ORIGINS OF AUDI
Audi, which is now the premium brand in the
Volkswagen Group, is one of the oldest car manufacturers in Europe. It was
founded as Horch in 1899 by the German engineer August Horch, pictured below. In
1909 he was forced out of the company he had founded and started afresh. Legal
action by his former partners prevented him using the Horch name. It was Horch's
son who suggested the name Audi, derived from the Latin word for 'hear'. In
German the word Horch means 'hark' or 'listen'.
The ownership of Audi passed in 1928 to the Danish industrialist Jorgen Rasmussen. In 1932 he merged Audi with Horch, DKW, and Wanderer to form Auto Union. The four-ring Audi logo was devised to represent the union of these four companies.
AUDI: THE EARLY HERITAGE
The upper picture above is of
August Horch, and the lower picture is of the first car sold under the Audi
During the 1930s Audi produced a range of stylish and comfortable saloon and convertible cars, including the 1935 Audi Roadster pictured above. For a flavour of 1935 we present below Aretha Franklin singing George and Ira Gershwin's song 'It Ain't Necessarily So' from their 1935 opera 'Porgy & Bess'. George Gershwin is pictured right. Please click on the play button below:
The 1939 Audi, pictured above in images from its original publicity brochure, was available in both saloon and cabriolet form. The publicity claimed that the cabriolet was ideal for a ladies' golf outing, and the saloon was as comfortable as sitting on a sofa. For a musical flavour of 1939, we present the Glenn Miller Orchestra playing 'Little Brown Jug' which they recorded in that year. Please click on the play button below: Audi continued to produce cars during the Second World War, an example being the 1945 Audi Saloon pictured above. In 1945, at the end of the Second World War, the Russian military administration in Germany dismantled the Auto Union plant as part of the war reparations, and the company's entire assets were expropriated without compensation.
For some music from 1945 we present Johnny Cash, pictured above, singing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' from the 1945 Rogers and Hammerstein musical 'Carousel'. Please click on the play button below:
A new Auto Union was launched in 1949 in Ingolstadt, the original home of Horch and Audi. For a musical flavour of 1949 we present Marilyn Monroe, pictured right, singing 'Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend' from the 1949 Broadway musical 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes'. The musical was based on a novel by Anita Loos. Please click on the play button below:
The new Auto Union was financed with loans from the state government of Bavaria and the American Marshall Aid programme. In the tradition of DKW, it produced front-wheel drive cars with two-stroke engines. In 1958 Daimler Benz bought 87% of Auto Union, and in 1959 it bought the remaining shares in the company. The business was acquired in 1964 by Volkswagen, and the modern era of Audi began.
Under Volkswagen ownership, Audi
has continued a tradition of technical innovation. Audi was the first mass
market manufacturer to produce fully galvanized cars to reduce risk of
corrosion. Previously this process was used only by Porsche. Unlike its
competitors, Audi has adhered to front wheel drive, departing from this only in
the case of four wheel drive vehicles. In 1994 the Audi A8 introduced aluminium
space frame technology; this markedly reduced vehicle weight.
Since the 1970s Audi has produced a series of saloon and estate cars. In 1992 it launched its first convertible, the Audi 80 Cabriolet. pictured above. Sales were boosted when Princess Diana, pictured right, bought a green Audi 80 Cabriolet which she drove around Kensington and Chelsea under the watchful eyes of the paparazzi. To hear Elton John sing his song 'Cradle in the Wind' which he played at Princess Diana's funeral in Westminster Abbey in 1997, please click on the play button below:
During the early 1990s Audi suffered a setback in the US market
when the 60 Minutes TV current affairs programme claimed that Audi cars suffered
from 'unintended acceleration' when the brake pedal was pushed. Independent
investigations concluded that the most likely cause was that, unlike American
cars, the brake pedal was very close to the accelerator pedal leading to the
accelerator being pushed by mistake.
Since 2000 Audi has moved progressively upmarket, being developed as the premium brand of the Volkswagen group. It produces a wide range of highly engineered saloon cars and convertibles, including the A4 cabriolet pictured above.
Audi's most spectacular current model is the Audi R8 mid-engined 4.2 litre sports car, shown in the two pictures above.
Audi cars have become popular among celebrities. Audi owners include the actors Ben Affleck, Kevin Costner, Hugh Grant, Daniel Craig, Sienna Miller, and Jude Law. Another celebrity Audi owner is the Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen, pictured right. She is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's richest supermodel, with earnings of $35 million in 2007 alone.
A historical curiosity. A black
Audi A6 estate car, similar to that pictured below, was used as the getaway
vehicle in the notorious theft in 2004 of the Munch paintings 'The Scream' and
'Madonna'. These world famous paintings were stolen from the Munch Museum in
Oslo, Norway. Both paintings were recovered by the Norwegian police in 2006.
This website is published by Alex Reid, 27 Millington Road, Cambridge CB3 9HW. Telephone: +44 1223 319733. Email: aalreid(at)gmail.com. It is an electronic scrap book, containing family life stories, casual articles, and family memorabilia.