The Rise and Fall of NSU Motorcycles

| 8/5/2011 10:49:28 AM

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NSU Supermax 
Illustration of the NSU Supermax from promotional materials.  

Headquartered in the southern German town of Neckarsulm, NSU had produced automatic knitting machines and a successful line of bicycles before introducing its first motorcycle in 1901.

Once called Neckarsulm Strickmaschinen Union, the company eventually shortened its mouthful of a name to NSU and became one of Germany’s most famous marques along with BMW and DKW. Annual production grew to more than 350,000 units in 1955, making NSU one of the world’s largest manufacturers of two-wheeled vehicles at the time.

But by then, the company was already on its way to losing the distinction. Through the 1950s, NSU became increasingly preoccupied with developing the Wankel rotary engine as well as a line of automobiles. Motorcycle production ceased in 1963, and Volkswagen/Audi swallowed the company by the end of the decade.

Here are two videos featuring the NSU Supermax, one of the company's most fondly remembered motorcycles: