The history of Audi
Audi is the high-end vehicle in the Volkswagen Group and has been wholly owned by Volkswagen since 1966. Audi actually came into being in 1899, when August Horch established the company in his own name. Two companies and a copyright infringement suit later, Horch could no longer use the “Horch” moniker.
The four rings
The Audi name actually comes from the founder. “Horch” means “listen” in German; the Latin word for “listen” is “audi.” Four German car companies – Audi included -- merged into one entity around 1910. In fact, that’s how the company emblem emerged: each of the four inter-connected rings stands for one of those original independent companies – DKW, Horch (Horch’s former company) and Wanderer, in addition to Audi.
Although he retained a spot on the Audi board, Horch left Audi in 1920 for another job. Horcch watched as, by 1929, Audi cars became high-end automobiles with specialized body work. Audi merged in 1932 with three other companies – Horch, DKW and Wanderer -- to become Auto Union.
Bavaria to the rescue
With the end of World War II, however, came the liquidation of the Auto Union. But with Bavarian funding, a new Auto Union facility opened in Ingolstadt in 1949. A decade later, funds materialized for the building of a mass-production facility on that site. Daimler-Benz took over the Auto Union in 1959 but sold the company.
Audi comes back
Volkswagen acquired a 50% holding in Auto Union in 1964 and began producing Volkswagen Beetles at the Ingolstadt site, although they discontinued the DKW brand because buyers had become dissatisfied with its two-stroke engine technology. Later re-fitted with a four-stroke engine, the new car was marketed as “the Audi.”
Volkswagen unveiled Audi as its own brand in the U.S. in 1970. Through a series of triumphs, Audi came to be considered a technology-forward company focusing on performance cars. At that time, Audi began to compete in the luxury car market against such giants as Mercedes-Benz and BMW. As of late 2009, Audi is the biggest contributor to Volkswagen Group’s overall profits.