Audi AG is a German automobile manufacturer, from supermini to crossover SUVs in various body styles and price ranges that are marketed under the Audi brand, positioned as the premium brand within the Volkswagen Group. The company is headquartered in Ingolstadt, Germany, and has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Volkswagen AG since 1966, following a phased purchase of its predecessor, Auto Union, from its former owner, Daimler-Benz. Volkswagen relaunched the Audi brand with the 1965 introduction of the Audi F103 series. The company name is based on the surname of the founder August Horch, his surname meaning listen in German-which, when translated into Latin, becomes Audi. The four rings each represent individual car companies that banded together to create the union. Audi is part of the "German Big 3" luxury automakers, along with BMW and Mercedes-Benz, which are the three best-selling luxury automakers in the world.
Audi's sales grew strongly in the 2000s, with deliveries to customers increasing from 653,000 in 2000 to 1,003,000 in 2008. The largest sales increases came from Eastern Europe (+19.3%), Africa (+17.2%) and the Middle East (+58.5%). China in particular has become a key market, representing 108,000 out of 705,000 cars delivered in the first three quarters of 2009. One factor for its popularity in China is that Audis have become the car of choice for purchase by the Chinese government for officials, and purchases by the government are responsible for 20% of its sales in China. As of late 2009, Audi's operating profit of €1.17-billion ($1.85-billion) made it the biggest contributor to parent Volkswagen Group's nine-month operating profit of €1.5-billion, while the other marques in Group such as Bentley and SEAT had suffered considerable losses. May 2011 saw record sales for Audi of America with the new Audi A7 and Audi A3 TDI Clean Diesel. In May 2012, Audi reported a 10% increase in its sales at 480 units which was 408 a year ago.
Audi manufactures vehicles in seven plants around the world, some of which are shared with other VW Group marques although many sub-assemblies such as engines and transmissions are manufactured within other Volkswagen Group plants.