Audi is today celebrating the delivery of its five millionth vehicle equipped with quattro all-wheel drive.

The car is a white 2013 Audi A6 Allroad built at the automaker’s plant in Neckarsulm, Germany, and destined for a customer in Europe.

This means that Audi, by far, is the top luxury brand for sales of all-wheel-drive vehicles.

The record is a testament to the leading role played by Audi in the development of all-wheel-drive technology for production cars.

Its system, known as quattro, debuted in 1980 in the legendary quattro sports car. The origins, however, can be traced back to the winter of 1976-77, when a group of Audi engineers conducted test drives in the deep snow of Northern Sweden.

After discovering that a low-powered Volkswagen Iltis all-wheel-drive vehicle easily outmatched their much more powerful, front-wheel-drive prototypes, the engineers, led by Ferdinand Piëch, now Chairman of the Volkswagen Group, started work on the first quattro system.   

To this day, Audi continues to reinvent the technology. The latest version, dubbed e-tron quattro, has already proven its mettle in the world of motorsport, with a pair of R18 race cars fitted with the technology taking out the top two positions at last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Planned for the automaker’s future road cars, e-tron quattro does away with the driveshafts found in traditional all-wheel-drive systems and replaces them with a ‘through-the-road’ hybrid system. Essentially, one axle of the car is powered by an internal combustion engine in a conventional manner, and the second by an electric motor.  

Audi has already started testing its e-tron quattro technology in an A5 prototype and could end up debuting the technology in a new diesel-electric supercar.