AUDI AG, (Xetra: NSU), commonly known as Audi is a German automobile manufacturer which produces Audi branded cars, with headquarters in Ingolstadt, Bavaria. Audi has been an almost wholly-owned (99.7%) subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group (Volkswagen AG) since 1964 (when the group was formerly known as "Volkswagen Audi Group" - VAG), and is held in ownership by its shareholders hence the term "Aktiengesellschaft" or "AG". The company evolved from Volkswagen Group's takeover of both Auto Union, and NSU Motorenwerke AG (NSU), the former having incorporated the historic Audi company which was founded in 1910.
Audi's corporate tagline is Vorsprung durch Technik, meaning "Advancement through Technology". This German-language tagline is also used in other European countries, including the United Kingdom, and in other markets, such as Latin America, Oceania and parts of Asia including Japan. The North American tagline is "Innovation through technology", but in Canada the German tagline Vorsprung durch Technik is now used in advertising.
The company traces its origins back to 1899 and August Horch. The first Horch automobile was produced in 1901 in Zwickau. In 1909, 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 a German court determined 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. Horch immediately called a meeting at the apartment of Franz Fikentscher to come up with a new name for his company. During this meeting Franz's son was quietly studying Latin in a corner of the room. Several times he looked like he was on the verge of saying something but would just swallow his words and continue working, until he finally blurted out, "Father audiatur et altera pars... wouldn't it be a good idea to call it audi instead of horch?". "Horch!" in German means "Hark!" or "listen", which is "Audi" in Latin (compare audible). The idea was enthusiastically accepted by everyone attending the meeting. It is sometimes (incorrectly) believed that AUDI is a backronym (a reversed acronym) which stands for "Auto Union Deutschland Ingolstadt".
Audi started with a 2,612 cc (2.6 litre) four cylinder model followed by a 3564 cc (3.6 L) model, as well as 4680 cc (4.7 L) and 5720 cc (5.7L) models. These cars were successful even in sporting events. August Horch left the Audi company in 1920. The first six cylinder model, 4655 cc (4.7 L) appeared in 1924. In 1928, the company was acquired by Jørgen Rasmussen, owner of DKW. In the same year, Rasmussen bought 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 four cylinder (licensed from Peugeot) models were manufactured. Audi cars of that era were luxurious cars equipped with special bodywork.
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. During World War II, the Horch/Auto Union produced the Sd-Kfz 222 armored car, which was used in the German army during the war. It was powered by an Horch/Auto Union V8 engine which had a top speed of 50 miles per hour.
Another vehicle which was used in World War II to shuttle German military officials safely was known as the Kraftfahrzeug (KFZ 11) or the Horch Type 80. The military used it as a light transport vehicle.
In 1958, Daimler-Benz acquired 87% of Auto Union and in the next year 100%. In 1964, Volkswagen acquired the factory in Ingolstadt and the trademark rights of the Auto Union. Two-stroke engines became less popular towards the middle of the 1960s as customers were more attracted to the comfortable four-stroke engines. In September 1965, the last DKW model, the DKW F102, got a four-stroke engine implanted and some front and rear styling changes. Volkswagen dumped the brand DKW because of its two-stroke smell, relaunching the Audi brand. The new model was classified internally as the F103 and sold as simply the "Audi" (the name being a model designation rather than the manufacturer, which was still officially Auto Union) but later came to be known as the Audi 72. Developments of the model were named for their horsepower ratings and sold as the Audi 60, 75, 80, and Super 90. These models sold until 1972.
In 1969, Auto Union 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 of which are still popular as vintage race cars. NSU then focused on new rotary engines based on 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, and safety but teething problems with the rotary engines put an end to the independence of NSU. Today the Neckarsulm plant is used to produce the larger Audi models: the R8, and the "RS" model range.
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 NSU Ro 80. However, Volkswagen took the K70 for its own range, spelling the end of NSU as a separate brand.
The first new car of this regime was the Audi 100 of 1968. This was soon joined by the Audi 80/Fox (which formed the basis for the 1973 Volkswagen Passat) in 1972 and the Audi 50 (later rebadged as the Volkswagen Polo) in 1974. The Audi 50 was a seminal design in many ways, because it was the first incarnation of the Golf/Polo concept, one that led to a hugely successful world car.
The Audi image at this time was a conservative one, and so, a proposal from chassis engineer Jörg Bensinger was accepted to develop the four-wheel drive technology in Volkswagen's Iltis military vehicle for an Audi performance car and rally racing car. The performance car, introduced in 1980, was named the "Audi Quattro," a turbocharged coupé which was also the first German large-scale production vehicle to feature permanent all-wheel drive through a center differential. Commonly referred to as the "Ur-Quattro" (the "Ur-" prefix is a German augmentative used, in this case, to mean "original" and is also applied to the first generation of Audi's S4 and S6 sport sedans, as in "UrS4" and "UrS6"), few of these vehicles were produced (all hand-built by a single team), but the model was a great success in rallying. Prominent wins proved the viability of all-wheel drive racecars, and the Audi name became associated with advances in automotive technology.
