A Photo for Sunday: 1968-1976 Audi 100

Audi found 800,000 customers for this car over its eight year production run. The first 500,000 customers paid up before 1971.

1968-1976 Audi 100
1968-1976 Audi 100

That means that for the next five years the Audi 100 trailed in the sales stakes. Audi attempted to keep it competitive by raising the power output of the engine and some modest restyling efforts. That it didn’t work is indicated by the 50,000 units sold per year between 71 and 76. The car had a lot of competition at that time which might go some way to explaining the later half of its sales career.

1968 Audi 100
1968 Audi 100

I had a close look at this example and found that it already shows a palpably different and better approach to fit and finish that equivalent cars from Renault, Ford and Opel. The upholstery, in particular, is made of a hard-wearing woven cotton and the plastic of the trim resembles the bullet-proof material one might find in a Mercedes rather more than the squashy vinyl material used normally.

1968 Audi 100 two-door saloon: source
1968 Audi 100 two-door saloon: source

In this photo here you can see a car with the general form of a Ford Granada and the detailing of a Mercedes: that makes it middle-market, doesn’t it? In all the reviews I read about the Peugeot 604 (born in 1975) I never saw it compared to the Audi 100 although they are the same size. The distinction is the V6 that the Peugeot had. Audi thus launched a really big car for its time but didn’t think to give it a “big car” engine. That left buyers unsure whether they were getting a better-than-average mass-market car or a cheaper-than-average premium.

Speaking of the Peugeot 604. By the time it came out the Audi had been on sale for eight years. Didn’t that mean the 604 looked decidedly familiar – to be charitable – by the time it emerged. Or were people less sensitive to that kind of thing?

Here is the 1968 Opel Rekord, for comparison with the Audi. Both are large cars with sub-2.0 litre four-cylinder engines.

1968 Opel Rekord C: source
1968 Opel Rekord C: source

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

2 thoughts on “A Photo for Sunday: 1968-1976 Audi 100”

  1. Thanks for the picture of the two door Richard. I wasn’t even aware of its existence. It still looks great.

  2. Richard – I hadn’t realised the 100’s sales had dropped off so sharply from 1972. I think you’re right about the competitive pressures. In 1968 the main competition; Rover and Triumph 2000s, BMW Neue Klasse, Lancia Flavia, was looking over-familiar. By 1972 a new wave had arrived; Alfetta, Lancia Beta, BMW 5 Series, and possibly most importantly, the mighty Granada, good enough to appeal to buyers who would never previously have considered a Ford.

    I’m not so sure that the first Audi 100 really needed a V6. Despite its generous size and solid feel, it was impressively light at around 1050kg. The Rover 2000 weighed about 220kg more, the Volvo 144 and Triumph 2000 were about 170kg heavier. The 100GL put out an impressive 112bhp DIN from 1870cc, whereas the comparably priced entry level 2 litre Rovers, Triumphs, and Volvos couldn’t better 90bhp. The Audi was a “well-balanced” car in every aspect of its design, and more power and weight up front could well have resulted in a whole whic was less than the sum of the parts.

    In the British context, the first generation 100 was a big success. As a 9 or 10 year old I remember being impressed at the shininess of these unfamilar German cars. Not long after, I was disturbed to find that they were regularly outselling the home team rivals from Rover and Triumph in the UK. Volvo were often able to mete out the same humiliation, but in the pre-“Brentry” days had the tax advantages of EFTA membership in their favour.

    Audi-NSU, as it was then, took full and ruthless advantage of British Leyland’s paralysis, using the well-developed VW dealer network, big advertising budgets, and aggressive pricing. There have been a few stumbles along the way which followed, but the C1 Audi 100 laid an impressive foundation.

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