On the orders of the Soviet military administration in Germany, the Saxon plants of Auto Union were dismantled in 1945 as reparations. Following this, the company’s entire assets were expropriated without compensation. On 17 August 1948 Auto Union AG of Chemnitz was deleted from the commercial register.
Loans from the Bavarian state government and Marshall Plan aid helped a new car manufacturing plant to be set up in Ingolstadt. Auto Union GmbH was established in Ingolstadt on 3 September 1949. Based on established DKW principles – front-wheel drive and two-stroke engine - production of a small but sturdy 125 cc motorcycle and a DKW delivery van started the same year.
In August 1950 Auto Union produced its first post-war passenger car. This was the DKW Meisterklasse F 89 P, and was available as a saloon and a four-seater Karmann convertible. Since the facilities in Ingolstadt were not adequate for the production of this model, Auto Union used the premises of the company Rhein-metall-Borsig AG in Düsseldorf. DKW vehicles were built there until the end of 1961.
As early as 1945, a modest number of motorcycles were built again at NSU in Neckarsulm. Within just a few years the plant developed to become one of the most important manufacturers in this sector. NSU motorcycles were state of the art. On 12 April 1951 the motorcycle racer Wilhelm Herz succeeded in setting a new world record on a section of the Munich-Ingolstadt autobahn by reaching a speed of 290 km/h on a supercharged 500 cc NSU racing motorcycle.
1953 DKW "Sonderklasse" with three-cylinder engine
Auto Union launched a new three-cylinder model in time for the 1953 German Motor Show. This went by the name of “3=6 Sonderklasse”. It was developed before the war in Chemnitz and was supposed to go into volume production in 1940. The name 3=6 referred to the fact that a three-cylinder two-stroke engine had the power characteristic of a six-cylinder four-stroke engine thanks to twice the number of combustion cycles.
1955 NSU is the world's biggest cycle manufacturer
In 1955, NSU Werke AG in Neckarsulm proudly announced a total production volume of 342,583 two-wheeled vehicles (including 45,747 bicycles). This made NSU the world’s leading manufacturer of two-wheelers. At the same time, motorcycle euphoria had reached its climax. As their wealth increased, customers became more and more demanding about their personal mode of transport. The car became the new people’s dream in the economic miracle years.
Following an absence of almost thirty years, NSU returned to car manufacturing in 1957. The company deliberately opted for a small car, designed for average earners and motorcycle owners. The NSU Prinz was unveiled at the 1957 German Motor Show and, from this date on, started to offset the losses on the collapsing motorcycle market.
At the instigation of leading entrepreneur Friedrich Karl Flick, Daimler-Benz AG acquired the majority of and, subsequently, the remaining shares in Auto Union GmbH on 24 April 1958. From this date until the end of 1965, Auto Union was a fully owned subsidiary of the Stuttgart-based Daimler Group.
With Auto Union having stopped all motorcycle production activities in autumn 1958, its new car plant in Ingolstadt went into operation in the summer of 1959. This was one of the most modern production facilities in Europe. In 1962 the Auto Union plant in Düsseldorf was sold to Daimler-Benz.