In 1985, with the Auto Union and NSU brands effectively dead, the company's official name was now shortened to simply Audi AG.
In 1986, as the Passat-based 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 1990s, 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, heel on the accelerator; a driving technique called heel-and-toe). This did not become an issue in Europe, possibly due to more widespread experience among European drivers with manual transmissions.
60 Minutes allegedly ignored this fact, and some claim 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 it was 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/A6/A8 series, which was developed together with VW and other sister brands (so called "platforms").
In the early part of the 21st century, Audi set forth on a German racetrack to claim and maintain several World Records, such as Top Speed Endurance. This effort was in-line with the company's heritage from the 1930s racing era "Silver Arrows".
Currently, Audi's sales are growing strongly in Europe. 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 the region.
Their 2007 worldwide sales have been released as 964,151 vehicles sold, yet another record for the brand. It is predicted that in 2008, they will pass the 1 million unit mark.
Audi has recently started offering a computerised control system for its cars called Multi Media Interface (MMI). This comes amid criticism of BMW's iDrive control, essentially a rotating control knob designed to control radio, satellite navigation, TV, heating and car controls with a screen. MMI was widely reported to be a considerable improvement on BMW's iDrive, although BMW has since made their iDrive more user-friendly.
MMI has been generally well-received, as it requires less menu-surfing with its mass of buttons around a central knob, with shortcuts to the radio or phone functions. The screen, either colour or monochrome, is mounted on the upright dashboard, and on the A4 (new), A5, A6, A8, and Q7, the controls are mounted horizontally. However, an "MMI-like" system is also available on the Audi A3 and A4 models when equipped with the optional Audi Navigation System Plus (RNS-E).
Future models and concept cars
An all-aluminium car was brought forward by Audi, and in 1994 the Audi A8 was launched, which introduced aluminum space frame technology (called Audi Space Frame). Audi introduced a new series of vehicles in the mid-nineties and continues to pursue leading-edge technology and high performance. Prior to that effort, Audi used examples of the Type 44 chassis fabricated out of aluminum as test-beds for the technique. At one time, a copy of this body was fitted with a turbine engine, gaining a World record for mpg in a full-sized car, approximately 200mpg.
In the 1970s, two vehicle manufacturers Audi and Subaru designed their own four-wheel drive (4WD) systems in passenger vehicles. In the 1980s, 4WD systems in cars became a fad, and other German manufacturers like Porsche, BMW and Mercedes-Benz offered 4WD systems in their cars to compete in the marketplace, along with GM, Ford, Toyota and others. The 4WD 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 were used to in older Porsches. Although Porsche and Mercedes-Benz offer 4WD systems in some cars and trucks today, neither manufacturer is as well-known for 4WD technology as is Audi. Audi has recently applied the quattro badge to models such as the A3 and TT which do not actually use the Torsen-based system as in prior years, with a mechanical centre differential, but with the Swedish Haldex Traction electro-mechanical clutch 4WD system.
By 1991, Audi had the 4 cylinder Audi 80, the 5 cylinder Audi 90 and Audi 100, the turbocharged Audi 200 and the Audi V8. There was also a coupe version of the 80/90 with both 4 and 5 cylinder engines.
Although the five cylinder engine was a successful and very robust powerplant, it was still a little too different for the target market. With the introduction of an all-new Audi 100 in 1992, Audi introduced a 2.8L V6 engine. This engine was also fitted to a face-lifted Audi 80 (all 80 and 90 models were now badged 80 except for the USA), giving this model a choice of 4, 5 and 6 cylinder engines, in saloon/sedan, coupé and Cabriolet body styles.
The 5 cylinder was soon dropped as a major engine choice; however, a turbocharged 230 hp (169 kW) version remained. The engine, initially fitted to the 200 quattro 20V of 1991, was a derivative of the engine fitted to the Sport Quattro. It was fitted to the Audi Coupé, and named the S2 and also to the Audi 100 body, and named the S4. These two models were the beginning of the mass-produced S series of performance cars.
The engines available throughout the range were now a 1.4L, 1.6L and 1.8L 4 cylinder, 1.8L 4-cylinder turbo, 2.6L and 2.8L V6, 2.2L turbo-charged 5 cylinder and the 4.2L V8 engine. The V6s were replaced by new 2.4L and 2.8L 30V V6s in 1998, with marked improvement in power, torque and smoothness. Further engines were added along the way, including a 3.7L V8 and 6.0L W12 engine for the A8.
Other engines on sale and featuring in products of the Audi brand include:
All TDI models are diesels.
