30 Famous Car Logos and Their History
Have you ever wondered why Ferrari cars are represented by a horse while Lamborghinis have a bull? Or why the logo of Aston Martin has wings while a Mercedes-Benz has a three-pointed star? Or why your nationalistic uncle refuses to give up his old Holden car with a lion emblem despite having the financial means to buy a brand new vehicle?
Some car logos have become so popular that you wouldn't mistake them for any other, but there's more to these emblems than just brand identity and aesthetics. They also represent a rich history and the proud legacy of their founders and makers. And this seemingly unimportant historical background can greatly influence many car buyers’ decisions.
Here’s a look at 30 of the world's most famous car logos and their history.
1. Alfa Romeo
Without the name, many would mistake the logo for a medical or pharmaceutical company, thanks to its image of a cross, a snake, and oh, is that snake eating a man?
Paying homage to its Italian heritage, the logo design is derived from the red cross emblem of Milan and the biscione (a big viper snake swallowing a child) emblem of the House of Visconti, which ruled the city in the 14th century. However, Alfa Romeo claims that the snake in their logo isn’t eating the man but the man is instead coming out of the snake, renewed.
Alfa is an acronym for “Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili” (Lombard Automobile Factory, Public Company) that first produced its 24 HP car in 1910 while Romeo is taken from Nicola Romeo, the Italian engineer and industrialist who purchased the company in 1915.
2. Aston Martin
The British luxury sports car manufacturer is known for its pair of white wings logo with the company’s name on it.
It’s a step farther away from the original logo design, which consisted of the letters “A” and “M” in black colour, merged inside a black double-line circle. This was meant to represent the company, which was coined after founder Lionel Martin and his successful runs at the Aston Hill Climb in Buckinghamshire, England.
Adopted in 1927, the winged design was said to be inspired by the logo of Bentley and meant to represent speed, which Aston Martin cars took pride in. The addition of “David Brown” was made in the 1940s when the company was acquired by the English industrialist.
A variety of adjustments was made to the logo over the 20th century, each one incorporating cues from different eras. The most recent retouch was introduced in 2003 with the launch of Aston Martin's new global headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire.
Frequently mistaken for the Olympics logo, Audi’s four interlocking rings represent the four oldest car makers in Germany that merged in 1932 to form the company: Audi, DKW, Horch, and Wanderer.
Over the years, the logo has had minimal changes in the print, size, colour, and common appearance. Nevertheless, the four overlapping rings have remained unchanged to symbolise protection, power, and the relentless effort of the brand to strengthen ties with its clients
The latest look was presented in 2009, featuring the overlapping rings with a polished chromium look that appeared to be more sharp-cut.
Designed by professional artist Frederick Gordon Crosby, Bentley’s winged logo is simple yet sophisticated. It features the letter “B” in the middle of two spread wings. While B obviously means Bentley, the spread wings symbolize elitism and speed as the brand is known for producing high quality cars with very powerful engines. It is also said to be a reference to founder Walter Bentley’s original company, which created spare parts for the aircraft industry.
Since its introduction in 1919, the logo has not undergone major changes. However, minor tweaks are made depending on which Bentley car it would attach to. In racing cars, the oval between the wings and the letter B is painted in green while in exclusive class cars, the oval is red. The most expensive models have a black oval.
The amount of feathers in the logo also varies. Vintage models usually have thirteen hackles on the left and fourteen on the right, Derby cars have ten and eleven, and Crewe cars have 10 each side.
Proudly made in Deutschland, the BMW logo represents its origin, the southern state of Bavaria. The logo features blue and white quadrants that are enclosed within a circle to symbolise the Bavarian Free State. At the top of the circle are the letters BMW, which stands for Bayerische Motoren Werke (Bavarian Motor Works).
This is contrary to the rumours that the blue and white checkered boxes represent a spinning propeller or a white/silver propeller blade spinning against a clear blue sky, which was believed to be an ode to the company’s origin as an aircraft engine manufacturer.
Although established in Detroit, the logo of the oldest active American car brand pays tribute to Scotland, the ancestral homeland of founder David Dunbar Buick.
