In 1945, after the war had ended, Auto Union AG's premises were located in the zone occupied by the Soviet forces, who expropriated its assets, dismantled the plant and had the company removed from the Commercial Register of the city of Chemnitz in 1948. A new company called Auto Union GmbH was established in Ingolstadt in 1949.
At the end of 1945, leading employees of the Auto Union in the old garrison town of Ingolstadt set up a depot for Auto Union spare parts. On September 3, 1949, this led to the formation of Auto Union GmbH, an independent manufacturing company that was released from its former ties. Later that same year, work began on the manufacture of delivery vans and motorcycles.
In the early stages, it was the tried-and-tested DKW products with their two-stroke engines that were built once more under the sign of the four rings. During the period of deprivation in the years following the war, there was a need for robust and reliable cars and motorbikes. As a result, models such as the DKW F 89 L delivery van and the DKW RT 125 W motorbike were developed. They were produced by the vehicle manufacturing plant in Ingolstadt. At the same time, work was underway on a DKW passenger car, which was eventually produced in the summer of 1950 in a second new plant in Düsseldorf that used to belong to Rheinmetall AG and was merely leased at first.
From 1954 onwards, Friedrich Flick gradually acquired a large stake in the equity of Auto Union GmbH. His strategy was to find a strong partner for Auto Union in the medium term. In April 1958, Daimler-Benz AG acquired 88 percent of Auto Union's shares and in the following year the Ingolstadt company became a fully-owned subsidiary.
A reliance on the two-stroke engine, a lack of model policy and increasingly critical press coverage meant that sales of DKW vehicles were on a downward spiral throughout the early 1960s. Against this backdrop, Daimler-Benz commissioned the engineer Ludwig Kraus, who was brought in as Technical Director in Ingolstadt, to adapt a four-cylinder, four-stroke engine, brought along as a kind of “dowry,” for the new DKW F 102 passenger car launched in 1963.
This new car from Auto Union was launched in 1965 and was the company’s first post-war design with a four-stroke engine. It heralded the start of a new era, which in turn called for a new product designation: this was the rebirth of Audi, a name rich in tradition.
The Auto Union ”Audi”, which was initially known only by this type designation, was widely advertised and became a resounding success. This model line remained in production until 1972, undergoing a few technical and visual modifications along the way. But a new era had dawned in Ingolstadt in another sense, too, because the company had become a subsidiary of Volkswagenwerk AG in 1965. The new bosses refused to allow Ingolstadt's engineers to develop models of their own. Their plan was to use Ingolstadt's production capacity for building the VW Beetle.
But they had reckoned without Ludwig Kraus, at that time Head of Development and a member of the Board of Management, who went ahead in secret with the development of a new Audi model. The resulting car, which the group management in Wolfsburg ultimately sanctioned, was first presented to the international press in Ingolstadt in November 1968. Its name: Audi 100. The Audi 100 was the first vehicle to have shaken off all genetic links with the former DKW models. The huge success of this new Audi proved its creators right. The Audi 100 also helped Auto Union to preserve its separate identity.