Audi logo
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Press photograph of the newly merged Audi NSU range, 1969.

Audi is a luxury automobile maker in Germany, and a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group. The company is headquartered in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, Germany.

Audi's tagline is "Vorsprung durch Technik", which translates to "Advantage through Technology".



The origins of Audi

The company traces its origins back to 1899 and August Horch. The first Horch automobile was produced in 1901 in Zwickau, in former East Germany. In 1910, Horch was forced out of the company he had founded. He then started a new company in Zwickau and continued using the Horch brand. His former partners sued him for trademark infringement and the German court stated that the Horch brand belonged to his former company. August Horch was forced to refrain from using his own family name in his new car business. As the word "horch!" translates to "listen!" in Old German, August Horch settled on the Latin equivalent of his name - "audi!". It is also popularly believed that Audi is an acronym which stands for "Auto Union Deutschland Ingolstadt". Audi produces over 2 million vehicles annually at its main production site in Ingolstadt. Audi has another production plant in Neckarsulm.

Audi started with a 2612 cc model followed by four cylinder 3564 cc, 4680 cc and 5720 cc models. These cars were successful even in sporting events. August Horch left the Audi company in 1920. The first six cylinder model (4655 cc) appeared in 1924. In 1928, the company was acquired by J S Rasmussen, owner of DKW, who bought the same year the remains of the US automobile manufacturer, Rickenbacker including the manufacturing equipment for eight cylinder engines. These engines were used in Audi Zwickau and Audi Dresden models that were launched in 1929. At the same time, six cylinder and a small four cylinder (licensed from Peugeot) models were manufactured. Audi cars of that era were luxurious cars equipped with special bodywork.

The Auto Union era

In 1932 Audi merged with Horch, DKW and Wanderer to form the Auto Union. Before World War II, Auto Union used the four interlinked rings that make up the Audi badge today, representing these four brands. This badge was used, however, only on Auto Union racing cars in that period while the member companies used their own names and emblems. The technological development became more and more concentrated and some Audi models were propelled by Horch or Wanderer built engines.

Pause and a new start

Auto Union plants were heavily bombed and partly destroyed during World War II. After the war, Zwickau soon became part of the German Democratic Republic and Audi headquarters were moved to Ingolstadt. In that period, the four interlinked rings were used together with the DKW badge. The company focused efforts on the DKW brand, but their two-stroke engines became unpopular. In 1958, Daimler-Benz company acquired 88 per cent of Auto Union and the next year became its sole owner. Daimler-Benz developed a 72 hp (54 kW) four-door sedan, with a modern four stroke engine driving the front wheels. Daimler-Benz sold the company to Volkswagen in 1964. By the time this model appeared in September 1965, "relaunching" the Audi brand, the Audi company was owned by Volkswagen (see VAG).

In 1969, Audi merged with NSU, based in Neckarsulm near Stuttgart. In the 1950s NSU had been the world's largest manufacturer of motorcycles but had moved on to produce small cars like the NSU Prinz (the TT and TTS versions are still popular as vintage race cars). NSU then focused on new rotary engines according to the ideas of Felix Wankel. In 1967, the new NSU Ro 80 was a space-age car well ahead of its time in technical details such as aerodynamics, light weight, safety, et cetera, but teething problems with the rotary engines put an end to the independence of NSU. Presently several lines of Audi cars are produced in Neckarsulm.

The mid-sized car that NSU had been working on, the K70, was intended to slot between the rear-engined Prinz models and the futuristic Ro 80. However, Volkswagen took the K70 for its own range, spelling the end of NSU as a separate brand.

The modern era of Audi

Audi Quattro
Audi Quattro
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Audi TT

Over the next thirty years Audi released a series of derivatives of this model at various power ratings. With the "Quattro" of the 1980s, a 4WD turbocharged sportscar, Audi distinguished itself as leader in technology, despite not selling too many of the original "Ur-Quattro". The Ur-Quattro was the first Audi Quattro produced, and it has been designated as such to be distinguished from later Audi models that incorporate Audi's 4WD system (which is also named "Quattro"). The "Ur-" prefix is derived from the German word for "original", and is also used to refer to the first generation of Audi's S4 and S6 sports saloons ("UrS4" and "UrS6").

The early set of cars had culminated in the Audi 80, from which all subsequent generations descend, expanded by the "quattro" features. In 1986, as the Audi 80 was beginning to develop a kind of "grandfather's car" image, the type 89 was introduced. This completely new development sold extremely well. However, its modern and dynamic exterior belied the low performance of its base engine, and its base package was quite spartan (even the passenger-side mirror was an option.) In 1987, Audi put forward a new and very elegant Audi 90, which had a much superior set of standard features. In the early nineties, sales began to slump for the Audi 80 series, and some basic construction problems started to surface.

This decline in sales was not helped in the USA by a 60 Minutes report which purported to show that Audi automobiles suffered from "unintended acceleration". The 60 Minutes report was based on customer reports of acceleration when the brake pedal was pushed. Independent investigators concluded that this was most likely due to a close placement of the accelerator and brake pedals (unlike American cars), and the inability, when not paying attention, to distinguish between the two. (In race cars, when manually downshifting under heavy braking, the accelerator has to be used in order to match revs properly, so both pedals have to be close to each other to be operated by the right foot at once, toes on the brake, heels on the gas. US citizens are used to automatic gearboxes and only two well separated pedals).

