Horch was a car brand manufactured in Germany by August Horch & Cie, at the beginning of the 20th century.
The company was established first by August Horch and his first business partner Salli Herz on November 14, 1899 at Ehrenfeld, Cologne. August Horch was a former production manager for Karl Benz. Three years later in 1902 he moved with his company to Reichenbach im Vogtland. On May, 10th, 1904 he founded the Horch & Cie. Motorwagenwerke AG, a joint-stock company in Zwickau. The city of Zwickau was the capital of the South Western Saxon County and one of Saxony's industrial centres at that time.
After troubles with Horch chief financial officer, August Horch founded on July 16, 1909, his second company, the August Horch Automobilwerke GmbH in Zwickau. He had to rename his new company because Horch was already a registered brand and he did not hold the rights on it. On April 25, 1910 the Audi Automobilwerke was entered in the company's register of Zwickau registration court. Audi is the Latin translation of horch, from the German verb "Horchen", which means "Listen" (compare English "hark"). The Audi name was proposed by a son of one of his business partners from Zwickau.
Both companies from Zwickau (Horch and Audi) were unified in 1932 with Zschopauer Motorenwerke J. S. Rasmussen (brand DKW) and the car producing piece of Wanderer to Saxony's Auto Union corporation. The Silver Arrow racing cars of the Auto Union racing team in Zwickau, developed by Ferdinand Porsche and Robert Eberan von Eberhorst, driven by Bernd Rosemeyer, Hans Stuck, Tazio Nuvolari, Ernst von Delius, were known the world over in the 1930s.
Early on in the process of motorizing, Reichswehr and Wehrmacht had procured militarized versions of many different makes and models of civilian passenger cars. Therefore the Wehrmacht's inventory of passenger cars was unsatisfactory in a number of respects when the open re-armament began in 1935. On the one hand, the existing vehicles' cross-country mobility and durability were not up to military requirements. On the other, their maintenance and parts supply were highly complex due to the large number of different makes, models, and often even model generations.
After the Nazi takeover of power, increased funding became available for mechanization, and in 1934, a development program for standardized chassis was launched. It strove to achieve maximum cross-country mobility and extensive standardization of parts while employing the latest innovations in automotive engineering so the vehicles could be produced over a long period of time without many changes. Five types were initially planned:
Leichter gelandegangiger Personenkraftwagen,ittelschwerer gelandegangiger Personenkraftwagen, Schwerer gelandegangiger Personenkraftwagen, Leichter gelandegangiger Lastkraftwagen, Mittelschwerer gelandegangiger Lastkraftwagen
Among other features, all types were required to have four-wheel drive, have independent suspension, and use domestic raw materials as stipulated by the Four Year Plan. However, due to the limitations of the German automotive industry of the time, the desired standardization was compromised right from the start. No single manufacturer was able to supply the required number of cars on its own. Several manufacturers were therefore charged with production, each supposedly following the same standardized plans: BMW (Werk Eisenach), Hanomag, Stoewer, Opel (Werk Brandenburg), Ford Germany and Auto Union (Horch and Wanderer). However, these companies in turn outsourced production of a large fraction of the individual components to different third-party suppliers. Also, each used engines from its own line-up of civilian models, so engines were not standardized from the outset.
The chassis of the heavy off-road passenger car was also used for the Leichter Panzerspahwagen (Sd.Kfz. 221 and Sd.Kfz. 222) although its engine was mounted in the rear.
The first light off-road passenger cars were delivered by Stoewer in 1936 (R 180 Spezial), followed in 1937 by the first medium and in 1938 by the first heavy models. The weaknesses of the program quickly became obvious - high costs, complex production and overstrained manufacturers unable to supply sufficient numbers of vehicles to fill all the slots of the receiving military units as planned. The Wehrmacht therefore still had to source 60% of their requirements elsewhere - converting regular civilian cars to military use, euphemistically terming them "Erganzungsfahrzeuge" (supplementary vehicles), as well as employing requisitioned and captured civilian cars. This in turn led to many disadvantages with maintenance, supply and training.
Enquiries with the different branches of the military revealed that the Einheits-Pkw were also flawed designs largely unfit for wartime service. Not even the simplifications implemented on bodies and chassis in 1940 („Typ 40", without the complex four-wheel steering, among others) failed to remedy the multitude of shortcomings. Their complex designs and excessive wear and tear aside, all types were mainly criticized for their high weight, which in turn meant a high fuel consumption and led to many broken frames and suspensions in the field. Accordingly, production of the three types ceased in 1942, 1943 and 1941, respectively.