The logo has changed a number of times since 1903 but its most popular design depicts three shields in red, white, and blue to honour the Scottish Buik family coat of arms. The tri-shield was introduced in 1959 to represent the company’s line-up of three models: LeSabre, Invicta and Electra.
Buick’s latest logo introduced in 2002 features an all-silver triple shield to represent elegance and reflect the brand’s upmarket positioning.
While the American luxury car maker pays homage to Detroit, Michigan where it was born, its name and logo definitely give a hint of Europe. Named after Detroit founder Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the company’s logo is based on Cadillac’s coat of arms that features three coloured bands, a crown, a wreath, and several small Merganser ducks.
Over the years, the logo has undergone redesigns, from the removal of the crown and the ducks, to the extreme widening of the crest, to the removal of the wreath.
Today, only the colour scheme of the original crest has remained: gold, black, red, silver, and blue. It is said to be inspired by Dutch geometric painter Piet Mondrian.
Simple yet elegant, Chevrolet’s logo features two thick intersecting patterns in metallic gold akin to a cross or bowtie and bordered by silver.
With the emblem’s fame, various theories explaining its origin have emerged. Some claimed that it was inspired by the flag of Switzerland where founder Louis Chevrolet was born. Others said it was inspired by a wallpaper design in a Parisian hotel where the company’s co-founder William C. Durant stayed. His daughter, however, stated that Durant had designed a sketch of the logo on a tablecloth during a family dinner. Meanwhile, his widower claimed that it was inspired by an attractive bowtie logo that Durant saw on a newspaper.
Out of all these theories, none has been successfully confirmed true and accurate.
The wing logo of the American automotive company is inspired by Mercury, the Roman God of speed and travel who has wings on his feet and cap according to legends.
It has also taken cues from Chrysler's original pentastar logo, which has been used since the company’s inception in 1925 before it was phased out in 2014 when the company was purchased by Fiat.
The famous Blue Oval, which has become an iconic symbol of Ford, was introduced in 1928. Known for its simple yet memorable design, the logo featured the word "Ford" written in silver-coloured script font inside a blue oval with silver borderline. It has become an essential feature of all Ford vehicles since 1976.
In its latest version introduced in 2003 to celebrate the company's centennial anniversary, the oval has become flatter, the blue hue has become more gradient, and the silver outline has become white.
The original logo, however, was much more intricate—a circle with art nouveau borders that said “Ford Motor Co". It was replaced later on by Wills' “Ford” lettering. The oval was introduced in 1907 to represent Ford cars' reliability and economy.
The famous black prancing horse (cavallino rampante) emblem of the Italian car brand was the brainchild of its founder Enzo Ferrari. A professional racecar driver, Ferrari was asked to paint a prancing horse on his cars to honour the fighter pilot and World War I hero Count Francesco Barraca who had a similar horse paint on his plane.
When Ferrari founded the Scuderia Ferrari Grand Prix motor racing team in 1929 and subsequently the Ferrari automobile marque, he kept the horse emblem and added bright yellow to the background to honour his home city of Modena.
A sketch of a roaring lion manoeuvring a wheel, Holden's logo was meant to present the brand as "King of the Road" and there's some truth to it. Although just a subsidiary of General Motors in Australia, the brand has dominated the country's large-car market before its demise in 2017. One of its most famous model was the Commodore, is still the most popular sub-$70,000 large car today.
Simple yet highly recognisable, Honda's car logo evokes the Japanese's love for minimalism. It consists of the letter "H" (broader on top and thinner at the bottom) embedded into a trapezoidal form. Of course, the H is an ode to Honda Motor Company, which was founded by Soichiro Honda and Takeo Fujisawa in Hamamatsu, Japan on September 1948.
Why Honda and not Fujisawa, you ask? The literal translation of Honda is “original rice paddy”, which works well in Japan because of its familiarity and elsewhere in the world because of its simplicity.
Hyundai's logo bears resemblance to Honda's in that it is also a simple letter "H" embedded in an oval. While the H obviously stands for Hyundai, it also means something else: a stylized picture of a silhouette of two individuals shaking hands. One of individual represents the company while the other is the satisfied customer.
