NSU History

The NSU Company was founded in 1873 as a company that manufactured knitting machines. In 1886 the company began to manufacture bicycles and by 1892 their bicycles had gotten so popular NSU focused production solely on producing them. In 1901 NSU leveraged their expertise in bicycle manufacturing to begin producing motorcycles followed by the first NSU car in 1905.

During World War II the company’s factories were completely destroyed. NSU rebuilt and resumed production of pre-war models of cars and motorcycles in 1946 and introduced the Max motorcycle in 1953, a mere seven years after completely rebuilding from the rubble. Only two years later in 1955, NSU was the largest producer of motorcycles in the world, making over 350,000 per year.

NSU motorcycles have a rich history with land speed racing. In 1951, an NSU motorcycle set the land speed record for 500cc supercharged motorcycles at an astonishing 180mph and an NSU with a sidecar set the speed record at 154mph. In 1955 NSU held land speed records at Bonneville in every class of solo-rider motorcycle class from 50cc – 500cc. In 1956, the first person to ever exceed 200mp on a motorcycle rode an NSU to a mind-blowing 210mph.

NSU Plant around 1901 after expansion to build motorcycles

Ariel picture of the current Audi factory where NSUs were made.

Some other interesting facts about NSU:

1888: NSU made the chassis for the very first Daimler automobile! NSU doesn’t get credit on any other website online for their help creating the first non-carriage derived automobile.

1901: NSU’s first motorcycle was introduced and looked much like a bicycle with a motor strapped to it.

1927: NSU became the first company in Germany to produce automobiles in an assembly line only 14 years after Henry Ford invented the concept.

1932: NSU built the prototype for the Porsche Type 32 based on Ferdinand Porsche’s plans.

1948: NSU introduced a 100cc four-stroke motorcycle called the Fox. This compact, rugged motorcycle was important to mobilizing the public to rebuild after the devastation of World War II.

1957: NSU began development of the Wankel engine. The Wankel engine is a rotary engine which can still be found in modern Mazdas.

1958: NSU began manufacturing automobiles again. Many were sold in the US through a network of independent dealers.

1969: NSU merged to form Audi NSU Auto Union Autogroup and eventually became known as Audi. Audi still has all the production records from NSU and Audi cars are still made in the former home to NSU in Neckarsulm, Germany.

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