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The History of Audi

Audi AG is a German manufacturer of cars marketed under the Audi brand, headquartered in Ingolstadt, Germany and a wholly-owned (99.55%) subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group (Volkswagen AG) since 1964. Volkswagen Group relaunched the Audi brand with the 1965 introduction of the Audi 60 range. Shortly thereafter the name was acquired as part of Volkswagen's purchase of the Auto Union assets from former owner, Daimler-Benz.

The company name is based on the surname of the founder August Horch, the name itself an English cognate with the English word "hark", meaning listen, which when translated into Latin, becomes Audi.

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 the German Supreme Court finally determined that the Horch brand belonged to his former company so Horch reinvented his new company as Audi.

In September 1921, Audi became the first German car manufacturer to present a production car, the Audi Type K, with left-handed drive.

In August 1928 Jrgen Rasmussen, the owner of DKW, acquired the majority of shares in Audiwerke AG. In the same year, Rasmussen bought the remains of the US car 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.

In 1932, Audi merged with Horch, DKW and Wanderer, to form Auto Union. It was during this period that the company offered the Audi Front which was the first European car to combine a six cylinder engine with front-wheel drive, using a unit shared with Wanderer but turned through 180 degrees so that the drive shaft faced the front.

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.

Reflecting the economic pressures of the time, Auto Union concentrated increasingly on smaller cars through the 1930s, so that by 1938 the company's DKW brand accounted for 17.9% of the German car market while Audi held only 0.1%.

The former Audi factory in Zwickau, restarted assembly of the pre-war-models in 1949. These DKW models were renamed to IFA F8 and IFA F9 and were similar to the West German versions. West and East German models were equipped with the traditional and renowned DKW two-stroke engines.

A new West German head quartered Auto Union was launched in Ingolstadt, Bavaria with loans from the Bavarian state government and Marshall Plan aid. The reformed company was launched 3 September 1949 and continued DKW's tradition of producing front-wheel drive vehicles with two-stroke engines. This included production of a small but sturdy 125 cc motorcycle and a DKW delivery van, the DKW F 89 L.

In 1958 Daimler-Benz took an 87% holding in the Auto Union company, and this was increased to a 100% holding in 1959. However, small two-stroke cars were not the focus of the company's interests, and while the early 1960s saw major investment in new Mercedes models, the Auto Union business at this time did not benefit from the economic boom of the time to the same extent as competitor manufacturers such as Volkswagen and Opel. It appears that the decision to dispose of the Auto Union business was based on its lack of profitability. Ironically, by the time they sold the business it also included a near production-ready thoroughly modern four stroke engine, which would enable the Auto Union business, under a new owner and with the benefit of a rediscovered name, Audi, to become one of Germany's most successful car-makers during the second half of the 1960s.

In 1964 Volkswagen Group acquired a 50% holding in the business, which included the new factory in Ingolstadt and the trademark rights of the Auto Union. 18 months later Volkswagen bought complete control of Ingolstadt, and by 1966 were using the spare capacity of the Ingolstadt plant to assemble an additional 60,000 Volkswagen Beetles per year. Two-stroke engines became less popular during the 1960s as customers were more attracted to the smoother four-stroke engines. In September 1965, the DKW F102 got a four-stroke engine implanted and some front and rear styling changes. Volkswagen dumped the DKW brand because of its associations with two-stroke technology, and having classified the model internally as the F103, sold it simply as the "Audi."

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. Today the Neckarsulm plant is used to produce the larger Audi models A6 and A8. The Neckarsulm factory is also home of the quattro GmbH, this subsidiary is responsible for development and production of the Audi high performance cars: the R8 and the "RS" model range.

The new merged company was known as Audi NSU Auto Union AG, and saw the emergence of Audi as a separate brand for the first time since the pre-war era.

The Audi image at this time was a conservative one, and so, a proposal 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 centre differential. Commonly referred to as the "Ur-Quattro" , 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.

The Audi emblem is four overlapping rings that represent the four marques of Auto Union. The Audi emblem symbolises the amalgamation of Audi with DKW, Horch and Wanderer: the first ring represents Audi, the second represents DKW, third is Horch, and the fourth and last ring Wanderer.

As part of Audi's centennial celebration in 2009, the company updated the logo, changing the font to left-aligned Audi Type, and altering the shading for the overlapping rings.

Audi's corporate tagline is Vorsprung durch Technik, meaning "Progress through Technology".

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The History of Austin

Herbert Austin (1866-1941), former manager of the Wolseley Tool and Motor Car Company, and later to be made first Baron Austin of Longbridge, founded The Austin Motor Company in 1905. The first car was a conventional 5-litre four-cylinder model with chain drive, of which about 200 were made in the first five years. In World War I Austin grew enormously in fulfilling government contracts for everything from artillery to aircraft, and the workforce expanded from around 2,500 to 22,000.

After the war Herbert Austin decided on a one-model policy based on the 3620-cc 20-hp engine. Versions included cars, commercials and even a tractor, but sales volumes were never enough to fill the vast factory built during wartime. The company went into receivership in 1921 but rose again after financial restructuring.

Critical to the recovery was the appointment in 1922 of a new finance director, Ernest Payton and a new works director in charge of car production, Carl Engelbach. This triumvirate of Austin, Payton and Engelbach steered the company's fortunes through the inter-war years.

