Happy 100th Birthday Audi

Audi has motored down a long and winding road to its centennial this year. The highlights of that century follow:

1909 August Horch was booted by his board of directors from the Horch & Cie. car-manufacturing enterprise he founded in 1899. His sin: focusing too intently on racing the cars he built. Without hesitation he established August Horch Automobilwerke GmbH in Zwickau, Saxony, Germany only a few blocks from his first factory.

1910 German courts did not cotton two Horch car companies so the patriarch had to coin a new name. A young student overhearing investors rack their brains for a fresh brand label suggested the simple translation of Horch (German for 'hear') to the Latin equivalent Audi. Horch and his investors were pleased. Production of Audi automobiles commenced in November.

1911-12 Rally success helped the fledging brand gain a foothold.

1916-17 During World War I, Audi manufactured grenades and bomb launchers. One tracked vehicle and one armored car were developed for the German army.

1920 Horch's role was downgraded from director to member of Audi's supervisory board. Applying technology developed during the war years, Audi became a leader in the use of aluminum for body and engine construction.

1921 Audi Type K was the first German car with left-hand drive.

1924-28 Losing the war and competition from cheaper and more sophisticated American-made autos threw the German industry for a loop. The number of makers fell from 71 to 19 during this period. Daimler and Benz joined forces to cope. Facing liquidation, Audi was taken over by DKW.

1932 Joining the consolidation movement, Audi and DKW merged with Horch and Wanderer to form Auto Union. The first product developed by the new four-ring enterprise was the front-drive Audi Front with a fully synchronized 4-speed transmission and independent front suspension.

1945 Auto Union production facilities that were not obliterated by bombs were scavenged by the Soviets at the end of World War II. Buildings were stripped of windows, doors, and light switches. Nearly 28,000 machine tools were carted off to Russia as war reparations.

1947 What was left of Auto Union was relocated to Ingolstadt, (West) Germany. Car, truck, and motorcycle production resumed three years later.

1948 The Soviet Military Administration erased the Auto Union name from the East German trade registry.

1951 August Horch died at age 83.

1958 Daimler-Benz took control of Auto Union.

1964 Volkswagen purchased Auto Union from Daimler-Benz to expand its Beetle manufacturing capacity. Work commenced on new Audi models. Two-stroke engines were replaced by four-stroke designs licensed from Daimler-Benz. The first post-war Audi was a 1965 hybrid consisting of a DKW body with a new front-drive powertrain.

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