FOUNDED BY MOTOR ENTHUSIASTS FOR MOTOR ENTHUSIASTS
Audi delivers a range of thumping models. You’ve got the raucous scallywag RS3, all the way up to the might Tony Stark-endorsed R8, regarded by many as the best supercar daily driver, despite a whopping V10 engine right behind the driver. Audi always delivers for driver enjoyment, no matter where in the range you buy, receiving praise for its engines, Quattro all-wheel-drive system and driver ergonomics.
Beyond being the quintessential expression of ‘German Engineering’, Audi is also renowned for the quality and resilience of its interiors. Superlatively comfortable and, in the latest generation, augmented with a range of new technologies such as haptic touchscreen interfaces and ‘virtual cockpit’ head up displays. Audio is also excellent, with sound systems provided through a long-standing partnership with Bang & Olufsen.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF Audi
For a brand renowned for its solidity and endurance, Audi’s origins are actually rather complicated, reaching back to the late 1800s. It involves early Bavarian motorcar manufacturers, Wanderer (founded in 1885), NSU and A. Horch & Cie. Motorwagenwerke AG, founded by engineer, August Horch in 1904. After a bit of a spat with his Chief Financial Officer, Horch left Motorwagenwerke and created August Horch Automobilwerke GmbH.
However, his former partners took him to court and succeeding in banning Horch from using his own name for the new motorcar business. This would lead directly to the adoption of the Audi name. More on that below.
The first Audi automobile was the Type A Sport-Phaeton, produced in Zwickau in 1915, followed by the Type B launched later that year. In 1921, Audi became the first German manufacturer to produce a left-hand drive production car (the Audi Type K).
August Horch left Audiwerke in 1920 to work for the ministry of transport (although he remained a trustee). In 1932, Audi merged with Horch, DKW and Wanderer to form Auto Union AG.
Well, remember that spat Horch had with his former company? After being legally restrained from using his own name to front a motorcar company, Horch called a meeting with a couple of close business friends – Franz and Paul Fikentscher – at Franz’ apartment, to discuss a new name. Franz’s son was in the room at the time, studying Latin. Overhearing the conversation he exclaimed: “Father, wouldn’t it be a good idea to call it ‘Audi’ instead of ‘Horch’?” You see, ‘Audi’ is derived from the Latin translation of Horch. ‘Horch’ means ‘listen’ in German, which translates as ‘Audi’ in Latin.
The four rings represent each of the four companies that joined together to form Auto Union. Having said that, the four-rings emblem was only used on Auto Union racing cars during the pre-war period – the four member companies continued to use their own names and logos. The DKW brand sold small cars like hotcakes, capturing nearly 18% of the German car market by 1938. By comparison, Audi hardly registered and in 1939 the name disappeared completely for more than two decades.
The Audi brand as we know it didn’t really get going until the 1960s when Auto Union was acquired by Volkswagen and Daimler-Benz. They relaunched Audi in 1965 with the Audi F103 series, and in 1969, Auto Union was merged with NSU Motorenwerke to form the company we know today.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Audi was a rather quiet, conservative brand, creating very successful daily runners and family cars, including the Audi 50 (later to be rebadged as the Volkswagen Polo), and the hugely successful Audi 80 and 100.
Feeling a bit bored with all this domestic bliss, Audi chassis engineer, Jorg Bensinger, proposed a rally car, built on the four-wheel drive technology that VW had developed for military vehicles. The Audi Quattro was launched in 1980 – the first large-scale vehicle to feature permanent four-wheel drive – and a legend was born. One of the most significant rally cars of all time, it rapidly gained classic status and won myriad competitions across the globe between 1983 and 1987.
Although Audi moved away from rallying thereafter, it remained committed to motorsport, with teams in touring car championships across Europe and in the UK, Endurance Racing including Le Mans, and more recently Formula E.
For a brand committed to technological progress, it may seem odd that Audi has resisted getting involved with F1, but the company has always said it felt F1 wasn’t relevant enough to road cars. However, in August 2022, Audi announced it would be returning to F1 as an engine manufacturer in 2026, confirming a partnership with Sauber Motorsport.
Audi has been synonymous with the Marvel Cinematic Universe right from the very start, sponsoring the franchise with vehicles in numerous movies, with the R8 becoming Tony Stark’s preferred ride for six films. More recently, the e-Tron EV series has been promoted with prominent cameos in Endgame and Far From Home.
The Audi brand is a quintessential reflection of what people think of when someone mentions ‘German engineering’. Designs are efficient, angular, taut. Interiors reek of quality and are renowed for their everlasting durability. Performance engines, such as the TT RS’s 2.5l five-cyclinder and the RS6’s 4.0l V8, are widely regarded as engineering masterpieces.
Quotes about Audi
“Vorsprung durch Technik.” (Being Ahead Through Technology)
“The engine in this car is an absolute masterpiece… Listen to the noise it makes. It sounds like… sounds like…(bear that’s trodden on a plug?)… It sounds like a happy hippopotamus.”
Jeremy Clarkson (it’s Jeremy Clarkson)
“This, to me, just says: ‘I want to carry a big stick and talk softly.”
Chris Harris (motoring journalist)
“I admire firms that have achieved a real differentiation from their competitors. Nike is all about mastering sports. Apple is all about creating technologies to make life easier and better. Audi is all about introducing new technologies to make automobiles safer and better performing.”
Philip Kotler (Marketing guru and author)