A series looking at badge engineered cars over the years…
For a brief period in 1974 the Audi 50 was the best German-built, small and economical, 3-door hatchback you could get your hands on. It was launched with 1 litre, 50bhp petrol engine in two trim levels, LS and GL and was fairly well specified compared to similar cars from other manufacturers.
The Audi 50 was seen as a successor to the NSU 1200, and was even built in the former NSU manufacturing plant in Neckarsulm, Germany. But unfortunately, even though it managed to attract over 180,000 buyers, it only appeared in the Audi fleet for four short years.
The reason for its short life was that an almost identical vehicle was launched less than two-months after the Audi 50 was introduced: The VW Polo.
VolksWagen built the same car, but with a VW badge, at their Wolfsburg plant. The VW Polo was cheaper and offered a much wider range of trim and other options. Audi had originally planned to facelift the Audi 50 to more resemble its Audi 80 and Audi 100 siblings but VW sales of the Polo were so far ahead, the idea was scrapped and the Audi 50 was killed off in 1978.
Audi dealers had to wait until Audi A2 was launched in 1999 to get another small car on the forecourts, but even that car only lasted five years, to be later replaced by the incredibly successful A1 in 2010.
Original German Language Review of the Audi 50…