A Logo that Defines the Car

Car Logos 560x220Every car has a logo. The logo embodies each manufacturer’s mission statement or heritage. Some logos have a pretty lame history and are not worthy enough to be mentioned in detail, while others, like the ones on this list, have intriguing stories behind their logo’s creation.

What we noticed is that the majority of the good logos are from Europe. The Europeans know how to make great logos and cars that define themselves from others. American car manufacturers don’t seem to understand or care so much about their heritage. The big three in Detroit went an entire generation chasing profits, and just now are starting to put the heart back into their vehicles.

If you can’t make out the resemblance between models within one make. Where’s the heritage? Where’s the lineage over the years to show you’ve been making continuous improvements on that specific model? It’s difficult to see any sibling rivalry within any particular American manufacturer because the pride in the heritage just hasn’t existed

Let’s look at the different logos and what the story is behind each one…

alfaromeo logoAlfa Romeo

Founded: 1910

Headquarters: Turin, Italy

The red cross celebrates the deeds of Giovanni Da Rio who is reputed to have been the first to climb the walls of Jerusalem and erect a cross there during the first crusade. The other half of the symbol is occupied by a man-eating serpent that reportedly terrified the local populous of Milan in the early part of the 5th century A.D.

audi logoAudi

Founded: 1910

Headquarters: Ingolstadt, Germany

The four rings which embodies the emblem symbolizes the 1932 merger of the four companies: Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer. The Audi name, which is Latin for “Hear!,” disappeared, but was revived in 1965 using the four rings as a logo. Also, “Audi” is a sort of pun on “hoerch”, German for “to listen”, the name of one of the founders.

bmw logoBMW

Founded: 1916

Headquarters: Munich, Germany

The Bavarian Motor Works logo is a derivation of the Bavarian flag and representative of BMW’s heritage in which it built engines for German military planes during World War II. One half of the propeller was painted blue and the other half was painted white.

buick logoBuick

Founded: 1903

Headquarters: Detroit, Michigan

The logo represents the three Buick models in production at the time, the LeSabre, Invicta, and Electra.

chevrolet logoChevrolet

Founded: 1911

Headquarters: Detroit, Michigan

Legend has it that the Chevy logo was inspired by a wallpaper in a French hotel where William C. Durant was staying. However, his wife says that the bow tie emblem was first seen by her husband in a Virginia newspaper on a vacation around 1912, upon which he told her that he thought it’d be a very good emblem for Chevrolet.

cadillac logo 300x276Cadillac

Founded: 1902

Headquarters: Detroit, Michigan

The Cadillac logo is based on the family crest of the man for whom the company was named, Antoine de La Mothe, Sieyr de Cadillac. The symbolism of the wreath surrounding the crest is uncertain.

dodge logo 300x298Dodge

Founded: 1900

Headquarters: Auburn Hills, Michigan

The Dodge ram logo first appeared as a hood ornament in the 1930s, used on both trucks and cars. The Ram was chosen for the image it portrays: sure-footed and king of the trail.

ferrari logoFerrari

Founded: 1947

Headquarters: Maranello, Italy

The infamous prancing stallion used by Ferrari was originally the symbol of an Italian air force World War I ace, Count Francesco Baracca, who painted it on the side of his plane for good luck. The horse symbolized the squadron he belonged to – the Calvary regiment. Count Baracca’s mother, Countess Paolina, convinced Enzo Ferrari to use the symbol in 1923 on his racing cars to bring him good luck. The yellow background represents Ferrari’s birthplace, Modena.

ford logoFord

Founded: 1903

Headquarters: Dearborn, Michigan

Harold Wills, a friend of Henry Ford, made lots of money by printing business cards, and when Henry was looking for a logo to mark his car in 1903, Wills was on the job. The type-font of the Ford logo is the same one used by Wills on his business cards. The oval appeared in 1912 and the blue background added in 1927 in conjuction with the launch of the Model A.

jaguar 300x217Jaguar

Founded: 1922

Headquarters: Coventry, England

It is believed the leaping jaguar represents the power, speed, and quickness of its cars.

