Thursday Trivia

Thirsday Trivia
Welcome to Thursday Trivia where we offer up a historical automotive trivia question and you try and solve it before seeing the answer after the jump. It’s like a history test, with cars!
This week’s question: Why Did August Horch found Audi, and when he did, why did he call it Audi?
If you think you know the answer make the jump and see if you’re right.
When you want to look for venerable automotive brand names, Germany is a great place to start. The first American-built practical automobile is considered to be the 1893 Duryea, but Germany’s Karl Benz wrenched together his Patent Motorcar eight years prior to that. Today you can still buy a car with the Benz name on it, which is more than can be said of Duryea, unless you’re a car museum or brass-era collector.
Germany is filled with famous car names, some of which you are no doubt familiar, and a number that are likely fairly obscure. Some are even from the same companies!
One of those less familiar companies is Horch, named for its founder, August Horch and located initially in Colonge. Prior to starting his own business, August Horch had worked as a production manager for our good friend Karl Benz.  He moved his new company to Reichenbach im Vogtland near the Czechoslovakian border in 1902.
As was often the case with early automotive startups, Horch suffered financial struggles as well as disagreements with his stakeholders over how the business should be run. That culminated with his removal from the company by the board in 1909, which included the loss of the use of his family name for any future automotive endeavors.
Of course you can’t keep a good industrialist down and in just the following year Hotch founded a new automotive enterprise. Ah, but what to call it? How about Audi. Audi, what’s that?
From Eurosport Tuning:

In Latin, the word Audi means “hear” and in German the word for hear is “horch” — the founder of Audi is August Horch.

And a little more from Wikipedia:

In 1909, the supervisory board (the German equivalent of the Board of Directors) of the corporation forced out Horch. Horch went on to found Audi as Audiwerke GmbH, which became effective on 25 April 1910.
The name was a solution to the legal dispute with his old company over use of the Horch brand and a clever play of words (“audi” is the literal Latin translation of the Old German “horch”, meaning the imperative “Listen!”).

Horch (the car company) and Audi would have further dealings as in 1932 they, along with DKW and Wanderer, were combined into Auto Union, a sort of German General Motors.
audi-union_1458387872Over the ensuing years each brand would have varying levels of success and failure, with the whole ball of wax being shifted to military production during World War II and then reconstituted in 1949 as an automaker. Audi and Horch brands were mothballed, and Wanderer released to its original patent holders, leaving only low-end maker DKW as the company’s standard barer.
That would last until the late ’50s when Daimler Benz (remember Karl?) bought a controlling share in Auto Union. Their purpose was two-fold: to expand production capacity and to grow their price points downmarket without denigrating the Benz brand.
Daimler would eventually sell Auto Union to Volkswagen, which merged the remaining marques with NSU, another brand they had previously obtained. The new company would ride under the resurrected Audi name.
Today, rather than a Benz under-brand, Audi competes with the Stuttgart company on and almost model by model basis. As for Horch, it’s been rumored to make a comeback as some sort of “super Audi” much as Mercedes has done with the Maybach. Nothing has come of that so far, but we’ll keep “horching.”
Image: Wikipedia

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4 responses to “Thursday Trivia”

  1. engineerd Avatar

    I love that story. Guy loses rights to use his own name. Does so anyway with a Latin twist.
    By the way, my German verb conjugation is horrible, but I’m pretty sure the present participle of “horch” would not be “horching”.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      Didn’t that happen to Ransom E Olds too? And I think Henry Ford in one of his earlier companies too.

  2. Batshitbox Avatar

    German names are fascinating in that they almost all stem from a dwelling place, a profession, a military weapon or virtue, or even just a physical characteristic (Weisskopf, Schwartzkopf, Rosskopf)
    “Horch” can also be a “name for someone who lived in a swampy place, from Middle High German
    hor ‘mire’, ‘mud’. German: nickname for an eavesdropper, from Middle High German horchen ‘to listen’.”
    (Mesloh is also a topographical name meaning “swampy low forest”, evidently there was a lot of muck and mire in Old Germany.)

  3. Fred Talmadge Avatar
    Fred Talmadge

    There’s a typo, Horch moved to Reichenbach in 1902, not 1092