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Auto- und Motorradindustrie#

Automotive and Motorcycle Industry (motor vehicle industry): The first functioning automobiles in Austria were constructed as prototypes by S. Marcus in 1864 and 1888; these wooden wagons with built-in motors already possessed all of the technical characteristics of a passenger automobile. Marcus was the first to use gasoline as fuel.

In the Lohner-Werke (automotive works), F. Porsche raised motor-car manufacturing to the level of an industrial production process. In 1898 Porsche invented the wheel-hub engine (electromobile system); he also invented four-wheel drive and electric ignition for carburettor-type petrol engines. Along with the Lohner-Werke, the company Graef & Stift began manufacturing motor-cars around 1900, as did Daimler in Wiener Neustadt and Puch in Graz.

During World War I, lorry production was mainly driven by the military. From 1899 J. Puch constructed his first motorcycles, which went into industrial production in 1903. At first, they served sport and military purposes. Due to the high capacity of the existing manufacturers in Austria, many brands were produced after 1918; in accordance with demand, cyclecars and other small motorcycles were produced at first, often manufactured by hand.

In addition, there were also a number of larger companies (Saurer, established 1906, Perl, Austro-Fiat, established 1907, Fross-Buessing, established 1908) which produced lorries and subcompact vehicles. The Oesterreichische Daimler-Motoren AG (merged with 1928) and the Steyr-Werke works (merged with Austro-Daimler-Puchwerke AG to become Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG in 1934) manufactured lorries and buses. The Steyr XII, developed by Porsche, was considered one of the best mountain-road vehicles of the time and was exported in great numbers. The Steyr 50 ("Steyr-Baby") was the predecessor of the German Volkswagen. Several companies manufactured motorcycles; Puch motorcycles (esp. the legendary Puch 250) enjoyed particular success.

In World War II, Austria's well-equipped car makers were used for arms purposes and suffered a great deal of sometimes irreversible damage.

Some companies were confiscated after World War II and remained in the hands of Soviet occupation forces ( USIA) until 1955; particularly lorries, tractors and other utility vehicles were produced according to demand. In some cases, companies attempted to produce subcompact cars or entered into assembly co-operation agreements with companies abroad (e.g. Steyr-Puch 500). The promising prospect of sports vehicle production, begun by Porsche in Gmuend (Carinthia), did not prove viable.

In the face of increased networking in world trade, the Austrian automotive industry was unable to hold its own against large foreign competitors and thus stopped domestic motor-car production (with a few exceptions). However Austria was able to maintain its international position in the production of cross-country vehicles (Haflinger, Pinzgauer, Puch G) for several years to come. A number of foreign manufacturers also located to Austria ( BMW Motoren GmbH in Steyr, Opel Austria GmbH in Aspern/Vienna). The Eurostar Automobilwerk Ges.m.b.H. und Co. KG joint venture was established in Graz and was wholly taken over by DaimlerChrysler in 1999; Austrian companies also began supplying automobile parts to manufacturers in Germany and other countries. Austria still produces lorries ( Steyr Nutzfahrzeuge AG, Oesterrreichische Automobilfabrik OeAF-Graef & Stift AG) and supplies and produces 4-wheel-drive off-road vehicles ( Steyr-Daimler-Puch Fahrzeugetechnik AG und CO KG - since 1998 part of Magna Holding AG), mostly for non-Austrian contractors. Among the most important subcontracting firms are branches of Magna Holding AG, which have been established since 1987; the firm AVL LIST GmbH, set up by Hans List has enjoyed worldwide success in Motorenentwicklung. Exports of supply parts virtually covers the value of imports.

After 1945, the demand for two-wheeled motor vehicles rose sharply (motorscooters, mopeds, etc.), which was followed by the automobile boom after 1960. Along with Puch, Lohner and KTM were able to survive; however, only KTM ( KTM Sportmotorcycle AG) survived long enough to see the renewed motorcycle boom (from 1990 onwards).

Further reading#

H. Seper, H. Krackowizer, A. Brusatti, Oesterreichische Kraftfahrzeuge vom Anbeginn bis heute, 1982.