Car History 4U

History of German Motor Car / Automobile Manufacturers

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8.6 Germany

  • 8.6.1. Audi
    • The August Horch & Cie (company) was established in 1899 and in 1901 Horch produced his first cars.
    • Eight years later, in 1909, the company’s board of directors forced Horch to leave the company he had formed.
    • The following year, in 1910, Horch formed the Audi Company. Unable to use the Horch name for legal reasons he chose “Audi” because it was the latin translation of his name.
    • Audi's first cars included four-cylinder 2.6, 3.6, 4.7 and 5.7 litre models.

      Audi Type E 1923
    • In 1928 the company was acquired by the owner of DKW and four years later, in 1932, Audi and DKW merged with Horch’s original company and the Wanderers company to form Auto Union.
    • Note: The Wanderer car manufacturer was formed in 1911 and started out producing 1,145 and 1,220 cc models.
    • Between 1928 and 1939, the August Horch & Cie.,now part of Auto Union, produced about 11 models, including the 350, 375, 930V, 850, 851, 853 and 855.
    • In the 1930s DKW was the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer. It produced cars from 1928 to 1966.
    • At the end of World War 2 in 1945 Auto Union, which Audi was part of, found itself part of East Germany. Their factory was used to produce Trabant cars, including the P601 model (2.5 million made between 1961 and 1990).
    • In 1963 Daimler-Benz acquired control of Auto Union, selling the company on to Volkswagen the following year.
    • A model designated internally as “F103” was launched in 1965 and sold as “Audi”. A few years later it became known as the Audi 72.
    • Other models produced between 1966 and 1972 include the Audi 80, Super 90, 75 and the 1,496 cc 60 model (over 200,000 of which were made between 1965 and 1972). These models were named after their horsepower ratings.
    • Between 1968 and 1976 the Audi 100 was the company's most successful car, selling over 827,000.
    • In 1969, Auto Union merged with NSU (who built cars from 1906 to 1928, resuming car production in 1958). The merged company, still part of the Volkswagen group, was named  "Audi NSU Auto Union AG". 
    • One of the first cars to be produced after the merger was the Audi 80/Fox which formed the basis of the 1973 Volkswagen Passat.
    • The Audi 50, a 1,093 cc 3-door super-mini hatchback, was produced between 1974 and 1978.
    • In addition to LS and GLS versions, a total of 180,812 were produced.
    • In 1975 Volkswagen introduced the Polo Mark 1, a rebadged version of the Audi 50 and for 3 years, until production of the Audi 50 ceased in 1978, both versions were available.
    • Up to 1979, when an upgraded version was produced, about 500,000 Mark 1 Polo’s were built, significantly out selling the Audi 50. See also Section 8.6.5, Volkswagen.
    • The Audi Quattro  was produced from 1980 to 1991 and over 11,000 were made. It originally had a 2,144 cc engine, which was later increased to 2,226 cc.
    • In 1985 the company’s name was shortened to  "Audi AG".
    • By 1991, the Audi range included the  Audi 80, 90, 100, 200 and Audi V8.
    • Models produced in 2007 include the Q7, R8, TT, A3, A4, A5, A6 and the A8.
  • 8.6.2. BMW
    • In 1928 the Bayrischen Motoren Werke Company acquired the Dixi factory and produced their first model, the BMW-Dixi 3/15, that year.

      BMW Dixi 3-15
    • Between about 1933 and 1939 BMW produced cars of their own design, including models 303, 327, 328 and the 335 sedan.

      1938 BMW 328 Model
    • The 501 model (1952-58) was the first car that the company produced after World War 2. Between 1955 and 1959 BMW also produced the Isetta, a single seat “bubble” car.
    • The 697 cc 700 model was the most successful of the cars that BMW started producing in the 1950s, with nearly 190,000 being manufactured between 1959 and 1965.
    • Other models produced during the 1950s include the 502, 503, 507 and the 600.
    • In Soviet controlled East Germany BMWs factory was taken over and became known as the Eisenacher Motor-Werke EMW. Until 1951 EMW sold cars as  "BMWs" and then, until production ceased in 1955, as “EMWs”.
    • Between 1960 and 1990 the company produced a range of models that inluded the 1500–2800 range, 528i, 628, 633, 635, 645Ci, 323i, M1, 528i, M5, M3, Z1 and the 750iL.
    • Between 1977 and 2005 BMW produced over 9.5 million of their Series 3 cars.
    • 2007 models include the 3, 5,6 & 7-Series, M5, M6, X3, X5 and Z4 cars.
  • 8.6.3. Mercedes (Daimler-Benz)
    • The Daimler-Benz AG company was formed in 1926; Mercedes-Benz being a brand name for vehicles produced by the company.
    • Between 1934-36 the company produced the 5,018 cc supercharged 500K model and then the 5,401 cc 540 version (1936-39). When production ceased in 1939 about 760 of these two models had been produced.

      1934 Mercedes 500K Model
    • The company also produced the smaller 1,797 cc, 170 V model from 1935/6 to 1942, with production resuming in 1947 until 1955. Nearly 156,000 of these cars were made.
    • The 2,545 cc 260 D model was also produced in the 1930s (1936-39) and it is thought to have been the world’s first diesel powered production car.

