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About AudiAudi's famous four-ring emblem wasn't designed specifically for just one company. Audi, initially, was actually just one ring in the Auto Union AG group, which also consisted of Horch, Wanderer, and DKW.
August Horch established his first automobile company, Horchwerke AG, in 1899. The first Horch car was on the road in 1901. This was the first vehicle ever to use an alloy crankcase rather than a cast iron engine block. Following a dispute in 1909 with the board of supervisors, Horch left his company and began a new one in the same city. Audiwerke GmbH became the official name in April 1910.
Audi's Type K introduced left-hand drive to European motoring in 1921. The company's first six-cylinder, the Type M, featured something contemporaries didn't--an oil-wetted air... View more filter. Further innovations would follow the 1932 merger of the four Saxon brands to create Auto Union AG. The first of which was a front-wheel drive car in 1933.
Auto Union gained notoriety with their racing developments. The first car to exceed 248.5 mph (400 kmh) on a normal road was the 1937 Auto Union 16-cylinder Streamliner Racing car, which featured 545 hp. The parent company also adopted systematic rollover and crash-testing in 1938.
Following military-exclusive WWII production, all of the Saxon plants were seized and dismantled in 1945 by the Russian military as reparations. All of the assets were confiscated and Auto Union AG was deleted from the Commercial Register in 1948.
But all was not finished for the company. A new group, Auto Union GmbH, formed in 1949 in Ingolstadt, Bavaria. The first cars to roll out from the new factories were inexpensive DKWs. Daimler-Benz took majority control in 1958, built a new factory in the early '60s, and sold 50% of the business to Volkswagen in 1964. Audi's name would return on vehicles in 1965. By 1966, Volkswagen bought complete control of the Ingolstadt facilities.
1969 saw the emergence of Audi NSU Auto Union AG, under VW Group control, and the introduction of Audi to the U.S. That company officially shortened the name to Audi AG in 1985, confirming the killing off of Auto Union and NSU. Rally success would help with rapidly growing sale in the early '80s. World Rally Championship Drivers' titles were won in 1983 and 1984, and manufacturer championships in 1982 and 1984.
In the wake of one of the most publicized recalls in automotive history, the 1982-1987 Audi 5000 unintended acceleration incidents, sales fell significantly. Outside investigators, government findings, and the company confirmed it was pedal misapplication that caused vehicles to surge. Despite this, U.S. sales dropped to a low of just over 12,000 units in 1991. Sales wouldn't reach previous highs until 2000.
Recently the company has been investing in alternative drivetrain systems. E-tron has been a series of concepts featuring electric and hybrid technology. Sizes and levels of performance have matched the current levels of vehicles, from the compact A1 to flagship R8. This is done with an alliance with Sanyo of Japan, and acting as the pilot hybrid/electric program for the entire Volkswagen Group. View less
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