Audi is one of the biggest car manufacturers in Germany, as well as the whole world. Their history is fairly long and interesting, and, as a result of various deliberations and mergers in early 20th century Germany, we have now one of the most iconic and recognizable logos ever. This story began in 1909.
Meaning and History
Founded in 1909, Audi was not the first company started by August Horch. The decade before, he created another firm with his name. Because of it, he couldn’t give the same name to his second company. But he bypassed it by translating his surname to Latin. ‘Audi’ means ‘listen’ (which also translates to ‘horch’ in German’).
As such, the first draft of the logo was simply the name of the new company styled as a signature. It had an aesthetically pleasant cursive font with a metallic color. This image wasn’t really distinguishable or unique. The logo had to convey a message, and that’s why it was changed that very year.
1909 – 1932
The new logo clearly hinted that Audi is indeed a car manufacturer. The text was slightly changed, repainted white, reduced and put into a downward black triangle. From the top of this triangle, a gear stick stuck out. Now, everyone could clearly tell the purpose of the new company.
Interestingly, the design of a knob makes it look like a ‘1’ number, which may be an intentional decision by Horch, for many reasons.
1932 – 1949
In 1932, there happened a merger between Audi and 3 other German car producers: his initial business, Wanderer and DKW. That’s when the modern iconic logo was invented – the four rings symbolized the four manufacturers.
The rings had a dark blue color, and each had a logo of a mother company put inside it. From left to right stood: Audi, DKW (the arrow-like badge with a triangle and the company name on it), Horch (capital ‘H’ that supported the crown-like word ‘Horch’) and Wanderer (the ‘W’ letter styled as wings, and the name underneath).
1949 – 1969
Years later, Audi decided to get rid of the inner logos and instead put one black bar in the middle of the logo. The words on top of it said ‘AUTO UNION’ in bold white. This partially compensated the lack of representation the companies had until then. The rings were also now black and a bit thicker than before.
In the 60s, Audi was bought by Volkswagen, which merged them and another company, NSU, into one brand. The new logo now depicted a black bar with bold white words ‘Audi NSU’, the rings were removed.
In the same year, the logo was changed again in favor of Audi symbols. Moreover, the company introduced two logos: one for car badges, and the other – for other occasions.
1969 – 1995 (badge)
The Audi rings were instantly recognizable by then, so the owners chose to put them on the car badges, rather than any NSU emblems. These were put on the front of the cars, so the customers would notice the Audi product right away.
The new rings were even thicker, had a slightly dark blue color. The designers made an effort to depict them as separate, but interlinked, rather than completely unified. This little detail was later omitted.
1969 – 1995 (logo)
The non-badge emblem was a slightly lightened black oval with the word ‘Audi’ on it. The way it was written was completely copied from the previous logo, where the ‘A’ had an appendage on the top of it, and the ‘D’ looked by an ‘OK’ sign.
1978 – 1995 (logo)
Audi brought forth another logo variant in 1978 which was used simultaneously with the black oval, but on different occasions. The text remained intact, but the oval was repainted red and was encircled by a thick white frame and then another thin red one.
1995 – 2009
In 1995 the logos united. The new emblem depicted the familiar rings. They bore a new silvery color, but had shades. Because of it, they change the color from dark grey to white in different places. Due to this highly realistic look, the rings appeared as if welded where they went underneath or above one another before.
Right below this image, the designers put a red word ‘Audi’, whose style didn’t change since the merger with NSU.
2009 – 2016
In 2009, Audi changed the design of the rings. They were still realistic, but now flatter and yet more prominent. The shades were shifted as well. They became more uniform and orderly. The name underneath was shifted to the left. The color remained the same, but the font has become stricter and less aesthetic.
2016 – now
The company emblem took a sudden turn in 2016, when it was stripped of all details. The rings on the modern version didn’t change their shape – they were simply made completely black. The text underneath was removed completely, which draws from the fact that the customers already know that the four rings symbolize Audi.
The cars still bear large silver rings on the front, but for all other purposes, the logo is now black. After all the deliberations and reworks, the logo is finally simplistic and clean.
Audi is quite famous for their commercial cars, like Audi 100, A3, A4, A5, and so on. However, the place where Audi technology truly shows its mettle is the racing trek. Audi was one of the main competitors at Le Mans, having achieved unbroken streaks of victories in 2000-2002, 2004-2008 and 2010-2014.
They are the second most prized member of the races, second only to Porsche. However, they started back in the 70s, while Audi joined just recently, and dropped out in 2016.
Audi R8 has won 5 first places, more than any other car in history of this trek. R18 is the latest Audi to compete, and it had 4 consecutive wins before it was made obsolete by Porsches.
The Concept Cars
Lately, Audi has been developing a very intriguing technology called Audi AI. It is a driver assist, but they have already created prototypes that can go up to 60 km/h without any interference from the pilot. Audi R8 is going to have this software soon.
The latest concept with this technology is called AI: Trail. Astoundingly, it’s a self-driving off-road car, and these are very hard to create. It is futuristic, stylish and robust – if they finish it, it’ll be a major statement of the power of German technology.
Audi Race Cars
As mentioned, Audi is the second most successful manufacturer to compete in Le Mans, but the first Audi race cars were created back in the 30s. Back then, they were close rivals with Mercedes – both producers racing together on international Grand Prix races over and over until the WW2.
Audi’s most famous product of the time was the C-class – a ‘bullet’ car, which was rarely beaten (mostly by Mercedes). It had a V-16 engine and could go up to 340 km/h. After that, Audi never really made any prominent race cars up until 2000, when they came back with R8.