By Kelechi Deca
Audi is a car company with a very interesting history. During its formative years, the founders went through series of court cases to secure the brand name before setting off to focus on the business of car making.
Interestingly, the ‘all important’ brand name that they fought over, was not Audi, but Horch, named after August Horch, the key founder.
August Horch established the company A. Horch & Cie in 1899, after series of disagreements with the Board, he left to establish another automobile company, but his former partners sued him for trademark infringement.
The German Reichsgericht (Supreme Court) ruled that the Horch brand belonged to his former company. Thus August Horch was prohibited from using “Horch” as a trade name in his new car business.
Defeated in Court, August Horch called a meeting with close business friends, Paul and Franz Fikentscher at the apartment of Franz Fikentscher where they discussed how to wriggle out of the brand name issue and get a new name for their planned motor company.
As they were deliberating at the top of their voices, Mr. Franz Fikentscher’s son who was doing his Latin assignment at the corner of the room came and interrupted their meeting. He said, “Father, wouldn’t it be a good idea to call the new company Audi as you are banned to use Horch? “Horch!” in German means “Hark!” or “hear”, which is “Audi” in the singular imperative form of “audire” – “to listen” – in Latin.
The idea was enthusiastically accepted by everyone attending the meeting. And on 25 April 1910 the Audi Automobilwerke GmbH Zwickau was entered in the company’s register of Zwickau registration court.
Then in 1932, four different automobile engineering companies led by August Horch agreed to come together to compete in Germany’s top end luxury brand driven by a forward looking design and engineering philosophy that will anticipate what consumers dream of tomorrow, and incorporate it today. The four rings of the Audi logo each represent one of four car companies that banded together to create Audi’s predecessor company, Auto Union.
The company adopted the Four Rings which they said signifies the philosophy of progressive engineering behind the Audi marquee. The Four Rings symbolizes the amalgamation of four previously independent motor-vehicle manufacturers that share design and engineering philosophy. They are Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer. These companies form the roots of what is today AUDI AG.
Audi has one of the most multi-faceted stories ever told in the history of the automobile. Thanks to his victorious involvement in the Austrian Alpine Runs, August Horch succeeded in making Audi internationally known in just a few years. Audi’s impact in the automobile industry has been legendary. It has always been ahead of others by pioneering concepts other companies are cautious to think of.
Audi was the first company to come up with the legendary quattro (all-wheel drive) technology with a drive train of viscous couplings and differentials on a fast car. Even though Subaru started the mass producing of AWD in 1972, Audi’s is quite different. Quattro means four in Italian.
Interestingly, the quattro by Audi is always written in a lower case “q” because of trade mark legal issues. Even after Volkwagen took over ownership of Audi, they were not allowed to use the term quattro on similar technology in VW cars; instead they used ‘syncro’ but later changed to 4motion.
Though many car companies have similar technology like the 4matic by Mercedes Benz, the Audi quattro remains innovative cutting edge because the manner power is shared through the diff-lock system from AWD to 4WD, where the All Wheel Drive does not have an adjustable drivetrain to make Rear Wheel Drive RWD or even 4X2.
If you have had the opportunity to drive Audi car with the quattro, and compare to other cars with the AWD especially when a slippery surface, or uneven ground calls the technology to report for duty, you’ll be in a better position to know why the quattro is said to have come before its time.
With other cars, you’d feel a drop in torque while handling a sharp corner. And you also feel that little struggle to maintain balance without tilting. Moreover, there’s always that click sound or feel of inertia as the engine is trying to distribute power to different axles.
But with Audi you don’t get these feels. The smoothness is like slicing knife through butter. The seamlessness with which it accelerates even on very tight bends can only come from near perfect engineering.
Over the years Audi has been led by a core philosophy of beautiful design, intelligent, state-of-the-art technology, top-of-the-line performance in every detail without a single compromise in quality. These values continue to drive Audi into the future. And also make its cars the most preferred by younger people because of its forward looking “anticipated engineering”.
Audi: Vorsprung durch Technik, meaning “Being Ahead through Technology”
Kelechi Deca, a petrolhead, culture and wildlife writer is Editor-in-Chief, The Economy Magazine.