lamborghini logoLamborghini

Founded: 1963

Headquarters: Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy

The Lamborghini logo stands for the founder’s zodiac sign- the Taurus (a bull). Ferruccio Lamborghini’s love of bullfights is displayed in the logo and Lamborghini models get their names from famous bulls. Lamborghini is now a subsidiary of German car manufacturer Audi AG, which is in turn a subsidiary of Volkswagen.

lotus logoLotus

Founded: 1952

Headquarters: Hethel Norwich, Norfolk, England

The letters at the top of the logo are the initials of the founder of Lotus, Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman. It is not known why Chapman chose the Lotus name for the company. The Green is the famous British Racing Green, worn by British racing cars, and the yellow background symbolizes the sunny days Chapman wanted for his company.

maserati logoMaserati

Founded: 1914

Headquarters: Modena, Italy

As in the case of Alfa Romeo, the Maserati logo represents the town of the mark. The trident is the traditional symbol of the city of Bologna, where Maserati cars were built before they were relocated to Modena.

mazda logoMazda

Founded: 1920

Headquarters: Hiroshima, Japan

The Mazda logo is more than just a stylish tulip. Developed by Rei Yoshimara, a world-renowned corporate image-maker, the “V” represents outstretched wings, and in Mazda’s words, “The creativity, the sense of mission, the gentleness and flexibility that are Mazda.”

mercedes benz logoMercedes-Benz

Founded: 1871

Headquarters: Stuttgart, Germany

The star in three corners represents the Mercedes-Benz dominance on land, sea and air. The star appeared for the first time in 1909 on a Daimler. In 1926 the crown of laurel was added to mark the union with Benz. The current logo with a star in a circle was used for the first time in 1937.

mitsubishi logoMitsubishi

Founded: 1970

Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan

The three diamonds of the Mitsubishi logo represents the three ship fleet owned by the company founders and the first activity of the Nippon manufacturer.

peugeot logoPeugeot

Founded: 1882

Headquarters: Sochaux, France

The lion from the logo of Peugeot comes from the Belfort city emblem, the place where the first Peugeot model was manufactured. Bartholdi, Belfort city’s logo creator is the same sculptor that designed the Statue of Liberty.

porsche logoPorsche

Founded: 1931

Headquarters: Stuttgart, Germany

The Porsche logo is almost identical to Stuttgart’s coat of arms. Stuttgart, was built on the site of a stud (horse) farm. The antlers and red and black stripes are part of the arms of the Wruttemberg Kingdom.

renault logoRenault

Founded: 1899

Headquarters: Boulogne-Billancourt, France

The Renault diamond had a functional purpose in its early life. The badge was placed on the hood and the center of the badge cut out to allow sound from the car’s horn, positioned directly behind the logo, to escape.

saab logo 300x300Saab

Founded: 1937

Headquarters: Järfälla, Sweden

The Griffen head is derived from the coat of arms of Count von Skane, which was used as the symbol for the Swedish province of Skane, where Saab was formed.

subaru logoSubaru

Founded: 1953

Headquarters: Gunma, Japan

“Subaru” is a Japanese word meaning “unite.” It is also a term identifying the Pleiades star cluster in the constellation Taurus that includes six stars visible to the average eye. According to Greek mythology, Atlas’, the Greek God of weightlifting and burdens, daughters turned into this group of stars. In 1953, five Japanese companies merged to form Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. The new corporation adopted the “Subaru” cluster of stars as its official logo for its line of automobiles.

toyota logoToyota

Founded: 1937

Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan

The Toyota logo contains three ellipses which represent the heart of the customer, the heart of the product and the heart of technological progress and limitless opportunities of the future. In Japanese, Toyo signifies abundance, and ta means rice. In some Asian cultures, the rice represents wealth.

volkswagen logoVolkswagen

Founded: 1938

Headquarters: Wolfsburg, Germany

The Volkswagen logo story is simplistic. The logo contains the letters V and W: “Volks” means people and “Wagen” means car.

volvo logo


Founded: 1927

Headquarters: Gothenburg, Sweden

Volvo means “I go” in Latin and the circle with the arrow is a conventional sign for iron; the best known richness of Sweden. The circle represents a shield and the arrow is the arrow of Mars, another symbol for iron.

Some car logos were not invited to participate on this list. What can we say? Come up with something better and maybe we’ll create a volume II for those that failed to make the list this go around.