      Mecedes 260D 1936-1939
    • The Ponton series of cars started to replace the pre-war designed 170 V model in 1953. These were the 180, 190, 219 and 220 models.
    • Other models produced after the end of World War 2 in 1945 until 1980 include the 230, 250, 280, 300, 350, 450SEL and  600.
    • Between 1965 and 2005 the company also produced the A, B, C, E, M & S Class cars, and the Vaneo, CLK, CLS and SL models.
    • Approx. 2.7 million S-Class cars were produced between 1965 and 2005/6.
    • In 1998 Daimler-Benz merged with Chrysler to create DaimlerChrysler AG.
    • Mercedes-Benz vehicles have been manufactured or assembled in Argentina, Austria, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Malaysia, Nigeria, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, U.K and U.S.A.
    • Mercedes-Benz cars being produced in 2007 include the A,B,C,E & S Class, SLK/SL/SLR, CLK/CLS/Cl, M, and R models.
  • 8.6.4. Opel
    • The Adam Opel Company, which was formed in 1863, started out making Lutzmann cars under licence in 1898 and French Darracq cars two years later.
    • In 1902 the company decided to produce their own cars. Early models include the 10/18 PS Doppelphaeton and the 4/8 PS Doktorwagen 2-Sitzer.
    • By 1913 they were the largest car maker in Germany.
    • In 1929 the company was acquired by General Motors.
    • Opel started production of the Olympia model in 1935. It was the first mass-produced car with a chassis not seperated from the body. By 1940 over 168,000 had been made.

      Opel Olympia Cabrio 1937
    • The model was also produced from 1947 to 1952. In 1953 it was replaced by the Olympia Rekord and 580,000 were made by 1957.
    • Between 1937 and 1940 Opel produced the Kadett. The A and B versions were produced from 1962 to 1973, with over 3.2 million made. 
    • From 1958 to 1975 the Opel name was used in the United States; the cars being sold by Buick dealers. The top Opel models being the Kadett (1964-72), Manta (1971-75) and the Opel GT (1968-73).
    • The top selling “super-mini” Opel Corsa was introduced in 1982 and by 2002 over 11 million, under a variety of names, had been produced.
    • In addition to Germany the Corsa has also been built in Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Mexico, South Africa and Spain.
    • Production of the Opel Vectra started in 1988 and by 2002 over 4.5 million had been made. Up to 1995 this model was called the Vauxhall Cavalier in Great Britain.
    • The Opel Astra was first produced in 1991 and well over 7 million have been produced. The model has been built in Belgium, Brazil, Germany, Great Britain, India, Poland, Russia, South Africa and Ukraine.
    • Since car production started over 100 years ago Opel have used about 40 different model names.
    • Models available in 2007 include the Astra, Corsa, Meriva, Speedster, Tigra, Vectra, Vivaro and Zafira.
  • 8.6.5. Volkswagen
    • In the mid 1930s Ferndinand Porche was awarded a contract by Hitler to build what became known as the “Peoples Car”.
    • Assisted by Mercedes-Benz, Porche built about 30 pre-production cars before the start of World War 2 in 1939. These pre-war cars were originally called Kdf-Wagen and then VW Kafer.
    • Production of the Volkswagen Type 1, as the car was then called, started in 1945 with an order for 20,000 cars for the British Army. By 1946 the company was producing 1,000 cars a month.
    • In 1967 the company began referring to the car as the “Beetle”, a name that had been previously adopted by the public. 
    • In 1972 the number of Beetle cars produced surpassed 15 million, beating the record held since 1927 by the model T Ford.
    • The Beetle originally had a 1,131 cc engine, which was later increased to 1,584 cc, and a top speed of 62 or 82 mph (99/131 kph).

      1962 VW Beetle
    • When production finally ceased in 2003 over 21.5 million Volkswagen Type 1 (Beetle) cars had been made.
    • In 1964 Volkswagen purchased Auto Union, acquiring with it the Audi name.
    • Between 1961 and 1970 the company also started production of the VW1500/1600 (1961-73), VW411/412 (1968-74), K70 (1970-75) and the 181 model (1969-78).
    • In 1973 Volkswagen introduced the Passat (Dasher in USA.), the Golf (Rabbit in US/Canada) in 1974 and the Polo in 1975. The sedan version of the Golf was called Vento in Europe and Jetta in the USA.
    • By 2005 over 14 million Passat cars had been produced. Volkswagen had three models in the world’s top ten sellers list; the Golf (#3),  Beetle (#4) and the Passat (#9).
    • In 2002 Volkswagen introduced the Phaeton luxury car.
    • Volkswagen cars being produced in 2007 include the Eos, Fox, Golf, Jetta, “New Beetle”, Passat, Phaeton, Polo, Sharan, Touareg and Touran. 
  • 8.6.6. Other German Car Manufacturers
    • Amphicar, Borgward, DKW, Gutbrod, Fuldamobil, Ghia, Glas, Heinkel, IFA, Kleinschnittgen, Messerschmitt, NSU, Porche, Trabant, Wartburg and Zundapp.
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