Audi - from also-ran to pace-setter

Jay Nagley

Audi is a demonstration that banging your head against a brick wall for long enough can, very occasionally, bring the wall down – so long as you are prepared to stand there for 20 years getting a bad headache.

When VW bought Auto Union from Mercedes, of all people in the mid 1960s, VW wanted it mainly for its production facilities – it could see little future for the cars. The first Audi was simply a re-engined version of the long-forgotten Auto Union DKW F102 (catchy name, huh?) and was meant to be the first and last Audi of the post-war period. However, Audi engineers secretly developed the first 100 model against VW's orders. When the VW boss saw the result, he changed his mind and allowed Audi to continue with both the 100 and the subsequent 80. In fact the first VW Passat was simply an Audi 80 with a hatchback body – the engineering all came from Audi.