The first-generation Audi 80 entered production in July 1972. It represented a revolution for the company and featured many new solutions, which were soon adapted to the other models. This new midsize car, which was known in-house as B1, widened the model range below the Audi 100. Audi 80’s harmonious and functional design was the brainchild of a young Hartmut Warkuß. His concept won through against a number of radically wedge-like designs, all of which were rejected by Ludwig Kraus, the Board Member for Technical Development. Ludwig Kraus had demanded strict adherence to lightweight design and the basic model with two doors weighted just 835 kilograms (1,840 lb). The first Audi 80 had very compact dimensions. The wheelbase was 2.47 meters (8.10 ft) and the total length of the car was 4.18 meters (13.71 ft).
The gasoline engines were created under the leadership of engine boss Franz Hauk. Four engines were available: displacement ranged from 1.3 to 1.6 liters and output from 40 kW (55 hp) to 74 kW (100 hp). One highlight of these high-revving and straightforward four-cylinder engines was valve timing controlled by means of an overhead camshaft driven by a toothed belt and bucket tappets. The engine was situated longitudinally in front of the front axle. The four-speed gearbox was behind it and the power was delivered to the front wheels. MacPherson struts and transverse links controlled the front wheels. Chassis engineer Detlef Banholzer had realized, for the very first time in a European volume-production vehicle, a negative scrub radius – a solution which greatly enhanced stability during braking. The diagonally split dual-circuit brake system similarly was also highly complex. The rear suspension was a torsion crank axle with suspension struts.
The Audi 80 GT was launched in 1973 as a top-of-the-line model. With its double carburettor system, the engine produced 100 hp. The top speed of the Audi 80 GT was 175 km/h. The optional sport package included matt black painted bonnet and alloy wheels. In 1975 the 1.5-liter engine was discontinued and the GTE replaced the GT model. Audi 80 GTE’s gasoline injection boosted the engine output to 81 kW (110 hp) providing even sportier performance. In 1976 Audi 80 was updated and fitted with rectangular headlights.
Audi 80 was a huge success on the market. The capacity at the Ingolstadt site was soon exhausted, so the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg also manufactured the Audi 80 from June 1972 to August 1974. 66,549 Audi 80 cars were produced in Wolfsburg. A further 109,421 B1 models came off the assembly lines in Emden, all for the export market. More than 400,000 units of the first Audi 80 went abroad. In the USA, the most important export market, the sedan was sold under the name Fox and boasted 157,869 buyers. When the production of the first generation Audi 80 ended in the summer of 1978, over a million units had been sold.