The evolution of Audi
In 1885, the two mechanics Johann Baptist Winklhofer and Richard Adolf Jaenicke opened a repair business for bicycles in Chemnitz. Shortly afterwards they began to make bicycles of their own, since demand at that time was very high. These were sold under the brand name Wanderer, and in 1896 the company itself began to trade as Wanderer Fahrradwerke AG. Wanderer built its first motorcycle in 1902. The idea of branching out into motor car production was finally put into practice in 1913. A small two-seater that people nicknamed “Puppchen” (loosely translated as “Baby Doll”) heralded in Wanderer’s tradition of motor car production that was to last several decades.
By the end of the nineteenth century several companies in Germany were already building cars. Among them was August Horch & Cie., established on 14 November 1899 in Cologne. August Horch was one of the pioneer figures of automotive engineering. Before setting up business on his own, he worked for Carl Benz in Mannheim for three years as Head of Automobile Production. In 1904 August Horch moved his business to the town of Zwickau and transformed it into a share-issuing company. Following differences between the Executive and Supervisory Boards, August Horch left his company in 1909.
Established originally in 1902 as Rasmussen & Ernst in Chemnitz, the company moved to Zschopau, in Germany’s Erzgebirge mountains, in 1907. It first manufactured and sold waste steam oil traps and other components for steam raising plant, and later added centrifuges of all kinds and painting equipment to its product range. It also supplied car parts such as mudwings and vehicle lighting. The company’s founder Jörgen Skafte Rasmussen began to experiment with a steam-driven motor vehicle in 1916, registering “DKW” as a trademark. By 1919 the company’s name had been changed to Zschopauer Motorenwerke and it was manufacturing small two-stroke engines. This led in 1922 to the successful introduction of motorcycles bearing the DKW name. The first small DKW motor car appeared on the market in 1928.
On 29 June 1932, Audiwerke, Horchwerke and Zschopauer Motorenwerke/DKW merged on the initiative of the State Bank of Saxony to form Auto Union AG. At the same time a purchase and leasing agreement was concluded with the Wanderer company for the acquisition of its automobile department. The new group had its headquarters in Chemnitz. When Auto Union AG was established, it was the second-largest motor vehicle manufacturer in Germany. The four interlocking rings chosen as its emblem symbolised the indissoluble unity of the four member-companies. The brand names Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer were retained. Each of the four brands was allocated a specific market segment within the new company: DKW (motorcycles and small cars), Wanderer (medium-size cars), Audi (cars in the upper midsize market segment), Horch (top-class luxury cars).
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