As one of Germany's oldest automotive brands, ABT can look back on an eventful past with groundbreaking successes but also a great deal of hardship. But staying true to the course and maintaining focus on the objective in mind still characterises each of the family members involved today and has made ABT what it is today.
Already in the first generation, founding father Johann Abt laid the foundation for the later DNA of the ABT company with his "Schutsche": Pioneering spirit, exclusivity and individualisation.
The combination of sleigh and carriage is one of the first hybrid concepts in mobility. Taken over by Johann Abt in 1896, the company that later became AUTO-ABT was then still a blacksmith's and wagon-maker's shop. The first car does not run in Kempten until 2 years later.
With a sure sense of the future, Johann Abt, who in the meantime had wisely moved into the automotive sector, decided in 1920 to enter into a partnership with the Horch and Audi companies founded by August Horch ...
... which merged with Wanderer and DKW to form Auto Union in 1932. A relationship that has endured to this day.
He also had his two sons Josef and Hans study mechanical and automotive engineering.
After Josef, who had taken over his father's business following his father's death in 1933, had not returned from the Second World War in 1945, the success story of the ABT company could already have come to a tragic end.
But Joseph's strong and clever wife Rosina Abt, together with brother-in-law Hans, now resolutely takes the reins and steers the fate of the car workshop, which had survived the bombing raids, into the future.
Johann Abt enters his very first car race at the age of 14 at and makes it onto the podium straight away.
Born in 1935, the son of Rosina and Josef is already giving the AUTO-ABT boss a lot of pleasure at a young age. He loves cars and motorbikes more than anything else and, with special permission from the military authorities, enters his very first car race at the age of 14 and makes it onto the podium straight away.
This was followed by a move to Ingolstadt to learn even more about cars directly at the new headquarters of Auto Union and DKW, as well as 25 more successful years of motorsport on two and four wheels. Johann Abt wins more than 300 races in his own tuned cars. The perfect figurehead for AUTO-ABT.
1962 is an eventful year for the Abt family: The steadily growing business needs more space and eventually moves from Burgstraße to Oberwanger Straße in Kempten.
More importantly: Johann marries his bride Thea and Hans-Jürgen Abt is born in the same year, followed by his brother Christian in 1967. The continuation of the success story is now assured.
"We want a DKW that is at least as fast as Johann Abt's." AUTO-ABT has been hearing this request from customers for years.
The correspondingly consistent expansion of the product range led to the birth of ABT Tuning and the creation of the claim "From the racetrack to the road", which is still valid today.
This is how ABT Tuning becomes the second branch of business and ABT finally becomes its own brand, which grows far beyond Kempten. The special thing: When "improving" the vehicles, Johann always has an integrated approach, like in motorsport. If the engine’s performance is improved, then the suspension must also be improved.
In the 1960s, Johann Abt, who specialised in DKWs, had to reorient himself.
Volkswagen turned its back on the outdated two-stroke engine technology, and thus also on DKW, and reactivated the Audi brand, which had been discontinued in 1939. Initially, however, only with a simple saloon, so that Johann got involved with the much sportier Abarth vehicles, especially in racing.
Few vehicles are as closely associated with ABT history as the high-performance variant of the VW Golf.
Once again, Johann has the right instinct and inspires countless customers with a 20% power increase with the first series. Thus, from 1974 onwards, he developed his relationship not only with Audi, but also with Volkswagen, and from then on also tuned other vehicles from the brand. ABT thus continues to develop into an expert for engine power, but always remains innovative and becomes one of the first chip tuners in the 80s.
The export business also becomes a growing component in the 70s.
The name Abt has been an integral part of motorsport since the 1950s.
In 1978, ABT also starts its cooperation with the VW Group in motorsport by participating in the German Rally Championship, which is deepened from the 90s onwards by numerous victories and title wins in the German Super Touring Car Championship, in the DTM, in the ADAC GT Masters and in Formula E.
But also as a private team or in cooperation with CUPRA in the Extreme E electric racing series, the ABT Motorsport team shows itself in an absolutely professional manner.
As an independent tuning and motorsport company, ABT Sportsline is no longer subject to the same strict rules as the Audi and Volkswagen sales partner AUTO-ABT and therefore has even greater freedom for development.
... and eventually becomes an established global brand in the 90s. To provide every customer with a vehicle that is optimised in all respects and equipped with the latest high-performance technology: This is and remains the core objective of ABT Sportsline, which was founded in 1991 and is run by the two brothers Hans-Jürgen and Christian.
Vehicle tuning at the highest level to this day: Technologies are becoming increasingly complex and the required system competence is becoming all the more important.
This is provided by the extremely qualified ABT engineers. And despite progressive automation in most branches of industry, skilled handwork remains a key component. When you buy an ABT, you're not just buying technology, you're buying an experience.
But the alternative drive systems, which have become increasingly important since the 90s, also awaken Abt's innovative spirit, which, after numerous studies and projects, results in the ABT e-Line.
Starting with the conversion of a racing car to natural gas and its participation in various races, ABT begins to explore the initially new paths of alternative drives.
With the subsequent studies on electric mobility, the first own e-Caddy electric prototype, which is launched with a small series of 50 vehicles for the German postal service, the participation in Formula E and last but not least with the spectacular 1,018 hp power hybrid RS6-E developed in 2018, ABT is strongly oriented towards the future of mobility and yet remains true to itself.
Finally, as the official body manufacturer of VW commercial vehicles, the new ABT e-Line division has been converting more than 4,300 T6 buses and Caddys into electric vehicles since 2018.