60 Minutes ignored this fact and rigged a car to perform in an uncontrolled manner. The report immediately crushed Audi sales, and Audi renamed the affected model (The 5000 became the 100/200 in 1989, as in Germany and elsewhere). Audi had contemplated withdrawing from the American market until sales began to recover in the mid-1990s. The turning point for Audi was the sale of the new A4 in 1996, and with the release of the A4/6/8 series, which was developed together with VW and other sister brands (so called "platforms"), Audi has regained what was lost due to biased journalism.

Currently, Audi's sales are growing strongly in Europe, and the company is renowned for having the best build quality of any mainstream auto manufacturer. 2004 marked the 11th straight increase in sales, selling 779,441 vehicles worldwide. Record figures were recorded from 21 out of about 50 major sales markets. The largest sales increases came from Eastern Europe (+19.3%), Africa (+17.2%) and the Middle East (+58.5%). In March of 2005, Audi is building its first two dealerships in India following its high increase in sales in that region. Though its brand still doesn't have the global cachet of Mercedes-Benz or BMW, Audi's reputation for quality and understated style has once again made it a highly desirable marque.

Auto racing

Audi has competed in (and sometimes dominated) numerous forms of auto racing. Audi's rich tradition in motorsport began with the Auto Union in the 1930s.In the 1990s Audi dominated the Touring and Super Touring categories of motor racing after success in circuit racing Stateside.


In 1980 Audi released the Quattro, an all wheel drive turbocharged car that went on to win rallies and races worldwide. It is considered one of the most significant rally cars of all time because it was one of the first to take advantage of the then-recently changed rules which allowed the use of all-wheel-drive in competition racing. Many critics doubted the viability of all-wheel-drive racers, thinking them to be too heavy and complex, yet the Quattro was an instant success, winning its first rally on its first outing. It won competition after competition for the next two years.

In 1984 Audi launched the "Sport Quattro" car which dominated races in Monte Carlo and Sweden with Audi taking all podium finishes but succumbed to problems further into World Rally Championship contention. After another season mired in mediocre finishes, Walter Rhrl finished the season in his Sport Quattro S1 and helped place Audi second in the manufacturer's points. Audi also received rally honors in the Hong Kong to Beijing rally in that same year. Michle Mouton, the first female WRC driver to win a championship and a driver for Audi, took the Sport Quattro S1, now simply called the S1 and raced in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. The climb race pits a driver and car to drive up a 4,302 meter high mountain in Colorado and in 1985, Michle Mouton set a new record of 11:25.39 and being the first woman to set a Pikes Peak record. In 1986, Audi formally left international rally racing following the death in Portugal of driver Joaquim Santos in his RS200. Joaquim Santos avoided hitting spectators on one side of the road, and ended up hitting spectators on the other side. Bobby Unser used an Audi in that same year to claim a new record for the Pikes Peak Hill Climb at 11:09.22. In 1987, Walter Rhrl claimed the title for Audi setting a new record of 10:47.85 in his Audi S1 he retired from the WRC in 2 years earlier. The Audi S1 employed Audi's time-tested 5-cylinder turbo charged engine and generated over 600 hp (447 kW). The engine was mated to a 6-speed gearbox and ran on Audi's famous all-wheel drive system. All of Audi's top drivers drove this beast, Hannu Mikkola, Stig Blomqvist, Walter Rhrl and the female driver, Michle Mouton. The Audi S1 enjoys a 0-60 mph (0-100 km/h) time of 2.3 s. This Audi S1 started the S-series of cars for Audi which now represents an increased level of sports options and quality to the Audi line up.

Touring cars

In 1995 Audi was barred from entering its Audi A4 Quattro into the British Touring Car Championships because of its domination on the series. The Quattro (four-wheel drive) system was banned because Audi was unbeatable in the competition.

In 2004 Audi returned to touring car racing by entering two factory supported Joest Racing A4s in the Deutschen Tourenwagen Masters series.

Sports car racing

Beginning in 1999, Audi built the Audi R8 to compete in sports car racing, including the LMP900 class at the 24 hours of Le Mans. The factory supported Joest Racing team won at Le Mans three times in a row (2000 - 2002), as well as winning every race in the American Le Mans Series in its first year. Audi also sold the car to customer teams such as Champion Racing. In 2003, two Bentley Speed 8s, with engines designed by Audi and driven by Joest drivers loaned to the fellow VW company, competed in the GTP class and finished the race in the top two positions, while the Champion Racing R8 finished third overall and first in the LMP900 class. Audi returned to the winner's circle at the 2004 race, with the top three finishers all driving R8s: Audi Sport Japan Team Goh finished first, Audi Sport UK Veloqx second, and Champion Racing third.


