50 years of Vorsprung

The famous Audi motto celebrates 50 years.

One of the most famous automotive advertising slogans of all time, ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ turns 50.

4 January, 2021

Like most great ideas, it was surprisingly simple in hindsight

Vorsprung durch Technik. Three words that are synonymous with the Audi brand and that capture the very essence of the company. The literal English translation is ‘advancement through technology’ and for 50 years this month, Audi’s famous ‘tag line’ has defined the brand’s ethos world-wide.

The motto, or ‘hook line’ to use advertising parlance, was born out of a need to express the great diversity of the then newly formed Audi NSU Auto Union AG. This merger of Auto Union GmbH, Ingolstadt and NSU Motorenwerke AG, Neckarsulm in 1969 resulted in a company that boasted a wealth of technical diversity that included reciprocating and rotary piston engines, air and water cooling, front and rear-wheel drive to name just a few. But it was no small task to try and communicate that enormous technological know how and the great benefits it represented in just a few words. 

It was a member of the Audi NSU Advertising Department by the name of Hans Bauer, who came up with the idea initially, and like most great ideas, it was surprisingly simple once it presented itself.

In the early 1970s, Vorsprung durch Technik was often used in conjunction with the flagship NSU Ro 80.

Vorsprung durch Technik first appeared in a double-page Audi NSU advertisement in January 1971. In the early 1970s, it was frequently used in conjunction with the company’s flagship model at the time, the Ro 80 which was built in Neckarsulm. Initially there were a number of variations on the theme, such as ‘Audi — Ein schönes Stück Technik’, which translated as ‘Audi — A Beautiful Piece of Engineering’. But from the early 1980s onwards, ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ was consistently used with the Audi oval. 

Indeed, it was that original slogan, spotted by advertising guru, Sir John Hegarty, on a faded poster during a visit to the Audi factory that was essentially resurrected to appear in international campaigns on TV and in print. That the slogan be used in its native German even in English-speaking markets was a cause of some discussion at the time. Would people understand it or be confused by it. Should it be translated for other markets? The decision was to keep it in its native German and it has of course gone on to become one of the most famous automotive slogans of all time.

The slogan has become so famous that it has even become a part of popular culture. In 1993, Irish rock band U2 released their eighth album, Zooropa, the title track of which centred around famous advertising slogans and opens with the words – ‘Zooropa, Vorsprung durch Technik’.

A far cry from January 1971 and Hans Bauer’s original idea.

The slogan has become so famous that it has even become a part of popular culture