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Audi drives on technology

By Charles Hopkins Published 05/18/2006 | Auto and Trucks

Audi, which is a subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group, has always lived up to its tagline Advantage through Technology. It has also never given up to adverse conditions during its long and turbulent history.  Even the heavy bombing of its headquarters at Ingolstadt, Bavaria, could not stop the company from emerging as a major German car maker. Today, Audi produces over 2 million vehicles annually at its main production site in Ingolstadt and has another production plant in Neckarsulm.

The Audi has an interesting story behind its name. The company was founded in 1899 by August Horch and a few others, and the first Horch automobile was produced in 1901. The word Horch in German means listen while in Latin it means Audi. Horch, after being thrown out of his company, set up another car making unit. He named the first car that was produced in the new plant as Audi . However, there are some who believe that Audi is the acronym for Auto Union Deutschland Ingolstadt.

In 1932, Audi, Horch, DKW and Wanderer were merged. Later, Daimler-Benz acquired it in 1959 but sold it to Volkwagen in 1965. In 1969, Audi was merged with NSU based at Neckarsulm. Presently several lines of Audi cars are produced in Neckarsulm.

In the 1960s Audi entered the modern era of car making, and rolled out two popular models -- Audi 100 and Audi 80/Fox. However, it was the launch of Quattro that changed its image from that of a conservative car maker to that of a modern car maker. Quattro, which was made using the four-wheel drive technology in Volkswagen's Iltis military vehicle, was a turbocharged coupe. But it was the all-wheel drive that caught the fancy of buyers.

In 1987, Audi put forward a new and very elegant Audi 90. The new A4 and the A4/6/8 series were developed together with VW and other sister brands. Audi interestingly also made a name in the field of racing cars. It won several laurels with its racing models A4, A8 and A10. But the most successful sports car from the Audi stable was Sport Quattro S1. Another successful sports car that Audi produced was Audi R8.

Audis technological innovations and frequent improvements made every new model different from the existing one.  It became the first company to produce 100% galvanized cars. The fully zinc coated body was manufactured to prevent corrosion and rusting. In 1994 the Audi A8 was introduced with aluminum space frame technology. Later, the all-aluminum concept was extended to the Audi A2 of 2001.

Audi used the inline 5 cylinder, 2.1/2.2 L engine in its race cars. The 2.1 L inline 5 cylinder engine was used as a base for the rally cars in the 1980s. Before 1990, there were engines produced with a displacement between 2.0 L and 2.3 L. This engine also produced good fuel economy.

At the turn of the century, Audi introduced the direct shift gearbox, which includes dual electro hydraulically controlled clutches instead of a torque converter. The engine range was also upgraded, with a 2.7 L twin turbo V6 being offered in the Audi S4 and A6. Audi has now introduced FSI on some of its engines.

By staying ahead in technology Audi has carved an important position for itself in the automobile industry.