Volkswagen Group Takeover
The development of the rotary engine was very cost-intensive for the small company. Problems with the tip seals of the engine rotor significantly damaged the brand's reputation amongst consumers. In 1969, the company was taken over by Volkswagen Group, who merged NSU with Auto Union. The new, merged, company was called Audi NSU Auto-Union A.G and represented the effective end of both the NSU and DKW marques with all future production to bear the Audi badge (although retaining the four interlocking circles of Auto Union). The management of the Neckarsulm plant moved to Audi's headquarters in Ingolstadt. When the small rear-engined NSU models (Prinz 4, 1000, 1200) were phased out in 1973, the Ro 80 was the last car still in production carrying the NSU badge. Audi never made use of the brand name NSU again after April 1977, when the last Ro 80 was sold.
Even as production of the Ro 80 continued in the Neckarsulm plant, production of larger Audi models like 100 and 200 was started. The Porsche 924 and later Porsche 944 were also assembled at Neckarsulm. Those models were joint venture projects of Porsche and VW, but Porsche did not have the internal capacity to build the 924 and 944. Currently, Neckarsulm is the production plant for Audi's topline vehicles like A6, A8 and R8. It is also the home of the "Aluminium- und Leichtbauzentrum" where Audi's aluminium-made space frame bodies are designed and engineered.
NSU is primarily remembered today as the first licensee and one of only three automobile companies to produce cars for sale with rotary Wankel engines. NSU invented the principle of the modern Wankel engine with an inner rotor. The NSU Ro 80 was the second mass-produced two-rotor Wankel-powered vehicle after the Mazda Cosmo. In 1967, NSU and Citroën set up a common company, Comotor, to build engines for Citroën and other car makers. Only Mazda continued developing the Wankel engine. Mazda currently has a sportscar, the RX-8, in its portfolio using the Wankel engine family.
A museum in Neckarsulm, the Deutsches Zweirad- und NSU-Museum, has many of NSU's products on display.
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