The Audi. A great automobile. Flashy. Fast. Luxurious. Do you own one? Did you ever own one? Did you ever see one older than 1964? No? Here's why. In 1899, a well known and respected automotive designer and engineer in Germany named August Horch (pronounced Hork-uh, and the name in German means "hark") began his own car company. In 1901 he produced his own car and continued making cars that bore his name until 1909 when he had a disagreement with his financiers. His may have said he quit his company, but his financiers more or less kicked him out. So August decided to form the August Horch Automobile Works. The problem was, the Horch name was already a registered trademark and he wasn't allowed to call his new car a Horch.
August Horch had a problem coming up with a name for his new car. The 12 year old son of one of his business partners suggested using the name Audi, because Audi is the Latin word for "hark". And so began the Audi name brand. For the next twelve years, Audi sales were well below average, but they did manage to survive the Great War. By 1932, Audi was at its low point, just as other German makes were. That's when August merged Audi with the original Horch Car Company. Two other car companies joined with them, DKW and the Wanderer. This four car merger became known as Auto Union.
The Auto Union logo was four rings intertwined. The Audi, and now Auto Union, produced formidable race cars during the 1920's and 30's which helped keep the company in business. During WWII, the company had to stop building civilian vehicles and instead built vehicles for the German Army. Also in the 1930's, August was once again able to build cars using his own name. The Horch of the 30's was a magnificent series of luxury cars. August designed a car to out do the Mercedes 540K, even though in some cases his new Horch resembled Mercedes. These Horchs of the 30's are now very desirable collector cars. One 1938 Horch recently sold for 5.2 million dollars.
But following WWII, the economy in Germany was in big trouble. The only car produced by Auto Union following the war was the DKW. In 1964 Volkswagen buys Auto Union from Daimler-Benz. They immediately dump DKW because of its two-stroke technology and revive the Audi name plate. They also retained the four ring logo.
Audi, along with Mercedes and BMW, are among the best-selling luxury cars in the world.