Since the end of 2006 Audi has started using the latest LED Headlight technology as their new trademark for their new models. The style was first introduced in the R8, and is now being orientated to suit the whole Audi model range. The models that Audi presently manufactures that include the new Daytime Runng Lights are:
2008 facelifted A3/S3
2nd generation TT/TT-S from 2006
2008 Audi Q7
2008 Audi Q5
2008 facelifted Audi A6/S6
Audi RS4 (2009)
In 1980, Audi released the Quattro, a four-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 four-wheel drive in competition racing. Many critics doubted the viability of four-wheel drive racers, thinking them to be too heavy and complex, yet the Quattro was to become a successful car. Leading its first rally it went off the road, however the rally world had been served notice 4WD was the future. The Quattro went on to achieve much success in the World Rally Championship. It won the 1983 (Hannu Mikkola) and the 1984 (Stig Blomqvist) drivers' titles, and brought Audi the manufacturers' title in 1982 and 1984.
In 1984, Audi launched the short-wheelbase Sport Quattro which dominated races in Monte Carlo and Sweden, with Audi taking all podium places, but succumbed to problems further into WRC contention. In 1985, after another season mired in mediocre finishes, Walter Röhrl finished the season in his Sport Quattro S1, and helped place Audi second in the manufacturers' points. Audi also received rally honors in the Hong Kong to Beijing rally in that same year. Michèle Mouton, the first and only female driver to win a round of the World Rally Championship and a driver for Audi, took the Sport Quattro S1, now simply called the "S1", and raced in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The climb race pits a driver and car to drive up a 4,302 meter high mountain in Colorado and in 1985, Michèle 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 an accident in Portugal involving driver Joaquim Santos in his Ford RS200. Santos swerved to avoid hitting spectators in the road, and left the track into the crowd of spectators on the side, killing three and injuring 30. Bobby Unser used an Audi in that same year to claim a new record for the Pikes Peak Hill Climb at 11:09.22.
As Audi moved away from rallying and into circuit racing, they chose to move first into America with the Trans-Am in 1988.
The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), having difficulty regulating the quattro four wheel drive system, and the impact it had on the competitors, would eventually ban all four wheel drive cars from competing in 1998, by then Audi switched all their works efforts to sports car racing.
By 2000, Audi would still compete in the US with their RS4 for the SCCA Speed World GT Challenge, through dealer/team Champion Racing competing against Corvettes, Vipers, and smaller BMWs (where it is one of the few series to permit 4WD cars). In 2003, Champion Racing entered an RS6. Once again, the quattro four wheel drive was superior and Champion Audi won the championship. They returned in 2004 to defend their title but a newcomer, Cadillac with the new Omega Chassis CTS-V, gave them a run for their money. After four victories in a row, the Audis were sanctioned with several negative changes that deeply affected the car's performance. Namely, added ballasts and Champion Audi deciding to go with different tires and backing off the turbos boost pressure.
In 2004, after years of competing with the TT-R in the revitalized DTM series, with privateer team Abt Racing/Christian Abt taking the 2002 title with Laurent Aïello, Audi returned as a full factory effort to touring car racing by entering two factory supported Joest Racing Audi A4s.
Beginning in 1999, Audi built the Audi R8R (open-top prototype) and the Audi R8C (GT-Prototype) to compete in sports car racing, including the Le Mans Prototype LMP900 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. For the 2000 season, Audi focussed mainly on the new Audi R8, due to favorable rules for open-top prototypes. The factory-supported Joest Racing team won at Le Mans three times in a row with the Audi R8 (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 Volkswagen Group 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.
At the 2005 24 Hours of Le Mans, Champion Racing entered two R8s along with an R8 from the Audi PlayStation Team Oreca. The R8s (which were built to old LMP900 regulations) received a narrower air inlet restrictor, reducing power, and an additional of weight compared to the newer LMP1 chassis. On average, the R8s were about 2-3 seconds off pace compared to the Pescarolo-Judd. But with a team of excellent drivers and experience, both Champion R8s were able to take first and third while the ORECA team took fourth. The Champion team was also the first American team to win Le Mans since the Gulf Ford GT's in 1967. This also ends the long era of the R8; however, its replacement for 2006, called the Audi R10 TDI, was unveiled on 13 December 2005.
The R10 TDI employs many new features, including a twin-turbocharged diesel engine. Its first race was the 2006 12 Hours of Sebring as a race-test for the 2006 24 Hours of Le Mans, which it later went on to win. Audi has been on the forefront of motorsports, claiming a historic win in the first ever diesel sports car at 12 Hours of Sebring. Audi has achieved the title as the most dominant motor sport power since the start of the 21st century, continuing its long and storied motor sport heritage. As well as winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2006 making history, the R10 TDI has also shown its capabilities by beating the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP in 2007, and beating Peugeot again in 2008.