Founded in 1967, the South Korean multinational automotive manufacturer is a subsidiary of the Hyundai Engineering & Construction Company founded by Chung Ju-Yung. The word “Hyundai” is the Korean 現代 (“hanja” or "hyeondae" in English transliteration), which means “modernity.”
Presented in 1974 to honour the company’s partnership with General Motors, Isuzu's logo featured two vertical white pillars against a red background. The pillars can be:
- stylized representations of the first syllable of いすゞ, which simply means “Isuzu” in Japanese
- stamp of excellence based on a common mark of quality used by craftsmen
- white symbol divided in half by a red background, representing corporate and societal growth against the sunburst red background, which reflects the company’s determination to meet the needs of the age
Over the years, the use of the pillared emblem is slowly replaced by a text-based Isuzu badge, with the “S” and “Z” being mirror images of each other.
Another simple yet highly recognised car logo is that of Kia, the oldest automaker in Korea. It features the word "KIA" in bold red letters and white background and bordered by a red oval.
Founded by Chul-Ho Kim on June 1944, the company started as a manufacturer of bicycle components. The word Kia means "to rise of out Asia". It comes from the combination of "Ki", which means arise or come up out of and "A", which simply means Asia.
If Ferrari has a horse, Lamborghini has a bull. Its logo features a charging golden bull on a black shield with a golden outline. On top of the bull is the word "Lamborghini" in gold capital letters.
Designer Paolo Rambaldi was said to have chosen a bull for its logo because it represents aggressiveness. It is also the zodiac sign of the company's founder, mechanical engineer and noted bullfighting enthusiast Ferruccio Lamborghini.
The Japanese car brand's logo features a M-shaped wings enclosed in an oval. The wings symbolises the company, which derived its name from Ahura Mazda, the god of wisdom, intelligence, and harmony in early Asian civilisations; as well as from its founder, Jujiro Matsuda.
Another proudly Italian car brand is Maserati, which incorporates various Italian symbols into its logo. Designed by the fourth Maserati brother, Mario, who happened to be an artist, the logo features a trident based on the statue of the Roman god Neptune in the Piazza Maggiore in Bologna, the city where the company was established in 1914. The city's colours of blue and red are also incorporated into the emblem.
The logo was first introduced in 1926 when the brothers produced their first Tipo 26 model.
The iconic logo of the German automaker features a three-pointed silver star inside a silver circle. It is said to represent the company's dream of establishing motorized domination in the sea, air, and land.
The logo, which was originally gold, was conceptualized by the sons of the company's co-founder Gottlieb Daimler, Paul and Adolf. The brothers were said to be inspired by the symbol their father used to mark family postcards.
Over the years, the logo has undergone minor redesigns. Before it adopted the silver hue, it was a white star at the center of a thick circular border with detailing around the edges.
Three red diamonds touching at a point, the Mitsubishi logo is a symbolic representation of the company's name.
"Mitsu" means three in Japanese while "hishi" means water chestnut, which is a term used by the Japanese to describe a diamond shape. Combined with a prefix, "hishi" becomes "bishi".
The Mitsubishi logo pays homage to the shipping company Tsukumo Shokai, a precursor of Mitsubishi, that used a triangular water chestnut icon on its ships' flags. The design is derived from the three-layer chestnut family crest of founder Yataro Iwasaki, as well as to the three-leaved oak family crest of the Yamanouchi family from the Tosa Clan.
Nissan's modern logo features a silver horizontal block with the company name inscribed in black font placed against a silver circle.
In earlier times, however, the logo had different hues. The horizontal rectangle was in blue with white edges. The company name inscription was also in white. Underneath the rectangular block was a red circle with white edges. This was derived from the logo of Nissan's predecessor and sister company, Datsun, which was closed in 1984.
Nissan simply inherited the blue and red emblem and replaced the company name with its own until it decided to design a new and more elegant badge in 1988. From replacing the rectangular block with grey and the red circle with silver to making the circle more prominent and disintegrated against the rectangle, the logo underwent more redesigns over the years. The latest update was introduced in 2012, which featured the logo in gradient shades of silver and grey.
Proudly Japanese, Nissan is a combination of the words "ni", which means sun and "ssan" which means product or birth.
