From Auto Union to Audi, a story of partnership

Auto Union 4 ring logo Horch Audi DKW Wanderer

From Auto Union to Audi, the reason of the 4 rings

Germany has always been a great country for car making. Loads of makers for cars and bikes created machines since the beginning of the transformation from horseless into the modern car industry.

Audi logo has 4 rings and has nothing to do with the Olympics but with the 4 brands that merged to create Auto Union in 1932, the name of those were: Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer. The 4 brands were somehow interrelated as some of them carried works in the others. For instance DKW was selling front drive to stroke cars built at Audi or Audi was created when the CFO of Horch decided to leave in 1909 and start across town.

The outcome of this relationship was a merger between Zschopauer Motorenwerke with its brand DKW, Audi, Horch and the car-producing subsidiary of Wanderer. Operationally nothing really changed that much as all the brands kept selling car on a stand-alone basis, they simply shared administrative costs by centralising some works and also Audi got access to engines by Horch and Wanderer.

With all things set, in the second half of February 1933 Berlin Motor Show took place. German Chancellor Adolf Hitler announced two new programs in order to develop further the Auto Industry in Germany. Much to the dislike of Mercedes-Benz the project of developing a racing car helped other brands like Porsche and Auto Union and this created a rivalry inside and outside the circuits that made the German auto industry extremely competitive. Auto Union racing cars were extremely competitive from 1934 onwards with the help of some good designs.

War came again into the focus in 1939 and the new machines to be built were military vehicles for the German armed forces where Auto Union ran an important role. For that reason, it was a target for the allied and in 1944 all the producing plants of Auto Union were bombed and severely damaged. Also the Saxon plants of Auto Union were located in the Soviet-occupied zone of communist East Germany.

Relaunch of Auto Union

In 1945, with the orders of the Soviet Military Administration in Germany, the Auto Union factories were dismantled as war reparations; the racing cars were found stored in a colliery and sent to Moscow for reverse engineering. Following this, Auto Union AG assets were liquidated without compensation. It looked like the story was about to finish for them but more the opposite!! Auto Union's executives had no option but to flee and re-establish the company on Western side of the partitioned Germany. A new Auto Union company (Auto Union Gmbh) was launched in Ingolstadt, Bavaria with loans from the Bavarian state government and Marshall Plan aid in September 1949.

Due to the cost of the war, demand for cheap cars was the only available option for the brand in order to be successful, so they focused in selling mighty DKWs and keep the rest of the brands dormant until a better economic time comes back. They were also fortunate as a lot of ex workers from the previous factories moved to Ingolstadt too making skilled workers available for them.

Auto union 1000 spyder

After this move a lot of corporate actions between different producers took place until 2009 Porsche merging with VW. In my eyes the most important one was the first move from Daimler-Benz acquiring 87% of Auto Union in 1958 and starting to produce the versatile saloon Auto Union 1000 (pictured below) which meant getting back the brand into the market! But also it was fairly important when in 1985 Audi NSU Auto Union AG, was simply shortened to Audi AG and meant a unique brand was back and ready into the market.

At the moment the brand Auto Union Gmbh is a subsidiary of Audi AG who tries to keep the heritage of all the Audi cars and anything related to the history of Auto Union.

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