The August Horch Museum

December 2017

 

The August Horch Museum, birthplace of Audi, Undergoes a Beautiful Expansion in Saxony’s Zwickau Highlighting Hands-On Tune Ups and New Old Cars

In the charming city of Zwickau in Saxony, the August Horch Museum has added a beautiful new expansion of its building to include room for post-war history, special exhibitions, education and the chance to tune your own Trabant! This 25-year old museum honors over 100 years of car manufacturing in Saxony.  Even to this day, state-of-the-art car manufacturing in Saxony astonishes visitors from the futuristic Porsche Factory outside of Leipzig to the Transparent Factory in Dresden that highlights Volkswagen’s latest technical designs. 

Just over 25 years ago, the August Horch Museum opened its doors to the public in the charming city of Zwickau in Germany’s state of Saxony. The museum is the birthplace of Audi and a treasure in Zwickau, the fourth largest town in Saxony, only one hour and fifteen minutes from Leipzig and Dresden where Porsche, BMW and Volkswagen sport state-of-the-art manufacturing centers.

The August Horch Museum is located in the original Audi factory which turned out mainly small cars such as the Trabant in the times of the GDR. After Volkswagen had built a new, state of the art facility in the Zwickau suburb of Mosel, the factory was shut down and reopened as a car museum. While the previous museum building is now fully dedicated to the times before World War II, the new 38,000 square foot addition looks into the post-war history.

The new addition was created in an existing building originally built in 1910 as another part of the former Audi factory. Old and “new” are connected with a modern glass foyer.  It houses an extended education facility for which the museum is already very well-regarded; a new restaurant; space for special exhibitions; and an exciting hands-on center where visitors can view the production of the original Trabant and even tune up their own Trabant that picturesquely sits next to an original East German “Datsche,” or cottage. Visitors can also have a seat at a race of the “Silver Arrows,” the legendary Auto Union racing cars. The museum offers personally guided tours in English as well as an audio guide in English. It is recommended to reserve for the tours in advance. The guided tours also include a visit to August Horch’s villa, located on the factory grounds.

The history of Horch is interesting and relevant for today’s knowledge of car making in Germany and Saxony. Over one hundred years ago on May 10, 1904, August Horch, founded his initial company, Horch, but he was some years later fired by his business partners. Due to his excellent reputation as an engineer, however, he was able to raise enough money to build a new factory right next to the old Horch factory. He called his new company “Horch,” too, but was quickly forced by the lawyers from his old company to change its name and therefore he turned to the name, “Audi,” which is the Latin translation of Horch meaning to listen. So, the first Audi was born in Zwickau in 1910.  Eventually Audi merged with three other Saxon brands establishing “Auto Union” also headquartered in Chemnitz. The new company’s famous logo, the four interlinking circles, represented the four different brands Horch (Germany’s no. 1 luxury car brand at that time, outselling Mercedes by 3:1), Audi, Wanderer (medium-sized cars) and DKW (two-stroke-engined small cars, also the largest manufacturer of motorbikes in the world). Auto Union was the second-largest car manufacturer in Germany after GM-owned Opel.

The August Horch Museum will continue to maintain highly informative exhibits that address the development of cars in Saxony but also the social and political context of car manufacturing. The permanent exhibition starts with the opening of the Horch factory featuring a large green Horch from 1911. It then proceeds through the years with 70 cars ranging from pre-war models made by the four Auto Union companies – including the oldest surviving Audi – to products from the Communist times including the Trabant and prototypes of highly competitive designs that the Zwickau factory was not allowed to put into production. The Trabant, lovingly called “Trabi,” is now a treasured keepsake for many Germans, with 30,000 vehicles still on the road.

Today, three leading German automotive manufacturers have plants in Saxony: Volkswagen, Porsche and BMW as well as component suppliers, all of which make car manufacturing an important part of Saxony’s economy.

In the center of Dresden, Volkswagen’s Transparent Factory is a unique manufacturing and cultural center that formerly produced the top luxury Phaeton. Today, the Transparent Manufactory is a showcase for the Volkswagen brand’s electric mobility and digitalization. Around 50 interactive exhibits and vehicles allow visitors to experience future mobility first-hand in a fun and informative environment. The highlight for visitors is a half-hour test drive with electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. The test drive is included in the ticket price for the Transparent Factory and, if pre-booked, is also offered on Sundays. Only a ten minute walk from Dresden’s old city, the facility is well-integrated into the personality of the city emphasizing the wonderful contrast between history and the future, old and new buildings, classical and modern architecture.

In Leipzig, the Porsche factory’s customer service center looks like a futuristic round spaceship alighting on the horizon. One approaches through an enormous entrance to a staged and storied facility that includes an event space and museum quality cars. There is a state-of-the-art manufacturing building where Porsche’s SUVs and the Panamera are built, as well as a race track and a mud track. Everything is open for groups to see and tour, to test drive and to buy. The Porsche Co-Pilot combines a factory tour with an exciting co-driving experience in one of three different Porsches followed by a delicious four course meal or brunch overlooking the facility’s race track and grounds. Also in Leipzig, BMW’s plant is exclusively making the i3 and i8 electric cars, amongst other models. Its central building is an award-winning design by star architect Zaha Hadid. Last but not least, Volkswagen announced that its Zwickau plant will switch to the production of electric vehicles. All in all, the Horch Museum and the state of the art automobile manufacturing and test centers are yet another reason to visit the beautiful and historic state of Saxony.

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