Peugeot's logo depicts a silver lion standing sideways. A blue background is usually attached with the logo. The company name can also be seen inscribed under the symbol in many instances.
The lion emblem dates back to 1847 when the company was not yet involved in auto production but mainly specialized in producing steel and blade goods.
The lion logo first became a car emblem in 1889 when the company produced its first vehicle. It underwent several revisions throughout the years, from making it simpler and more dynamic to putting its head inside a triangle shield to having more defined claws.
Unveiled in 2002, the latest lion logo has a black shadow and stands on a blue background, earning the company label, "Blue Brand".
Proudly German, the logo of Porsche combines elements from the coats of arms of the Free State of Württemberg in western Germany and its former capital, Stuttgart.
Shaped as a crest to pay homage to the iconic traditions of Württemberg-Baden, the logo depicts a prancing black horse with the "Stuttgart" lettering above its head. Meanwhile, the red-and-black stripes and antlers represent the coat of arms of the Württemberg Kingdom.
Simple yet elegant, the luxury car brand's logo depicts a vertically shaped rectangle in blue background with two overlapping Rs in white font with the words "Rolls" on top and "Royce" below the letters.
Born out of the successful partnership of Charles Rolls and Henry Royce, Rolls-Royce car logo originally used a red font before it was changed to black in 1934 after the death of Royce.
Rolls-Royce cars always come with the “Spirit of Ecstasy” mascot that sits atop the front grille, which is said to be taken from an earlier sculpture called “The Whisperer” modeled on actress Eleanor Thornton.
Subaru's starry logo is inspired by its name, which is the Japanese name of the Pleiades star cluster M45 in the Taurus constellation. The five small stars represent the the five companies that merged in 1953 to form Fuji Heavy Industries, the parent company of Subaru, which is represented by the biggest star.
The blue background represents the actual color of the Pleiades stars, which are blue.
According to Elon Musk, Tesla's artistic letter "T" in its logo is meant to represent the cross-section of an electric motor invented by Nikola Tesla, the inspiration behind the company name. The main body of the "T" resembles a pole that sticks out of a motor's rotor while the second line on top represents a section of the stator.
Repeating the logo in a circle with the top of each "T" facing outward does create a replica of an electric-motor cross-section.
Another iconic car logo that people can recognise despite the absence of any word on it is Toyota's.
But is that a weird cowboy hat inside an oval? Not really. Those are actually three overlapping silver ovals with the inner two forming a stylized T and a steering wheel.
Another marketing interpretation of the company claims that the horizontal oval represents the customers' expectations while the vertical oval represents the car manufacturer's ideal. Together, they are firmly interlocked to form the letter "T", which represents the company. Meanwhile, the outermost oval is the world embracing Toyota.
Popular theories also claim a hidden meaning inside the logo, the inner oval being a needle that leaves a space for an invisible thread to pass through. It is said to pay homage to the company's origin the industrial loom maker, Toyoda Automatic Loom Works.
The internet also says that you can spell out Toyota using just the logo. Well, can you?
Volvo's latest logo shows a silver circle with an arrow pointing diagonally upwards at the top right side. Inside the circle is a white background with a blue horizontal block in the center inscribed with the company name in white font.
The circle with an arrow pointing upwards at the top right is the chemical symbol of iron and of the male gender. It is also associated with Mars, the god of warfare.
The company adopted this emblem when it began manufacturing cars in the 1920s. Swedish founders Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larsson reportedly wanted a strong image for their vehicles.
Debuted at Frankfurt Auto Show last year, Volkswagen's updated two-dimensional logo replaces the three-dimensional blue-and-sliver logo first introduced in 2000.
Subtle but unique, it features a flatter facade as it sheds the 3D-styling of its predecessor. Also, the "W" in "VW" doesn't touch the outer circle, which is the first iteration of the iconic roundel. According to the company, the reduced complexity of the logo is intended for its flexible usage.
Representing a household name in the automobile manufacturing industry, the Volkswagen logo has gone through changes since 1938 to present. Despite the evisions, the company’s initials, "V" placed over a "W" and interacting superbly with each other, remain as is.