Print ad courtesy Production Cars.com.
Formerly part of Auto Union with DKW, Horch and Wanderer, Audi didn’t (re)exist as a brand until 1969. The marque made its U.S. debut for the 1970 model year, which meant that the automaker was still something of an unknown here in 1972. To help build confidence among American consumers, this print ad pointed out that, as an automaker, Audi’s roots went back further than the Ford Model T.
The charcoal sketch depicts a circa 1905 Horch sedan, which the ad advises “was what an Audi was called before it was called an Audi.” While that’s essentially correct, the brand’s lineage is a bit more convoluted than that, dating as far back as 1901, when August Horch produced his first prototype automobile on the outskirts of Cologne.
In May of 1904, Horch founded Horch & Cie Motorwagenwerke AG (roughly Horch & Company Automobile Factory) in Zwickau, Germany, with a focus on building premium quality, technologically advanced automobiles. While early Horch models used two-cylinder engines, a four-cylinder was standard by this time, helping to grow production from 18 units in 1903 to 94 units in 1907. By 1909, however, internal strife prompted Horch’s departure, and he began a new enterprise entitled August Horch Automobilwerke, also in Zwickau,
The name didn’t last long, as the management of his original company wasted no time in registering 13 trademarks using variants of the Horch name. By 1910, this number had doubled to 26, leaving August Horch with no alternative but to start a new company, one that did not incorporate his family name.
While Horch and his associates struggled to find a new name for the enterprise, it was the young son of colleague Franz Fikentscher who suggested “Audi,” a Latin word that means “listen.” Horch, translated from German means “hark,” while the verb form, horchen, means “to listen;” essentially, the younger Fikentscher had simply translated Horch’s name to Latin, and in the process, created a brand identity that fit well with the automobile.
Audi Automobil-Werke m.b.H. would become Audiwerke AG in 1915, and in 1932 would join with brands DKW, Horch and Wanderer to become Auto Union. Auto Union would go through additional changes in the aftermath of WWII, but the reborn Auto Union GmbH brand would soldier on until 1969, when the company officially became Audi NSU Auto Union AG, a name shortened to Audi AG in 1985.
Company history aside, the 1972 Audi 100 featured a larger four-cylinder engine than the previous version, and was available in base, LS and GL trims, with two doors or four. Sales climbed from 18,179 units in 1971 to 26,703 in 1972, and by the end of 1973 had reached 31,065. Audi had clearly established itself with U.S. customers, perhaps with a little help from August Horch and Henry Ford.