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Audi's Left-Hand-Drive Revolution - Web Exclusive

Jun 2, 2009
Eurp_0906_01_z+audi_left_hand_drive_revolution+type_c_1912 Photo 1/3   |   Audi's Left-Hand-Drive Revolution - Web Exclusive

When Audi production first began 100 years ago, the company made right-hand-drive cars. Every Audi car was right-hand-drive until 1921, when it switched to left-hand-drive some 16 years before Germany officially legislated for it in 1938.

Audi, which began life as a car manufacturer on July 16, 1909, built an entire range of right-hand-drive models before initiating the change to the left. It was not until 1922 that left-hand-drive began to take hold in Germany, and even then the new configuration was a feature of just 10% of the country's cars. However, proliferation quickly followed, and just one year later the total had risen to 25%.

Within its first decade as a manufacturer, Audi quickly established a principal range of six models with engines offering four, six and eight cylinders. Of these it was the Audi Type K, built between 1921 and 1926, which took the Berlin Motor Show by storm when it made its world debut with left-hand-drive. The Type K was the first car in Germany to go on sale with a left-mounted steering wheel, and also featured a conventional floor-mounted gear shift, which was centrally located alongside the car's e-brake.

Eurp_0906_03_z+audi_left_hand_drive_revolution+type_k_1925 Photo 2/3   |   Audi's Left-Hand-Drive Revolution - Web Exclusive

In all, 74 countries around the world now drive on the left in right-hand-drive cars. Globally, almost all nations began driving on the left, and there was a gradual transition to driving on the right in left-hand-drive vehicles. One of the first nations to move from the left- to the right-hand side of the road was the United States, which first passed laws in Pennsylvania as early as 1792. New York followed in 1804 and New Jersey in 1813.

In Europe, Italy began its switch in 1912, but it took until 1926 for the entire country to conform. Spain was also using both sides of the road, depending on region, until 1924. Austria eventually conformed along with Hungary and Czechoslovakia as late as 1939. Europe's last nation to officially adopt left-hand drive cars or right-hand driving was Sweden as recently as 1967.

Eurp_0906_02_z+audi_left_hand_drive_revolution+type_a_1910 Photo 3/3   |   Audi's Left-Hand-Drive Revolution - Web Exclusive

Audi began its life without the universally known four rings emblem and with a range of open cars featuring cabriolet roofs. Its first major model, the Type A, featured a right-mounted steering wheel, as did its entire range at the time.Pictured here is the Audi Type K of 1921, which pioneered left-hand drive in Germany. Before its launch, all models, including the 1910 Type A and the 1912 Type C, had right-mounted steering wheels.

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