Audi AG, part of the Volkswagen group since 1964, is a German company producing cars. It is a luxury brand producing top quality vehicles and race cars, founded in 1909 by August Horch. Since its foundation, it has always fostered innovation, and today the research sector has a strong position inside the company. The article will illustrate ten less-known facts and curiosities about one of the most famous car brands in the world.
The Founder: August Horch
August Horch was born in 1868 in Winningen and worked initially as a blacksmith. Later on, he attended the Mittweida Technical College, becoming then an engineer. What only a few know is that he initially worked for Karl Benz, founder of Mercedes-Benz, before founding his own company, called A. Horch & Co: in fact, he was irreconcilable with Benz, that was not keen on innovation and was already satisfied with the production, thus always fighting with his employees that tried to raise the performance level of the cars. The very first car he built was known as Horch-Wagen. It was constituted by an already-built car body and by a new type of engine, patented by Horch himself, with the peculiarity to reduce the vibration produced, and mounted on the front of the car, instead of the back, decreasing the similarity with charts.
The Name and the Symbol
The very first name of what we know today as Audi was Auto Union. August Horch had to leave his first company (A. Horch & Co) when it expanded because of a bad relationship with some co-workers, deciding to establish another company. For judicial reasons, he could not use his surname to designate the new factory, thus choosing its translation into Latin: Audi (“horch” is the imperative of “to listen”, translated into audi). In June of 1932 Audi and Horch joined together with DKW and Wanderer to form Auto Union that later on took the name of Audi. DWK products had the same importance as the Audi ones, representing the High-volume Auto Union model range; other relevant segments of the manufacture were motorcycles and stationary engines production. Wanderer remained a separate independent company, specializing in bicycles and motorcycles even though collaborating with Auto Union. The four rings of the logo, thus, represents the four initial companies, merged into a unique corporation.
Audi R8 is a car produced by the high-performance automotive parts of Audi AG, called Audi Sport GmbH, presenting an aluminium monocoque built using space frame principles. The first production of this model dates back to 2006 until 2015, the second since 2015. The interesting fact about this sport-car is that it is manufactured exclusively by the most experienced employees that worked in the company for a longer period, called “silver liners” since most of them have grey hair, being at the end of their working life. Every R8 body is subject to an x-ray check after production.
Audi and the Nazi-regime
During the II World War, Auto Union made a fundamental contribution, converting the production plants and adapting them to the production of auto tracks and car frames for ambulances, which also happened during the I World War to Horch’s factory. A less known fact is that Auto Union exploited slave labourers from concentration camps: they arranged a deal with SS, and more than 37000 prisoners from Nazi camps had to work for the company. Richard Bruhn (who died in 1965) is considered the “Father of Auto Union”: he was chairman of the company from 1932 to 1945, and again after the War, was a Nazi party member. Around 2004 Audi paid millions into a fund created by the automobile industry in Germany to compensate the prisoners forced to work for the factory and their descendants.
Audi was the first automaker to produce left-hand drive vehicles. In 1921 Audi type-K was the first model to be designed with the steering wheel at the left. For a lot of time, left-handed cars were driven on the left side of the road and then gradually moved to the right: there was no rule for the steering wheel position, which was up to the car factories. Type-K was produced until 1926 and was the reason why left-handed vehicles became popular until the German legislation in 1938 established the left-handed cars as official. It is probably thanks to Audi fame that most of the countries are today left-handed.
First in Safety
Audi was the first manufacturer to pioneer several safety measures. First of all, they were the first to perform what today is a car crash test: they pushed a car down the hill to demonstrate to the audience that Audi cars were safe. The automobile rolled several times before coming to a stop, with the engine still working and nearly undamaged. They were the first car company to introduce crumple zones into their product: they are structural safety which, by deformation, absorb the impact and the consequent drastic change in velocity. By the 1960s they introduced crash-test dummies to simulate the human body’s reaction inside the car during accidents, and in the 1970s they built the first facility to perform crash tests, which is still in use today.
Designed by Porsche and manufactured by Audi, Type-C was a racing car, making its first debut in 1934, challenging Mercedes-Benz and Alpha Romeo and setting up diverse speed records. The highest speed It was capable of was 340 km/h and the power of 560 hp. On the 28th of January 1938, a race was run to beat the record of Caricciola of 432.7 km/H in the Frankfurt-Darmstadt motorway. Despite the brilliant performance, the second run ended tragically: the car left the road close to Morsfelden, and the driver Bernd Rosemeyer was thrown out of the car, dying instantly.
Robotic Race Car
The race car Audi TTS known as Shelley is a self-driving vehicle, created from the collaboration between Stanford’s Dynamic Design Lab and the Volkswagen Electronics Research Lab, and tested for the first time in 2012 in the Thunderhill Raceway, north of Sacramento in California. The curious fact is that there is very little difference between the driving style of a car and a vehicle with a human driver: Shelley’s algorithms calculate the best and fastest track, whereas humans still base their decision on intuition and feel, not on scientific data, which could cause a mistake in the chosen route. Despite that, the car is still slower than a human-driven vehicle, even though just for a few seconds. In the future, there might be an improvement of autonomous cars, adding the brain activity performance of a professional driver.
Audi Rover on the moon
Audi production has gone beyond the imagination and is not limited to terrestrial vehicles: Audi Lunar Quattro is a rover manufactured in 2015, which should explore on the moon in October 2021. It can navigate the lunar surface, equipped with tiltable solar panels, a four-wheel electrical chain, rechargeable batteries and science-grade high-definition cameras. With its 30 kg weight and the capacity of withstanding an additional 5 kg, it is designed to resist the space environment. Certainly, this represents an impressive evolution since the foundation of the factory, which had always been ahead of its time.
Sponsor of the New York Yankees
Audi has been the New York Yankees’ official luxury automotive partner since 2009 when it replaced Toyota and General Motors automotive partners. Audi owns a private spot located at SAP suite level at the Yankees stadium. Audi Yankees Club, allows the customers of Audi to enjoy exclusive events and services, hosting top celebrity chefs. The club has a surface of circa 418 m2 and can host up to 450 guests for social events and celebrations, offering a direct view on the playing field, through floor-to-ceiling windows.
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Carey, B., 2012. Shelley, Stanford’s robotic racecar, hits the track. [online] Stanford University. Available at: https://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/august/shelley-autonomous-car-081312.html [Accessed 14 October 2021].
audi.com. n.d. Four rings – four brands. [online] Available at: https://www.audi.com/en/company/history/four-brands-four-rings.html [Accessed 14 October 2021].
Staff, T., 2014. German car maker Audi reveals Nazi past. [online] Timesofisrael.com. Available at: https://www.timesofisrael.com/german-car-maker-audi-reveals-nazi-past/ [Accessed 14 October 2021].