In a quest to expand market share, smaller cars were introduced, the 1661 cc Twelve in 1922 and, later the same year, the Seven, an inexpensive, simple small car and one of the earliest to be directed at a mass market. At one point, the "Baby Austin" was built under licence by the fledgling BMW of Germany (as the Dixi); by the Japanese manufacturer Datsun; as the Bantam in the United States; and as the Rosengart in France. (the American Austin Car Company operated as a largely independent subsidiary from 1929 to 1934, and was revived under the name "American Bantam" from 1937 to 1941).

With the help of the Seven, Austin weathered the worst of the depression and remained profitable through the 1930s, producing a wider range of cars which was steadily updated by the introduction of all-steel bodies, Girling brakes, and synchromesh gearboxes. However, all the engines retained the same side valve conformation.

During the Second World War Austin continued building cars but also made trucks and aircraft, including the construction of the Lancaster bombers of 617 squadron, better known as the Dambusters.

The postwar car range was announced in 1944 and production of it started in 1945 The immediate postwar range was mainly similar to that of the late 1930s but did include the 16 hp significant for having the company's first overhead valve engine.

In 1952 Austin merged with the Nuffield Organisation (parent company of Morris) to form the British Motor Corporation with Leonard Lord in charge. Austin was the dominant partner and its engines were adopted for most of the cars; various models amongst the marques would soon be badge-engineered versions of each other.

Also in 1952, Austin did a deal with Donald Healey, the renowned automotive engineer. It led to a new marque, Austin Healey, and a range of sports cars.

In 1952 Austin entered into a legal agreement with the Nissan Motor Company of Japan, for that company to assemble 2000 imported Austins from partially assembled sets and to sell them in Japan under the Austin trademark. The agreement called for Nissan to make all Austin parts locally within three years, a goal Nissan met. Nissan produced and marketed Austins for seven years. The agreement also gave Nissan rights to use Austin patents, which Nissan used in developing its own engines for its Datsun line of cars. In 1953 British-built Austins were assembled and sold, but by 1955, the Austin A50 completely built by Nissan and featuring a slightly larger body with 1489 cc engine was on the market in Japan. Nissan produced 20,855 Austins from 1953-59.

With the threat to fuel supplies resulting from the 1956 Suez Crisis Lord asked Alec Issigonis to design a small car and the result was the revolutionary Mini, launched in 1959. The Austin version was called the Austin Se7en at first. But Morris' Mini Minor name caught the public imagination and the Morris version outsold its Austin twin, so the Austin's name was changed to Mini to follow suit. In 1970, British Leyland dropped the separate Austin and Morris branding of the Mini. From then, it was simply "Mini", under the Austin Morris division of BLMC.

The principle of a transverse engine with gearbox in the sump and driving the front wheels was carried on to larger cars with the 1100 of 1963, (although the Morris-badged version was launched 13 months earlier than the Austin, in August 1962), the 1800 of 1964 and the Maxi of 1969. This meant that BMC had spent 10 years developing a new range of front-drive, transverse-engined models, while most competitors had only just started to make such changes.

The big exception to this was the Austin 3-litre. Launched in 1968, it was a rear-wheel drive large car, but it shared the central section of the 1800. It was a sales disaster, with fewer than 10,000 examples being made.

But BMC was the first British manufacturer to move into front-wheel drive so comprehensively. Ford did not launch its first front-drive model until 1976, while Vauxhall's first front-drive model was launched in 1979 and Chrysler UK's first such car was launched in 1975. Front-wheel drive was popular elsewhere in Europe, however, with Renault, Citroen and Simca all using the system at the same time or before BMC.

In 1966, BMC and Pressed Steel merged with Jaguar and became British Motor Holdings. In 1968, BMH merged with Leyland Motors and Austin became a part of the big British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC) combine.

In 1982, most of the car division of the by now somewhat shrunken British Leyland (BL) company was rebranded as the Austin Rover Group, with Austin acting as the "budget" and mainstream brand to Rover's more luxurious models. The MG badge was revived for sporty versions of the Austin models, with the MG Metro 1300 being the first of these.

In 1986 Austin Rover's holding company BL plc became Rover Group plc and was privatised by selling it to British Aerospace (BAe).

In 1987, the Austin badge was discontinued and Austin Rover became simply the Rover Group. The Austin cars continued to be manufactured, although they ceased to be Austins. They became "marque-less" in their home market with bonnet badges the same shape as the Rover longship badge but without "Rover" written on them. Instead any badging just showed the model of the car- a Montego of this era, for instance, would have a grille badge simply saying 'Montego', whilst the rear badges just said 'Montego' and the engine size/trim level. The Metro was facelifted in 1990 and got the new K-series engine. It then became the "Rover Metro", while the Maestro and Montego continued in production until 1994 and never wore a Rover badge on their bonnets in Britain. They were, however, sometimes referred to as "Rovers" in the press and elsewhere.

The rights to the Austin name passed to British Aerospace and then to BMW when each bought the Rover Group. The rights were subsequently sold to MG Rover, created when BMW sold the business. Following MG Rover's collapse and sale, Nanjing Automobile Group owns the Austin name and Austin's historic assembly plant in Longbridge. At the Nanjing International Exhibition in May 2006, Nanjing announced it might use the Austin name on some of the revived MG Rover models, at least in the Chinese market. However, Nanjing is for the moment concentrating on reviving the MG brand. The MG brand is traditionally used for sports cars and Nanjing has no rights to the Rover name, so a revival of the Austin name would seem a logical brand for selling more standard cars. It might also be argued that a British name would be more respected in the European market than a Chinese name.

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