[cars name="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.
1966 The first Audi models with numerical names were introduced.
1968 Under VW, Auto Union became the top German auto producer.
1969 The company name was changed to Audi NSU Auto Union AG.
1970 The first Audis were sold in the US.
1976 Audi 100 was introduced with an unusual 5-cylinder engine.
1980 Audi Quattro was introduced with 4wd and a turbocharged engine. Two years later, Audi won the World Rally Championship.
1985 The company name was simplified to Audi AG.
1986 60 Minutes charged the Audi 5000 with unintended acceleration. Sales of the brand plunged by 83-percent. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report exonerated Audi, blaming driver pedal confusion. Nonetheless, Audi conducted five recall campaigns related to the issue.
1987 Rally impresario Walter Rohrl won the Pikes Peak Hillclimb driving a 598-hp Audi Sport quattro. Later, Audi exploits 4wd to dominate TransAm road racing.
1989 Audi revealed a hybrid concept call Avant Duo with an internal combustion engine in front and electric motor propulsion in back. A few A4s with the system were manufactured and sold beginning in 1997.
1990 A turbocharged direct-injection diesel engine, called TDI by Audi, was introduced for European 100 models.
1991 The AVUS quattro, a mid-engined two seater with a polished-aluminum body, was presented at the Tokyo Motor Show as an early preview of the R8 supercar.
1994 with aluminum space-frame construction was launched.
1995 The International Olympic Committee sued Audi in International Trademark Court over use of the four-ring symbol. The Olympic version – five colored rings in a non-aligned pattern – was created in 1914 and stands for passion, faith, victory, work ethic, and sportsmanship.
1998-99 The coupe and roadster were introduced. The innovative dual-clutch transmission – S-Tronic in Audi terminology – was first offered by this car line in 2004.
2000-08 Audi sports car prototypes began their stranglehold at LeMans. The R8, powered by a gasoline-fueled V-8, won five races between 2000 and 2005 with the 2004 victory achieved by a Bentley Speed 8 sharing the same technology. Shifting to the turbocharged-diesel R10 in 2006, Audi motorsports added three more overall LeMans victories to its record of achievements.
2009 Though Audi sales are still depressed like other luxury brands, its share of the US premium market grew in July to 7.6-percent.