Danish engineer named Jorgen Skafte Rasmussen founded a factory in Saxon, Germany in 1916 with the purpose of producing steam fittings. During the companies' introductory year, they attempted to produce a steam-driven car, called the DKW (Dampf-Kraft-Wagen meaning steam-driven car). Though the attempt was not successful, the engine was later used in a motorcycle and called Das Kleine Wunder, meaning 'the little marvel.' Within a few years, the DKW brand would be the world's largest manufacturer of motorcycles.
In 1932, Audi, Horch, Wanderer, and DKW merged, forming Auto Union. In 1957, ownership came under Daimler-Benz and in 1964, was purchased by the Volkswagen Group.
Though motorcycles were a large part of the DKW business, automobiles were also an integral part. They produced cars from 1928 until 1966 and were one of the very first marque's to use front-wheel drive and transverse mounting. Power was from a two-stroke engine that displaced 600 or 700cc, producing 18 to 20 horsepower. Their most popular pre-War models were the F1 through F8, with the 'F' representing 'front.'
The DKW Meister Klasse
The DKW introduced their 'Dynastart', an innovative feature that had a generator that doubled as a self-starter and was mounted directly on the crankshaft.
The Meisterklasse was a popular car in Europe during the early 1950s, but not rarely seen in the United States. Power was from a two-cylinder, two-stroke engine that was valveless and had no valve lifters. The 690cc motor developed 33 horsepower. This two-stroke version is believed to be the only surviving example remaining today and believed to be the only 1953 DKW Meister Kalsse in the United States.
Following the end of World War Two, Karmann Karosserie was building bodies for many German automobile manufactures, including Volkswagen, Porsche and DKW.
The four rings that are today recognized as Audi were originally the emblem of Auto Union, which was comprised of four companies - Audi, DKW, Wanderer and Horch.