Puch is a manufacturing company located in Graz, Austria. The company was founded in 1899 by the industrialist Johann Puch and produced automobiles, bicycles, mopeds, and motorcycles. It was a subsidiary of the large Steyr-Daimler-Puch conglomerate.
From 1889 Johann Puch (1862–1914) worked as an agent for Humber vehicles and manufacturer of Styria safety bicycles in a small workshop in Graz and in 1890 he founded his first company, Johann Puch & Comp., employing 34 workers. Cyclists like Josef Fischer, winning the first edition of Paris–Roubaix in 1896, popularized Styria bicycles which were even exported to England and France. By 1895, Puch already employed more than 300 workers producing about 6000 bikes a year.
In 1897 Puch left the company after a dispute with his business partners. Two years later he founded the First Styrian Bicycle Factory AG (Erste Steiermärkische Fahrradfabrik AG) in Graz. Puch’s company became successful through innovation and quality handicraft, rapidly expanding over time. It soon began producing motorcycles and mopeds.
The main production plant, later called Einser-Werk, was constructed in the south of Graz, in the district of Puntigam. Production of engines was started in 1901 and cars followed in 1904. In 1906 the production of the two-cylinder Puch Voiturette began and in 1909 a Puch car broke the world high-speed record with 130.4 km/h. In 1910, Puch is known to have produced sedans for members of the Habsburg imperial family.
In 1912 Johann Puch went into retirement and became the company’s honorary president. In that year the company employed about 1,100 workers and produced 16,000 bicycles and over 300 motorcycles and cars annually. Puch automobiles were successful at the pre-war Österreichische Alpenfahrt rally and from 1913, the four-cylinder 38 PS (horsepower) Type VIII Alpenwagen was manufactured in Graz. During World War I, Puch became an important vehicle supplier to the Austro-Hungarian Army.
With the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire following the War, the market for automobiles shrank and production was discontinued. However, again in 1919, the new Type XII Alpenwagen was developed.
In 1923 the Italian engineer and FIAT agent Giovanni Marcellino is said to have been sent by the banks to wind up the Puch factory in Graz. Instead of which, within a few weeks he had settled down to live in the town, designing and then producing a new version of the split-single. Taking his inspiration from industrial counter-piston engines, the new engine benefited from the improved breathing of the Italian original, to which he added asymmetric port timing. In 1931 Puch won the German Grand Prix with a supercharged split-single, though in subsequent years the split-singles of DKW did better.
In 1928 the company merged with Austro-Daimler into the new Austro-Daimler-Puchwerke. This company in its turn merged in 1934 with Steyr-Werke AG to form the Steyr-Daimler-Puch conglomerate.Like all enterprises of its kind, the Puch production plants had to change to arms production during World War II. The existing capacity was insufficient, therefore a second plant was constructed and opened in 1941 in Thondorf, Graz. In the three original assembly halls, luxury vehicles for the American market were produced. Steyr-Daimler-Puch is one of the companies known to have benefited from slave labor housed in the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp system during World War II. Slaves from the camp were used in a highly profitable system used by 45 engineering and war-effort companies, and amongst them Puch had an underground factory built at Gusen in 1943. During the period immediately after the war, late 1945 to 1947, the factory was requisitioned and run by the British Army (R.E.M.E.) who used the facilities and what remained of the workforce for the repairing and servicing of British and American military vehicles. In 1949, an assembly cooperation agreement was signed with Fiat in Turin. The 1950s to the mid-1970s saw a sharp increase in production of motorcycles, bicycles and mopeds. Even though Puch was a part of Steyr-Daimler-Puch, it still manufactured products under its own name, as well as for Steyr-Puch and other companies. Puch gave up racing in the 1950s and split-single production ended around 1970.