Driving down the street in any country across the globe, you are bound to come across a beautifully crafted car baring four distinct rings on the grille, the humble Audi. What you may not know, is that the rings of the Audi badge are associated with a rich history dating back to the late 1800s.
The four rings are symbolic of four prominent car brands that were manufactured in Germany centuries ago. These stand-alone companies, namely Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer, joined together to form one of Germany’s largest vehicle manufacturing group that became known as the Auto Union that would eventually become known as Audi.
Wanderer was founded in 1885 when two mechanics set out to make their brand of bicycles to meet the increasing demand. In 1902, Wanderer built and produced its first motorcycle, and in 1913, they produced their first car.
Rasmussen & Ernst, which was later renamed DKW, was founded in 1902 and the initial focus of the company was to sell exhaust-steam oil separators, mudguards, vehicle lights, centrifuges and vulcanisation equipment. In 1919 the company began producing two-stroke engines and in 1922 produced and launched a motorcycle by the name of DKW.
Towards the end of the 1800s, Germany had several car manufacturers, one of which was Horch. August Horch & Cie was founded in 1899. August Horch had previously overseen production at Carl Benz in Mannheim.
August Horch set out to establish Audi in July 1909, however, the company could not take his name due to a car brand already existing worth the same name – also established by him. So, to bamboozle the world of cars, they translated the name Horch into Latin and became known as Audi Automobilwerke GmbH, Zwickau on April 25, 1910.
In 1932, Audi, Horch and DKW merged to form Auto Union AG. During this time, Wanderer signed an agreement to take over their motor vehicle division. As a result, Germany’s second-largest vehicle manufacturer was born. Each ring in the Auto Union logo represents the companies that formed part of this merger and each brand was assigned a segment. DKW specialised in small cars and motorcycles, Audi specialised in deluxe, mid-sized cars and Horch took the luxury market.
After the war ended in1945, the Auto Union AG’s premises were left in an area occupied by Soviet forces. They expropriated the assets, broke down the plant and unregistered the company. This led to the establishment of Auto Union GmbH.
Fast forward to 1965 and Auto Union announces the releases of the first post-war four-stroke engine, bringing in a new era in motoring and announcing the rebirth of the Audi brand. Some might say they went on to join the game revolution. In 1971, the company revealed its new marketing slogan that has since become the key messaging of the brand: “Vorsprung Durch Technik”.