The Evolution of the Audi Logo1 August 2020
For car lovers, it is a known fact that the company was previously named Auto Union. But for everyone else, this will probably be a discovery. It is interesting to follow this thread, because it explains where the Audi name and logo came from, which also helps to understand better the brand and its vision.
From Horch to Audi
In 1899, August Horch, an ex-employee of Karl Benz (Mercedes Benz) launched his own company called A. Horch & Cie. However, 10 years later, due to serous incompatibility between himself and the board of directors, he decided to leave and start another one. Still wanting to use his own name, he called it August Horch Automobil Werke. That did not go well with A. Horch & Cie who decided to sue him. They won their case in front of the Reich tribunal, forcing him to find a new name for his endeavour.
One day, he was having a meeting with his partner at his place, and he heard his colleague’s son speaking Latin in the other room, preparing for school. That reminded August Horch that his name, in German came from the word “hark”, meaning “to listen.” He immediately thought to translate it in the ancient language he was hearing from the other room. That word in Latin is Audi. They both thought it sounded great and decided to keep it.
Audi Specializes Early in Sports Cars
One year after the new company was built, it launched its first car. At that time the Audi logo was not made out of the four circles but the font used for the name was quite similar to today. The car was the Audi Type A Sport-Phaeton, built in Zwickau. It was clear that the direction Horch wanted to give to his new enterprise was towards sports cars and one year later, they entered into sports racing at the Austrian Alps Cup. This race was known to be particularly difficult on the cars since it was an endurance race. Audi then went on to win it three times in a row from 1912 to 1914.
Audi Merges with Three Partners to Create Auto Union
Many people often wonder why there are four rings in the Audi logo. It is actually quite easy to explain. In 1932, four carmakers decided that it would be better for them to merge. It included Audi, Horch (his first company), DKW and Wanderer. The new name was to be Auto Union. They would then create the Audi emblem as we know it today, by linking four circles to represent their race cars. As for each of the partners’ factory cars, they continued to produce them under their own brand name and use their own logo.
However, sports cars were not so popular in the 1930s, when society was going through the financial crisis. Therefore, Auto Union concentrated on building smaller cars. By the year 1938, the four partners almost reached 20% of the sales of all cars in Germany, but Audi only accounted for 0.1% of them. By 1939, the number of Audi cars sold became so insignificant that the Audi logo and name disappeared from the group and remained so for almost 20 years.
Daimler-Benz Takes over Auto Union, Only to Sell it to Volkswagen
It took two years for Daimler-Benz to take complete control of Auto Union. In 1958, shareholders of Auto Union pressured the group into selling 87% of its shares to Daimler-Benz, who went on to buy the rest, the following year. However, they quickly decided that selling small cars was not the future of the company and so they decided to look for another buyer. It found the right company in Volkswagen who specialized in small cars and sold them 50% of the ownership, making them equal partners inside Auto Union. At that time, Daimler-Benz also included the rights to the Auto Union name and of all the brands inside.
Because the DKW cars were associated to two strokes engines and Volkswagen were focussed on four strokes, it decided that the only way to keep the brand was to turn them into four strokes engine and to change the name so it wouldn’t remind people of the old model. Since the company owned the names of all brands inside Auto Union, it removed DKW and renamed it Audi. This was the beginning of the revival of the name.
The Final Evolution of the Audi Logo and Name
There was a merge between Auto Union and NSU in 1969. Volkswagen then decided to integrate the NSU products directly into its own brand while Auto Union integrated the NSU brand and became Audi NSU Auto Union AG.
Almost 10 years later, there were no more models being produced under either the name Auto Union or NSU and so the company changed its name to Audi AG. The logo changed slightly as the name was inserted into a singular circle. But in 1958, the company decided to celebrate its heritage by bringing back the four interlinked circles. The Audi logo font still remains quite close to the original today.