July 11, 2000
A brief history of the four rings
Compliled by Matt Daniels from Audi AG press releases
The Audi emblem of the four rings denotes one of Germany's oldest automobile manufacturers. It symbolizes the merger in 1932 of four previously independent motor vehicle manufacturers: Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer. These companies are the foundation stones on which the present-day AUDI AG is built.
At the end of the 19th century, there were already a number of car manufacturers in Germany. One of them was August Horch & Cie., founded on November 14, 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 relocated his company to Zwickau and transformed it into a share-issuing company. However, in 1909 August Horch withdrew from the company he had founded, and set up a new enterprise under the name of "Audi".
The company established by August Horch in Zwickau on July 16, 1909 could not again take its founder's name for reasons of fair trade. Horch found a new name for the company by translating his name, which means "hark!", "listen!", into Latin. So it was that the second company to have been set up by August Horch commenced operations under the name Audi Automobilwerke GmbH, Zwickau, on April 25, 1910.
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 automobile production was finally put into practice in 1913. A small two-seater by the name of "Puppchen" heralded in Wanderer's tradition of motor car production that was to last several decades.
Originally founded under the name Rasmussen & Ernst 1904 in Chemnitz, the company was moved to Zschopau in the Erzgebirge region in 1907. The company initially manufactured and sold exhaust-steam oil separators for steam-raising plant, mudguards and lighting systems for motor vehicles, vulcanization equipment and centrifuges of all kinds.
The company's founder Jörgen Skafte Rasmussen began to experiment with a steam-driven motor vehicle in 1916, registering DKW as a trademark. In 1919 the company, by now renamed Zschopauer Motorenwerke, switched to the manufacture of small two-stroke engines, which from 1922 on served as a springboard for its success in building motorcycles under the brand name DKW. The first small DKW motor car appeared on the market in 1928.
Auto Union AG, Chemnitz
On June 29, 1932, Audiwerke, Horchwerke and Zschopauer Motorenwerke - DKW merged on the initiative of the State Bank of Saxony to form Auto Union AG. A purchase and leasing agreement was concluded at the same time with Wanderer, for the takeover of its Automobile Division. The new company's head offices were in Chemnitz.
Following the merger, Auto Union AG was the second-largest motor vehicle manufacturer in Germany. The company emblem, with four interlinked rings, symbolized the inseparable unity of the four founder-companies. The brand names Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer were retained. Each of the four brands was assigned a specific market segment within the group: DKW assumed responsibility for motorcycles and small cars; Wanderer built midsize cars; Audi manufactured cars in the deluxe midsize class, and Horch produced deluxe top-of-the-range automobiles.
Auto Union GmbH, Ingolstadt
In 1945, after the end of the second world war, Auto Union AG was expropriated by the occupying Soviet forces. The company's leading figures consequently moved to Bavaria, where a new company...
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