Founded by Heinrich Stoll and Christian Schmidt to manufacture knitting machines. Took the name NSU from the first letters in the names of the rivers surrounding the plant in which they operated, Neckar and Sulm. Following the increasing popularity of bicycles, devotedan ever increasing amount of production to their manufacture, first with the high wheelers, then to more modern, ballbearing equipped examples.
Progressed to the motorcycle and, in 1905, developed their first car. Within a few years were manufacturing a variety of different vehicles, from small taxi-cabs to trucks and all in-between. Manufactured both cars and motorcycles for the Wehrmacht during World War 1, after the war turning their attention to racing, gaining several Grand Prix victories. In 1923 developed the all-aluminum 8/24, but soon encountered financial difficulty and was sold to Fiat.
Built 3 prototype Beetles for Ferdinand Porsche prior to World War 2. Continued to manufacture motorcycles after the war, then designed the 3 wheel Max Kabine, but this would gain a more traditional 4th wheel prior to entering production as the Prinz. This new model was revealed to the public at the 1957 Frankfurt Auto Show. Its attractive body carried a 583cc twin-cylinder 4-stroke motor which featured the technically interesting Ultramax cam-drive using eccentrics and rods. Production began in March 1958, and in 1959 came the Prinz II featuring better trim and an all-synchro box. A high performance 30E (export) version gave 30bhp!
The Prinz III arrived in October 1960 with a new stabilizer bar and the 30hp motor, making it one of the fastest small cars of its time-at 120 km/h. This attractive car was also technically well sorted out and built. It was succeeded in 1961 by the Corvair-like Prinz IV. Volkswagen took over NSU, and then merged it with its Audi subsidiary to form Audi NSU Auto Union AG. Today they are best remembered as building the first Wankel motor in 1960 and a small Corvair styled Prinz 4 in 1963. Sold to the VW/Audi concern in 1969, the name discontinued in 1984.
Also see: The History of NSU