Childhood and early career
August Horch was born in Moselle in 1868 and educated in Mittweida. He obtained an engineering degree by 1890 and went to work for Carl Benz in 1896. He worked in the company for three years only, gaining whatever knowledge he required and in 1899 set up his own company August Horch & Cie. For an entrepreneur, August Horch lacked experience, but he made up for it in knowledge of automobile engineering.
The Horch & Cie. company
The first car manufactured by the August Horch & Cie had a friction clutch and shaft driven rear wheels – technology that no other car possessed at the time. In 1903 Horch also launched the first four cylinder car and then in 1907 a six-cylinder one. Horch cars were considered technologically far superior to even Benz and Mercedes.
The company was based in Cologne in 1901. However due to unfavorable economic conditions, it had to shift to Reichanbach in the next year itself, and then to Zwickau 2 years later. Further financial problems forced August to convert the company into a joint stock one, presumably to raise finances. According to Horch this was the biggest mistake he made. In 1909 the company sales dipped and Horch was asked to step down from the post of president by his shareholders.
New start - Audi
He left the company and started building another one, in Zwickau itself. The initial name was “Horch Automobil-Werke GmbH (Horch Automobile Works)”. However a legal dispute did not allow him to use his own name for the company since Horch was still a registered trademark for the previous company. As such, in 1910 Audi was born - Audi being the Latin translation of Horch (“listen” in German).
The big merge
In 1928, financial difficulties again lead to DKW acquiring a 51% stake in Audi. In 1932, Audi, DKW, and two other auto-makers, A Horch & Cie and Wanderer merged to form the Auto Union of Saxonian Motor Vehicle Builders, also known as Auto Union. Eventually the company was taken over by Volkwagon and came to be known as Audi in 1964. The 4 rings on the logo however continue to represent the four companies.
Even now, Audi is known for producing the most technologically advanced ‘supercars’ that are highly sought after, much as Horch intended them to be. He is an honorary citizen of Zwickau and was an honorary professor at the Braunschweig Technical University until his death in 1951. His autobiography Ich Baute Autos (I Made Cars) was published in 1937.