Audi, commonly referred to as the brand with the ‘four rings’ is one of the leading luxury car brands in the global automotive market. The company recently celebrated the 150th birth anniversary of its founder, August Horch, who was born on 12 October, 1868. Horch was the son of a blacksmith, born in Winningen on the Mosel, western Germany. Following his studies at a Mittweida Technical College, Horch joined Carl Benz in 1896 in Mannheim, where he headed motor vehicle construction until 1899. It was there that Horch accompanied and helped shape the beginnings of automotive engineering, and that same year he set up a small independent motor vehicle repair service in Cologne.
Horch built his first automobile In 1901, and moved with his company to Reichenbach in Vogtland in 1902. In 1904, he finally located August Horch & Cie. Motorwagenwerke AG at Zwickau in Saxony. In 1909 He left the company he founded, following a dispute, and a few weeks later established a second automotive plant. He named this new company ‘Audi,’ which was the Latin translation of his family name Horch, in 1910. In 1920 Horch resigned from the Board of Management of Audiwerke AG, in order to serve as an expert and assessor in the field of automotive technology thereafter.
The four rings of the Audi brand represent the four companies that had been merged in June 1932 to establish Auto Union AG (modern day Audi). These four companies were Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer Werke, and chose the four interlinked rings as its logo. Horch was appointed to the Supervisory Board of the new group of companies. Dr. h.c. August Horch died on 3 February, 1951, in Münchberg in Upper Franconia.
The Audi group is said to have been the first car manufacturer in Germany to introduce left-hand drive and central gear change as a standard, in 1921. In the year 1931, group company DKW introduced the world’s first volume-produced car with front-wheel drive - the DKW Front (F1). During the Second World War, Auto Union AG in Saxony was seized by the Soviet occupying forces and the factories were dismantled in 1945. A few months after the war, a central depot for Auto Union parts was set up in Ingolstadt to supply the vehicles traveling in the Western zones.
It was in April 1958 that Daimler-Benz AG acquired the majority of, and finally the remaining shares in Auto Union GmbH. The company was a fully-owned subsidiary of the Stuttgart-based Daimler Group until the end of 1965. Volkswagenwerk AG acquired the majority of shares in Auto Union GmbH in December 1964, with Audi then becoming a fully-owned VW subsidiary from the end of 1966. In March 1969, NSU Motorenwerke AG, which had just been acquired by VW, and Auto Union GmbH merged to form Audi NSU Auto Union AG. This company was renamed as AUDI AG in January 1985, and moved back its head office to Ingolstadt.
A highlight of Audi’s automotive technology is its Quattro four-wheel drive system. The company unveiled a four-wheel-drive sports coupé at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1980, making the Audi Quattro the first high-performance vehicle with four-wheel drive. This drive concept had only been used on trucks and off-road vehicles earlier. However, the permanent four-wheel-drive system in the Audi Quattro enjoyed worldwide success in motor sport and gradually found its way into the entire Audi model range.
Therefore, it can be said that August Horch wrote the first chapter in Audi’s history when he established the motor vehicle company known as Horch & Cie. Motorwagenwerke. He is considered as one of Germany's pioneering automobile engineers, and is rightly being celebrated by the four-ringed brand on his 150th birth anniversary.