|July 11, 2000
History of the Four Rings in Ingolstadt; 1949 to Present
A new beginning
Life at the time of its re-establishment was frugal, so small, economical vehicles were called for. In the early years, the only vehicles built in Ingolstadt with the four-ring emblem were DKW motorcycles and cars, with their typical two-stroke engines. The formal re-establishment of the company in 1949 was actually already the second step towards a new beginning after the war. The first move after "zero hour" took place on December 19, 1945, when the "Zentraldepot für Auto Union Ersatzteile GmbH" was founded in Ingolstadt. This central depot had the task of supplying spare parts for all pre-war Auto Union vehicles that had survived the ravages of the past six years; there were all of 60,000 such vehicles in the western occupied zones.
So why Ingolstadt?
From its headquarters in the former army supplies office in Schrannenstrasse, the company was gradually able to take over a variety of other buildings such as the Friedenskaserne barracks, the New Arsenal, the NCOs' building, the vehicle halls, the ammunition store, the riding hall and the large parade ground. As its facilities were scattered all over the city, a rational production process was scarcely possible. The workers referred to it tongue-in-cheek as the "United Hut and Shed Company."
The "Bavarian strike"
Auto Union, one of the largest employers in the city, with a workforce of around 5,000, likewise saw most of its workers lay down their tools. Their demands included a shorter working week, higher pay and better working and living conditions. The "Bavarian strike" lasted until August 31, 1954, when an agreement was finally reached through arbitration. An average pay increase of just over four percent was the outcome.
The liaison with Daimler-Benz
In 1957, Flick advocated the takeover of Auto Union by Daimler-Benz. At that time, he owned 41 percent of Auto Union's shares, as well as a 25 percent stake in Daimler-Benz. He could also rely on the backing of the Swiss industrial magnate Ernst Göhner, who likewise held a 41 percent interest in Auto Union. Daimler-Benz AG accepted the offer. In view of growing pressure from foreign competition, it wanted to extend its production range in market segments lower down the range. Flick also dropped Daimler-Benz a large hint that he was in negotiation with Ford, too.
On April 24, 1958 Daimler-Benz acquired around 88 percent of Auto Union's shares for just over DM 41 million. One year later, in 1959, the remaining shares were also sold to Daimler-Benz. Daimler's board of management spokesman Fritz Könecke summed up the merger of Germany's second-largest and fifth-largest car manufacturers as follows: "We have married a nice girl from a good, old-established family!" On April 9. 1958 the business newspaper "Handelsblatt" wrote: "With the takeover of Auto Union GmbH, which reports annual turnover of around DM 400 million and employs a workforce of 10,000, the Daimler-Benz Group is now once again the Federal Republic of Germany's largest car manufacturer in terms of sales revenue, too."
A new plant in Ingolstadt
For want of capital, the company had put back production of a modern, low-priced small car that had been in development since the mid-1950s and that was one day to be launched under the name "DKW Junior". Although the takeover by Daimler-Benz guaranteed the necessary funding of the long-overdue project, the company was short of the production capacity needed.
A new plant therefore had to be erected without delay - either in Ingolstadt, or in Zons, near Düsseldorf, where the company had already acquired an industrial site. Fritz Böhm, at that time Chairman of the Works Council and a member of the State Parliament, is said by former colleagues to have "fought like a lion" to have the new factory built in Ingolstadt. Thanks to his useful contacts with the world of politics, the Free State of Bavaria was always "one step ahead" of North Rhine-Westphalia. An investment loan of DM 25 million from the Bavarian State Bank played a major part in the company's ultimate choice of Ingolstadt.
Another factor which argued in Ingolstadt's favour was the impending collapse in business for two-wheelers: in view of plummeting demand for motorcycles, there were plans to wind down DKW motorcycle production in the short term. In contrast to the Zons location, there were considerable numbers of qualified workers available in Ingolstadt - in the late 1950s, a major consideration whenever a company was deciding where to locate. In July 1958, construction work on the new plant in Ettinger Strasse finally began. A sum of DM 76 million was invested here in 1959, and a further DM 51 million in 1960. The regional newspaper, Donaukurier, wrote euphorically: "One of the largest and most modern car plants in Europe is currently being erected near Ingolstadt".
The deal between VW and Daimler-Benz