Wanderer Werke AG in Chemnitz had a diverse production programme at a very early stage: bicycles (from 1885), motorcycles (from 1902), office machines (from 1904), machine tools (from 1898) and cars (from 1913).
When Auto Union AG was formed in 1932, Zschopauer Motorenwerke AG as the parent company acquired the share capital of Audiwerke AG and Horchwerke AG directly. The fourth ‘ring’, however, the automobile division of Wanderer Werke, was acquired by purchase and a leasing agreement. Wanderer Werke, with its divisions for bicycles and small motorcycles, and office machinery and machine tools, remained a separate, independent company.
Within Auto Union AG the Wanderer car brand was allocated the mid-size segment (prices between 3,875 and 8,250 Reichsmarks). Competition in this segment was very strong and came mainly from Opel and Daimler-Benz, and also BMW.
In terms of production volume and turnover, the Wanderer brand was second among the Auto Union companies, behind DKW. In 1937, 54,765 cars built by Auto Union AG were registered in Germany, a 25.3 percent share of the total (216,538). 19.5 percent of all registrations were for models built by DKW (42,143); Wanderer cars secured a 4.7 percent share (10,177); Audi and Horch were both below one percent.
Within the overall Auto Union programme, Wanderer models increasingly acquired the image of rather dull mid-size cars. In 1936, however, the Wanderer W 51 and the Wanderer W 25 K sports car with supercharged engine were introduced, featuring modern Auto Union body styling for the first time. This was taken up and implemented by the other Auto Union brands in the years that followed. The aim was to systematically reposition the Wanderer brand and give it a sporty, progressive image.
This development came to an abrupt end when the Second World War broke out in 1939. The last Wanderer cars left the factory in 1942, and after the war no attempts were made to revive the Wanderer brand in the automotive industry.