Audi is the only car manufacturer that produces 100% galvanized vehicles to prevent corrosion. An all-aluminium car was brought forward by Audi, and in 1997 the Audi A8 was launched, which introduced aluminium space frame technology. Audi introduced a new series of vehicles in the mid-nineties and continues to pursue leading-edge technology and high performance.

The all-aluminium concept was extended to the company's new luxury sub-compact, the Audi A2 which was launched in 2001.

In the 1970's, some vehicle manufacturers including Audi (and Subaru) designed their own all wheel drive systems in passenger vehicles. In the 1980's, all-wheel drive systems in cars became a fad, and other manufacturers like Porsche and Mercedes-Benz offered all-wheel drive systems in their cars to compete in the marketplace. Unfortunately, the all-wheel drive system in the Mercedes-Benz vehicles were riddled with problems right from the design sheet. The system also was not popular in Porsche vehicles because owners wanted the traditional performance of the rear wheel drive they got used to in older Porsche's. Although Porsche and Mercedes-Benz offer all-wheel drive systems in some cars today, neither manufacturer was able to ride the fad and come out on top like Audi has. Today, after many decades of class-leading technology and engineering, the name quattro is an identifiable symbol and trademark that shows would-be competitors the level of quality they have to achieve in order to attempt to compete with Audi.

In the 1980s, Audi was the champion of the inline 5 cylinder, 2.1/2.2 L engine as a longer lasting alternative to more traditional 6 cylinder engines. This engine was used in not only production cars but also their race cars. The 2.1 L inline 5 cylinder engine was used as a base for the rally cars in the 1980's, providing well over 400 horsepower (298 kW) after modification. Before 1990, there were engines produced with a displacement between 2.0 L and 2.3 L. This range of engine capacity was a good combination of good fuel economy which was on the mind of every motorist in the 1980's, and a good amount of power the customer wants.

In 1990, the existing models carried on the existing engine sizes. However, since the gas crunch of the 1980's was subsiding, Audi introduced the Audi V8 to provide some real power to their customers, a car with a 3.6 L V8. In the early 90's, Audi created the 2.8 L V6 engine for use in their midrange models. By this time, the 2.2 L engine powered the compact models (the Audi 80), the 2.8 L engine powered the midsize and full size vehicles (the Audi 80 and Audi 100), and the 3.6 L V8 powered the luxury vehicle (Audi V8) in the beginning, then the 4.2 L V8 took over and provided more torque and performance. Since the length of the connecting rod is directly related to torque, the increase from 3.6 L to 4.2 L increased torque for the new V8. Last but not least, Audi turbocharged the 2.2 L inline 5 engine and put it in the 100 body style and named it the S4. The same engine was used in a coupe based on the 80 called the S2. In the early 1990's, some model names were dropped (90 and 200) and in the mid 90's the model names switched to the letter-number scheme but kept the engines relatively the same. The Audi 80 became the A4, the 100 became the A6, the V8 became the A8, and the S4 became the S6. A new sports model based on the A4 was introduced, called the S4 and from that point on the original S4 based on the 100 was referred to as the UrS4 Toward the very end of the 1990's, most cars received an option to put the next bigger engine in their vehicles.

At the turn of the century, Audi introduced the Multitronic transmission, an improvement on existing continuously-variable transmissions. The system includes dual electrohydraulically controlled clutches instead of a torque converter. This is implemented in some Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3 and TT models. Today, Audi motor vehicles feature several size engines, from a naturally aspirated 1.8 L inline 4 cylinder to a 6.0 L W12 with 48 valves. The A4 sedan and Avant trim and the TT are offered with the naturally aspirated 1.8 L engine (which is not available in the US), and the TT offers the same capacity engine, but with a turocharger. The Allroad Quattro is the last midsize vehicles to use the 2.7 L turbocharged V6 since the rest of the cars in the midsize class moved up to the 3.0 L V6 and bigger. The A4 and A6 and the TT currently use the 3.0 L to 3.2 L V6 engine, but also the A6, A8 and both S4 trims use the 4.2 L V8. The biggest engine, the 6.0 L W12 is used by the A8 and generates 450 horsepower (336 kW) remaining naturally aspirated. Audi packages the aforementioned Multitronic in only the A4. Audi offers a 5-speed automatic gearbox to both A4's, and also a 5-speed manual to the A4 as well as several 6-speeds. Only the A8 gets the 6-speed automatic, the A4's, S4's, TT and Allroad Quattro get the 6-speed manual transmission.


Production cars

Historical models

Future models

The following is a list of models Audi ostensibly plans to offer in the future.


The following is a partial list of concept cars.

See also

External links

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Volkswagen | Audi | SEAT | koda | Bentley | Bugatti | Lamborghini

Current models: A2 | A3 | S3 | A4 | S4 | RS4 | A6 | S6 | RS6 | Allroad Quattro | A8 | TT

Historical models: Audi 50 | Audi 80/90/4000 | Audi 100/200/5000 | Audi Quattro | Audi V8 | Audi S2 | Audi RS2

Concept and future models: A5 | Q5 | Q7 | RSQ (from I, Robot) | Allroad quattro concept | Audi LeMans | Audi Nuvolari

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