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The consolidation of Audi within Volkswagen with the Audi 100 from 1968

In the mid-sixties, the Volkswagen Group was in the process of restructuring, dispensing with some brands to relaunch others. One of the beneficiaries was Audi, which was assigned the mission of offering family cars of medium-high quality with reliability and comfort as the main attributes. Something that he achieved thanks to the success of the Audi 100. The model that resurrected the company after years of neglect.

On January 16, the merger of the PSA and FIAT Chrysler groups generated Stellantis. A business giant with more than 400.000 employees under which brands as different as Citroën, Alfa Romeo, Dodge, Jeep or Opel take refuge. Product of the sign of our times, this concentration of international capital will dedicate 30.000 million euros in the next four years to perfect the electrical transition and reposition brands such as Lancia in the new global scenario. In this way, its dominance in certain markets is expected to be even greater.

A financial process that seems to follow step by step what Lenin predicted regarding monopolies. Protagonists of a capitalism in a higher phase where competition is carried out between a few companies capable of monopolizing the entire market. However, far from resorting to leaden Marxist-Leninist debates The truth is that in the European car industry there are very old precedents. One of them is the one that occurred in interwar Germany with the merger of Horch, Audi, DKW and Wanderer into Auto Union. Four companies plagued by a lack of liquidity that began to operate together, each conserving its own range and personality.

From there, the consortium symbolized by the figure of the four rings came under the protection of Daimler in full expansion after World War II. A hazardous time in finance. After which was sold to Volkswagen in 1964 to cement what today is a group that cooperates with Ford in electrical matters. Directing the destinations of fourteen brands including Ducati or Bentley. Another one of those recurring news in the salmon pages of the newspapers. Bringing back those words written in 1916 "Now the monopoly is a fact ... the facts are stubborn, and of degree or by force they must be taken into account".

VOLKSWAGEN IN THE SIXTIES, A COMPLEX CONTEXT

In the mid-XNUMXs both Volkswagen and its newly acquired brands of Auto Union they needed an urgent rationalization. And it is that the market grew exponentially. Leaving interesting niches that could be covered by a massive company in the manner of FIAT in Italy. Thus, while Volkswagen prepared what would end up being the Golf as a definitive replacement for the outdated Beetle, brands like DKW or Audi languished commercially. A real problem for the Ingolstadt group. In need of a saloon with which to stand up to Mercedes and especially BMW, which was on the rise with its 1962 New Class.

In this way, in 1965 the Audi name was used again in a car since 1940. The one chosen was the 1700. Product of the development that Daimler had done with the DKW before selling Auto Union to Volkswagen. A good base to revive the prestige of Audi, especially when we consider the incorporation of an engine designed from scratch by Mercedes. Nevertheless, the German public did not welcome the 1700 with much enthusiasm. Even some of the specialized press called him sober and bland. Which is debatable, since as notable novelties it included the front-wheel drive and a double brake circuit.

Attributes that were not seductive from the point of view of performance. But yes from the comfort, quality of finishes and safety. An accumulation of qualities where the rebirth of Audi began to play, projecting at a medium-high level with reliability per flag. At this point, it only remained to create a model like the Audi 100 to position the brand within the renewed Volkswagen Group. Fact that happened in 1968. Finally discovering this spacious, serene and trustworthy saloon of any buyer interested in a quality car without necessarily being performance.

AUDI 100, THE SUCCESS OF THE MESURED

Obviously the Audi 100 was born without sporting fads. A fact that, however, did not deprive it of having one of the most necessary attributes in any car with a taste for speed: low weight. Thanks to its just under 1.100 kilos it not only achieved adjusted consumption, but also a good dynamic behavior coupled with the ease of driving due to its front-wheel drive. Qualities that compensated for the performance of its four-cylinder engines. Located between 85CV and 112CV in the sedan. Always positioned somewhat ahead of the front axle. Giving as the only notable failure according to the tests of the moment an excessively understeer character.

With this letter of introduction, the Audi 100 had as its main virtue to give exactly what was expected of it. Which is why it became a bestseller from the get-go. However, to give the new model a publicity hit The Volkswagen Group presented an attractive coupe version in 1969 which, to this day, remains one of the most visually powerful Audis. A mix of American influences in its Ford Mustag fastback drop and echoes of the elegant Italian styling worn by the FIAT Dino. Quite a success, although it really did not depart from the sober and stable character given by the saloon.

After all, the most powerful engine in the coupe was a 1-liter 9CV. In addition, this bodywork only remained during the first generation of the Audi 116. Remaining for history as an aesthetic brushstroke responsible for selling some 30.000 units compared to the more than 820.000 of the saloon. Some more than remarkable figures for a vehicle in the upper-middle segment during the first years of the seventies. Even more so if we take into account that it started from scratch with the responsibility of repositioning an almost forgotten brand. An idea whose success is the order of the day, only having to look out of the balcony to see an Audi go by in a few minutes.

Photographs: Audi

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Miguel Sánchez

Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.

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