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AUDI: The definition of Vorsprung durch Technik and where its evolution

Marketing employee Hans Bauer devised the Audi slogan as a synonym for the great diversity of technical concepts within the company

AUDI: The definition of Vorsprung durch Technik and where its evolution

The two firms Auto Union GmbH and NSU Motorenwerke AG merged in 1969. As a consequence of this, the product portfolio of ‘Audi NSU Auto Union AG’ had expanded to more than ten model ranges encompassing a multitude of technical concepts. Marketing employee Hans Bauer put this technical diversity and finesse in a nutshell by coining an advertising slogan that was as brilliantly simple as it was ingenious: Vorsprung durch Technik!

It is mid-September 1972 and an elaborate marquee construction is being erected on the forecourt of the theatre in Ingolstadt. A short time later, the press premiere of the Audi 80 is due to take place. It is not difficult to see that this marquee is connected to Audi in some way, as emblazoned on the frame in enormous letters reads: AUDI NSU – Vorsprung durch Technik.

A quick flashback: in August 1969, the two firms Auto Union GmbH, Ingolstadt and NSU Motorenwerke AG, Neckarsulm had merged. The two subsidiaries of Volkswagenwerk AG evolved into Audi NSU Auto Union AG, whose creation was backdated to January 1, 1969. Based in Neckarsulm, the new company’s model line-up was an extremely varied one: from the air-cooled engines of the NSU Prinz model line and the water-cooled four-cylinder engines in the Audi 60 and Audi 100 to the fascinating Wankel engine powering the Ro 80. The drive concepts, body constructions and design of the Audi NSU models were equally as diverse: from the front-wheel drive of the Audi models and the NSU Ro 80 to the rear-wheel drive of the NSU Prinz or the TT, and from the lightweight construction of the Audi 100 to the Italian styling of the Audi 100 Coupé S to the futuristic body design of the NSU Ro 80.

It is the sheer diversity of technical concepts within the Audi NSU portfolio that gets Hans Bauer, an employee in the Audi NSU Advertising Department, thinking about an apt advertising slogan in 1971. The result is so simple and so ingenious: Vorsprung durch Technik!

Not long afterwards, the slogan starts to appear on the Audi NSU brochures. Audi 100, Audi 100 Coupé S, Audi 80, Audi 50 and NSU Ro 80 alike – they all now stand for ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’. Or at least they do until summer 1975. For, as so often happens in the world of advertising, there is always the temptation to attempt to better perfection. Modified versions of the slogan now start to be used in German advertising: ‘Audi. Ein schönes Stück Technik’ (‘Audi. A wonderful piece of technology’) and, some time later: ‘Audi. Gelassen fahren mit perfekter Technik’ (‘Audi. Serene driving with flawless technology’).

Yet, it proves impossible to better it, with the original slogan being reprised time and time again behind the scenes.  In 1980, it finally starts to appear more and more frequently when the Audi quattro is launched. It features in the advertising rather than in the sales documentation. And it is advertising which sends out a very clear signal in May 1984. Europe’s largest neon advertising sign at that time is erected atop a high-rise building directly next to the Ingolstadt North exit of the A9 motorway from Nuremberg to Munich: a reddish-brown Audi oval bearing the slogan ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’. The lettering tips the scales at seven tonnes, while the trademark weighs four tonnes. 7,500 watts of power are needed to let Audi shine out for all to see at night too and to proclaim exactly where leadership through technology has its roots.

From October 1986 onwards, following the launch of the third generation of the Audi 80 with its fully galvanised body and styling that had been perfected in the wind tunnel, the words ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ once again make their way into the sales brochures and on-board literature. Ever since, the Audi claim has been an intrinsic element of the corporate identity that is now set in stone – perfection just can’t be bettered.

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