Audi marks 120th anniversary: An inspiring story of resilience, courage and tenacity


Posted by: Chris Odogwu

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Audi is celebrating its 120th anniversary! The auto brand passed through the fire in its early days. Click to read its inspiring story of survival!

Audi turns 120 years old. The automaker has every reason to roll-out the drums and celebrate. In the last 120 years, several auto brands have emerged. Despite the competition, Audi has kept its head up high, weathering the storm. Today, it is one of the biggest premium car brands in the world.

The success of the German brand is exciting. But getting here was not an easy ride. Eighty years ago, Audi would have gone with the wind. But as fate would have it, it survived. Having gotten a second chance to exist, the premium brand grew to become a strong contender on the market against brands like Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

Who is founder of Audi?

Audi’s story started 120 years ago, in 1899 precisely. A young man, August Horch, established a company in his name back in Cologne. The company created their first car in 1901. Three years after, Horch moved down to a city in eastern Germany called Zwickau.


August Horch was the Founder of Audi

Horch began the production of premium cars – a term that was not in use in 1901. First on the line was a four-seater with an open roof. It had two engines that discharged lower than 5bhp. In a few years, the company grew in capacity to produce cars with six cylinders.

Creation of the Audi brand

The board of directors at Horch’s company had different perspectives on how the business should be operated. To avoid conflict, he exited his company in 1909, and established a new company called Audi.

Production of cars by Audi kicked off immediately. They produced their first car in 1910 called Type A. Shortly after, the Type B was also produced. Both of them had a four-cylinder engine of 2.6 liters.

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The Type A was the first car produced under the Audi brand

In 1920, Horch left the company to pursue others things that were of interest to him. The company forged ahead without him.

The Saxony manufacturers

Horch and Audi were located in the same city Zwickau, making them neighbors. Wanderer, another automaker, was located in Chemnitz – not too far from Zwickau. Wanderer was fast building a reputation for itself as a premium luxury brand.


Horch, Audi, DKW and Wanderer were all located in Saxon

Saxony was the home of Chemnitz and Zwickau. JörgenSkafte Rasmussen soon set up his business in Zschopau – another city located in Saxony. His company, DKW, gained momentum in building front-wheel drive vehicles.

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Audi and DKW connect

Cars built my DKW were very affordable, but they were not in the same league as those produced by Audi, Wanderer and Horch. Notwithstanding, DKW was a very successful brand. Rasmussen became part of Audi in 1928 as a shareholder. Audi and DKW continued as separate entities regardless of the connection.


The Auto Union which included Audi was formulated in 1932

The German economy was going through hard times during that period. As part of efforts to resuscitate it, the state bank suggested that DKW which was already in partnership with Audi should acquire Horch and Wanderer. This led to the formation of a conglomerate called the Auto Union in 1932.

Reich racing

Auto Union is mostly remembered for its mark in creating some of the best Grand Prix cars. Adolf Hitler had plans of projecting Germany via sports. His initial intention was to use only the Mercedes team, but he heeded to suggestions of adding the Auto Union team.


The Auto Union was part of the Reich Racing team

Second World War effect

Despite their huge success in racing, the Auto Union died with the Second World War. DKW and Audi would make a comeback much later, but the same cannot be said for Wanderer and Horch. They produced their last passenger cars in the 1940s.


The Auto Union died with the Second World War

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Audi makes a comeback

Still identified as an Auto Union, Audi returned onto the scene with the F103 – a ride initially referred to as The Audi. As it expanded, it had more models including Audi 60, Audi 75, Audi 72, Audi 80 and Audi 90.


Audi made a comeback with the F103

NSU comes into the picture

NSU crossed paths with Audi, and both formed an alliance. The brand shared a similar story with Audi, having built its first motorcycle around 1901. The NSU Spider produced in 1964 was one of the earlier cars to have the Wankel rotary engine.

In 1969, NSU was bought by Volkswagen. Creating a merger with its own company, the Audi NSU Auto Union was established.


Audi and NSU formed an alliance

Audi stands alone

When production of the Ro80 ended, the Audi NSU Auto Union was renamed to Audi. Under the watch of Ferdinand Piëch, Audi started charting new courses. It blazed the trail in creating four-wheel drives, turbocharging and aerodynamic body-shaped cars before other automakers thought of them. It soon became a part of Volkswagen Group.


Audi became a part of Volkswagen Group

Audi had to go through the fire to emerge as the top premium brand it is today. It took Horch to create it, DKW to save it, and Volkswagen to bring out its greatness. When there is the zeal to succeed, help comes along somehow.

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Chris Odogwu

Chris Odogwu

Car events

Chris Odogwu is a Content Writer and Journalist. He holds a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication from University of Jos and a master's degree in Mass Communication from University of Lagos. His works have been published in top local and international publications including Forbes, HuffPost, ThriveGlobal, TheNextScoop and Nigeria360 among others. A member of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), the thrill he gets from writing about exotic cars feels almost the same as riding in them.

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