Many car companies have very recognizable and valuable logos and brands. Audi happens to be one of those. The Audi brand has been majority-owned by the Volkswagen Group for more than 40 years now. A pretty mindblowing statistic is that Audi is in the top 10 most valuable car brands, coming in at #10 valued at $17.18 Billion dollars.
Now many of us can spot the 4 rings that the Audi logo makes and can recognize that it is an Audi. But what do the four rings mean in the Audi logo and what is the history behind the brand? We’re glad you are here because we’ll answer all the questions you have about the Audi brand.
Early Days of Audi
Audi didn’t begin as Audi. In fact, the four rings represent four different automakers coming together in 1932. These four automakers were: Horch, Audi, DKW, and Wanderer. We’ll go into a short description of the four so you can comprehend the early days of the massive company Audi has become.
August Horch founded “Horch Vehicles” in Cologne in 1899. Prior to August founding Horch, he was a production manager for Karl Benz, founder of Mercedes Benz. This is where his automotive intelligence began. He created innovative engines at Horch while he was on the board. In fact, he was the first engineer to develop a six-cylinder engine in 1907. The original Horch company had financial troubles and in 1909, the Board of Directors of Horch Vehicles forced August out of his own company. This wouldn’t stop August’s passion for vehicles.
Later in 1909, after being forced out of his own name company, August Horch created “Audi Automobilwerke GmbH” or put simply “Audi”. Audi happens to be Latin for “Horch”, yes, very creative. But little did he know, Audi would be a legendary brand in the automotive space a century later. We’ll get more in-depth on that a little later in this post. So, Audi produced its first car a year after being established, the Audi Type A Sport-Phaeton. In that same year, the Audi Type B Sport-Phaeton was released.
In the late 18th and early 19th century, Johann Winklhofer and Richard Jaenicke owned and operated a bicycle repair shop, which sparked their automotive interest. A few years later, they began to build bicycles alongside repairing bicycles. In 1902, they started to produce motorcycles and in 1905 they began designing automobiles. 8 long years later, they produced the first Wanderer automobile which put the company on the map in the automotive space.
Lastly, Rasmussen & Ernst was founded in 1902. So where does DKW come from? Rasmussen & Ernst originally produced fenders, vehicle lights, and all kinds of centrifuges. However, in 1916, the company started to experiment with steam cars under the origination of “DKW”. Although it wasn’t successful, it lead the company into creating automobiles and motorcycles under the DKW brand name.
What Do the Four Rings in the Audi Logo Mean?
Now we can get to the point. Due to the 1929 Great Depression, the four brands had no choice but to merge together under “Auto Union AG”. This union created the second-largest German automotive vehicle group at the time. This merger created the infamous four-ring logo Audi goes with today, which symbolized the unity of the four companies. Although not formally named Audi until 1985, the logo was the same aside from going from two dimensional to three dimensional.
Auto Union AG
In 1932, Auto Union AG was ahead of its time. It was a merger created with four companies that thrived in multiple industries. DKW was a household name that catered to motorcycles and small cars, Wanderer catered to mid-range automobiles, Audi catered to vehicles in the upper-middle class, and Horch catered to luxury vehicles for the upper class. Things seemed to be moving smoothly as the Auto Union invested heavily in innovating technology in the automotive space. They created the first six-cylinder engine FWD model. Then if you may know history, WWII began.
The Auto Union shifted from producing consumer motorcycles and automobiles to producing military vehicles. Their factory in Zwickau was inside Soviet Union’s borders and wasn’t accessible by the company at the time, so their resources were essentially liquidated leaving the Union scattering. However, the Auto Union AG execs decided to relocate to Bavaria to produce spare parts. Shortly after relocating, the Zwickau factory reopened and the Trabant was created, which they produced 3 million units reviving the Auto Union.
With the help of the Marshall Plan funding, the Auto Union AG was back. However, there wasn’t a factory that could mass-produce the FWD vehicles fast enough to keep up with consumer’s demand, so they rented for over a decade. This is where Daimler-Benz stepped in. They took an 87% holding, later increased to 100% holding in 1959, to help fund a factory. Unfortunately, the vehicles produced by the Auto Union didn’t align with Daimler-Benz’s vision, so they disposed of the Union in the early 60’s.
Many would think, where does this leave the “Auto Union”? Well since they were a big enough automobile manufacturer, they were fine and continued on producing and selling cars independently. That is until the Volkswagen Group approached them in 1964.
In 1964, Volkswagen took a 50% holding of the Auto Union. At first, VW was hesitant to take such a big holding so the Auto Union could produce their own cars. Heinz Nordhoff found out about the secret Audi 100 that was being designed by Audi and this launched Audi’s household name because he initiated the company to start producing these. In 1972, the Audi 80 was produced under the “Audi” naming convention, which resurrected the Audi name.
What is Audi Doing Now?
Volkswagen Group still owns the Audi brand and has reaped many financial benefits since the acquisition. In 1995, the Olympics committee took Audi to court because of the logo design closely resembling the Olympics ring logo. The court deemed the Audi rings had nothing to do with the Olympic rings, so the two logos still live without any repercussions. Since Volkswagen’s investment, Audi has continuously been a pillar in the automotive space for innovating new technologies.
Audi Logo Conclusion
Long story short, Audi has had a long journey, but now is one of the most popular German automotive brands. So to answer the, “Why Does the Audi Logo Have Four Rings?”, it became about because of the merger created in 1929. The four companies, which represent the four rings, that combined were Horch, Audi, Wanderer, and DKW creating the unity of four rings. So next time if anyone asks what the four rings mean in the Audi logo, you can answer them!
If you would like to read up on more Audi content, here is our write-up on “Audi Quattro®: What Does it Mean?“