could activate either power unit easily, at any time.
the start of the last decade of the millennium, was cause for
celebration at Audi: the seven millionth Audi was produced in Ingolstadt,
and the Audi quattro was ten years old. But - as always - Audi looked
ahead, not behind, and the Board pledged to become ‘the most
attractive European marque’.
The fourth generation Audi 100 was launched in Germany in 1990,
and catalytic converters became standard equipment in all Audi cars
where lead-free petrol is available.
In 1991, Audi renewed its entire range in just one year. 1991 saw
the launches of the Cabriolet, the 100 Avant, the S4 and S4 Avant, and
the new Audi 80. Audi also gave the Audi Coupe a facelift and a V6
engine. The flagship of the range - the Audi A8 - was given a 4,2 litre
Audi exhibited two design studies in 1991. The quattro Spyder was
unveiled in Frankfurt, and the Avus quattro in Tokyo. Both caused a
sensation. The most impressive feature was the aluminium construction
which reduced weight and used resources more efficiently. Another
example of how Audi pioneered new technologies to shape the future of
The world premiere of the aluminium Audi - the A8 - was held at the
Geneva Motor Show in 1994. With this innovation Audi offered the
world a truly forward-looking and environment-friendly concept. Critics
realised that using aluminium as a basic construction material was a
smart decision: its light weight ensures reduced fuel consumption at no
sacrifice to firmness and rigidity. And aluminium can be recycled almost
In the same year, Audi standardised the names of all their models around
the world to A4, A6, and A8.
Motorsport triumphs continued. By 1996, the Super Touring Cup (STW-Cup)
belonged entirely to the four rings and the Audi quattro. The Italian
Emanuele Pirro won the overall prize in Germany. Frank Biela won the
British Touring Car Championship, and Rinaldo Capello won the Italian
Touring Car Championship - all driving the Audi A4 quattro. The
remarkable quattro also triumphed in touring car competitions in
Belgium, Australia and Spain.
1999 is a high point in Audi's remarkable history: all models
have been advanced, and are now more exciting than ever. The innovative
design of the A6 is winning critical acclaim.
new improved Audi A8 and A4 give yet more evidence of Audi's leadership
in shaping the automotive world of tomorrow. The Audi A3, launched in
Ireland has set a new standard for luxury in the compact class. And the
Audi TT is the most recent evidence of Audi's commitment to "Vursprung
taste of adventure - Solar Cola