What Car Logos Mean

What Car Logos Mean

When you see a three pointed star on the bonnet of a car you know that it is a Mercedes you are looking at. Similarly, you know what do the logos of other car makers look like. But did you know some of these logos have a history and tell a story in their own special way. Lets take a look at some of the famous car logos with a history and a deeper meaning than just giving the car maker an identity.

Mercedes Benz

The most popular and quickly recognized logo of all is the three pointed star of Mercedes, which stands for the company’s domination of land, sea, and air.

Also, Mercedes is a Spanish girl’s name meaning ‘grace’. An Austrian businessman, Emil Jellinek had a daughter with the same name in 1889.  Jellinek raced faster and more powerful vehicles made by DMG, in 1899, under his pseudonym Mercedes. Earlier the name referred to only the team and driver and had nothing to do with an automotive brand. The current Mercedes is a result of the merger of two car companies, Daimler-Motored-Gesellschaft or DMG, founded by Gottlieb Daimler with Wilhelm Maybach, and Benz & Cie, founded by Karl Benz.


A German engineer August Horch founded A. Horch & Cie in 1899. A decade later, he was forced out of his own company and forced to look for a new name. At a meeting with his business partner Franz Fikentscher, whose son was studying Latin in a corner of the room. Finally, Franz’s son said ‘Audiatur et altera pars’ that translates to wouldn’t it be a good idea to call it Audi instead of Horch? The word Horch stands for hark in German, which means listen and Audi is Latin for listen. Later in 1932, Audi, Horch, DKW, and Wanderer merged to form Auto Union and the four ringed logo of Audi came into being that proudly graces Audi‘s bonnet till date.


Another interesting logo is that of BMW, which used to manufacture military airplane engines in the World War. The logo represents a spinning white propeller blade against the blue sky. The story goes like this: BMW was a major supplier of airplane engines and airplanes such as the Red Baron to the German government. But the Treaty of Versailles forbade Germany to manufacture airplanes and BMW had no option but to change its business. The company first forayed into making railway brakes before making motorized bicycle, motorcycles and cars.


Even the ‘bowtie’ of Chevrolet, which is creating waves in the country with its latest products, also has something to say. There are actually two theories regarding Chevy’s logo. The first one says that founder William C. Durant was inspired by wallpaper in a French hotel and tore a piece of that wallpaper to use it to design a logo. But his wife has a second story that says that the bowtie emblem came from a Virginia newspaper on a vacation around 1912.


The coveted Italian car maker Ferrari‘s prancing horse Cavallino Rampante was originally the emblem of Italian WWII flying ace Fancesco Baracca. When Enzo Ferrari started his own car company, he continued the use of this logo having been earlier persuaded by Baracca’s parents to use the symbol of their late son for his Alfa Romeo race cars. Well, the Cavallino Rampante has defiantly graced more than just Ferrari vehicles and can be found pasted on bikes, t-shirts and almost everywhere one can imagine!


Next on the list is car maker Fiat. The company’s design lead Mario Maioli sketched what he saw while driving past the factory at night during a power outage. The spaces between the letters of the old scrabble tiles Fiat logo represent the light he could see between the letters of the large neon sign against the fading sky. The logo has been redesigned now.


The logo of American car maker Ford is simple and the font is its highlight. This font was used by Harold Wills, who was a close associate of Henry Ford. As a teen, Wills used to print business cars to make money. When his friend Henry Ford needed a logo for his company Wills pulled out his old printing set and used a font that he had used for printing cards as a teen. Later on the oval was added in 1912 and the blue color came in 1927.


Some of the car logos reflect the tastes of its founders like the raging bull in car maker Lamborghini’s logo. The founder of the company Ferrucio Lamborghini adored bull fighting and chose this for his car company. Many Lamborghini cars are named after either a breed of fighting bull or a particular bull. The variety of logos is quite striking and stretches from animal shapes to Viking ships to diamonds.


The company was set up by Louis Renault when he was 21 and the company’s first logo featured three initials of the Renault brothers: Louis, Ferdinand and Marcel. The company also had a military tank logo after its Renault FT-17 light tanks became a rage during World War I. The diamond shape was introduced in 1925 and redesigned in 1972 by famous optional art designer Victor Vasarely.


The winged arrow of Skoda apparently stands for speed. Some people also find a meaning in the colors of the logo: the black stands for the car maker’s history while the green for their environment friendliness. Just like most other car manufacturers Skoda also dates back to the early 1890s where the company started out manufacturing bicycles. But post the World War II and the Velvet Revolution Skoda became a subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group in 1991.


Another simple logo is that of Volkswagen that simply translates to ‘People’s car’ in German and was designed by Franz Xavier Reimspiess. But the company has a very interesting history that traces back to Adolf Hitler. It was Hitler and Ferdinand Porsche who came up with the Volkswagen Beetle that could carry two adults and three children. And once the factory to built it were constructed the company started producing more military vehicles than public cars, which was as per Hitler’s original intentions. Post Germany’s defeat in war British took over the Volkswagen factory and tried to sell it to Ford Motor Company, the French Government, British car manufacturers and lastly, Fiat. But everyone refused blaming Beetles design, which was considered inferior. However, the Volkswagen Beetle went on to become one of the world’s best selling cars.


And then there are logos that are based on ancient symbols like the Volvo logo. The term Volvo stands for ‘I Roll’ in Latin, and its circle with an arrow is the conventional map symbol for steel. The circle arrow also represents the shield and spear of Mars, which is the alchemical symbol for iron.


This South Korean company’s slogan is “Drive your way”. The Hyundai logo looks like an oval shaped H depicting the company’s desire to expand globally. The slanted and stylized ‘H’ is also symbolic for two people like the company and customer shaking hands.


From a distance the logo of Toyota looks like a T meaning Toyota. But the logo has much more to say. The logo consists of three ellipses depicting the heart of the customer, the heart of the product, and the ever-expanding technological advancements and boundless opportunities that lie ahead.

It is surprising what those till now not-so-significant logos could represent in the tiny space they get on the bonnet of a car. It’s like lots of history packed in a scanty space!

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