The site GermanCarFans.com does the arduous legwork for you and presents Audi's complicated history in bite-sized chunks. The four rings symbolize four formerly independent auto manufacturers: Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer. The companies fused in 1932 under the moniker Autounion AG, but still produced cars with individual branding. A new company was founded due to Soviet expropriation after WWII. The company relocated to Ingolstadt under the name Auto Union GmbH, and was later acquired by VW in 1965. Audi later merged with NSU, a manufacturer of cars, bicycles and knitting machines under the sprawling appellation Audi NSU Auto Union AG. In March of 1977, the name was streamlined to what it is today, Audi AG. Phew.
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