The Secrets Behind 10 of The Best-known Car Brand Logos
- on October 26, 2020
- Categories: Car Feature Articles
Branding is all around us now. Most people can identify companies purely from their logo, which shows how deeply embedded logos can become in our minds. One place where logos are flaunted in public is on our cars. Unlike those on our smartphone that we can easily cover up with accessories, our car badge is sat on our bonnet and on the boot for all the world to see.
But where do these logos come from? Some represent prestigious companies a century old. While many have been re-worked to suit the slick standards of the modern ad agency, they retain much of their original heritage, too, as you’ll discover in today’s piece. We’re revealing the fun facts and secrets behind 10 of the best-known car brand logos.
There was a time when people described the best version of something as “The Cadillac of _______.” It seems that this American luxury brand takes its high-minded outlook directly from its namesake, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the French explorer who founded the city of Detroit. Not only that, they take their logo from him, too. The distinctive shield-like shape covered in stripe and square patterns is, in fact, a representation of Cadillac’s family coat of arms. Together it stands for boldness and virtue.
We know Audi now as a single high-end German auto manufacturer --- now owned by the Volkswagen Group, of course --- but it didn’t start as a single entity. In fact, there were four companies that came together to form the initial Audi group, they were: Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer). The four interlocked rings that make the well-known Audi logo, then, each represent one of those founding entities. It symbolizes how when multiple strong components come together, they collectively produce a strength far greater than the sum of their parts.
Another impossible to ignore German auto giant, the Mercedes-Benz logo stands for quality, craftsmanship and prestige motors (usually at high prices). For decades it has helped to project wealth and success, and is a car brand that millions everywhere aspire to afford and enjoy. As it happens, the nature of the Mercedes logo is also rooted in aspiration. The three-pointed star of the logo represent the three areas in which the Mercedes-Benz company had hoped to become a dominant force: the land, the air and the sea.
Sometimes a great logo is created to mark a tragedy or a memorial. Ferrari is a good example of this, whose prancing horse logo acts as a tribute to fallen Italian World War 1 fighter ace, Francesco Baracca. The pilot lost his life before the war’s conclusion, but upon meeting Baracca’s parents in 1923, Enzo Ferrari was inspired to use the logo that Baracca had used himself on the side of much-feared fighter plane --- the prancing horse. Ferrari added a hint of yellow in the background to represent himself, or more accurately his hometown of Modena, Italy. And so, an iconic supercar logo was born.
The South Korean automaker has been making huge headway in recent years with the popularity of their affordable high-quality sedans and electric cars like the Elantra. You’ve probably looked at the Hyundai logo and thought to yourself “well, that’s obvious, it’s an H for Hyundai.” OK, you’re not entirely wrong, but let us alter the perspective slightly. To reflect Hyundai’s commitment to value for the customer, their logo depicts a car dealer and a car customer locked in a handshake. Do you see it now?
The well-known trident logo of Italian luxury sports car maker, Maserati, is another prominent symbol to which many drivers aspire to gain ownership. The story behind the logo is one of a family business, this one headed up by three brothers, whose collective fourth brother, Mario, created them a logo to reflect their heritage and loft ambition.
The trident is modelled on that of the Roman god, Neptune, whose statue stands in the Piazza Maggiore in the brothers’ hometown of Bologna. You might also imagine that Mario thought of each prong might represent one of his beloved brothers, but then the question of who had the mightiest central prong might cause some disagreements at family gatherings.
Let’s head back to Stateside now to learn about another of Detroit’s giant brands. Alas, actually their logo story is quite similar to fellow Michigan brand Cadillac, at least in its early form. The lesser-known early Buick logo was modelled on the Scottish family crest of founder David Dunbar Buick. The one we know, however, with the three shields in red, white and blue came about in 1959 to represent their flagship products of that era --- the LeSabre, Invicta, and Electra, which were the crown jewels of their line-up at that time.
The Rolls-Royce branding is so luxurious that it comes in multiple parts, some of them very three-dimensional. First you have the overlapping ‘R’ design for the main printed logo, that one is fairly self-explanatory. One R for Charles Rolls, and another R for Henry Royce.
The fetching hood ornament, rivalled only by Mercedes Benz and classic Jaguar cars in its prominence, is known as the “Spirit of Ecstasy.” It all began with one Lord John Montagu who fancied a new ornament for his already quite decadent Rolls-Royce car. He commissioned sculptor Charles Sykes to create one based on an actress Eleanor Thornton, apparently requested by Montagu himself as the preferred muse of this creation. This creation is said to have inspired the Rolls-Royce company to request Sykes again to model a standard statue design to use for all Rolls-Royce cars, and it became standard in the 1920s.
We are diving back into the realm of the Italian supercars, now. The raging bull logo behind this iconic angular supercar brand is laid out simply in gold on a black field, striking a tone of opulence and power simultaneously. It comes from Lamborghini’s founder, Ferruccio Lamborghini’s personal love for the sport of bullfighting. It’s said that before he chose the logo, he was at the Miura Ranch viewing bulls being prepared for the fighting arena. It so happens that Ferruccio Lamborghini was also a Taurus himself. It all came together quite nicely.
A car maker known for their supreme balance and extraordinary attention to engineering, Subaru chose a logo that could be seen in the night sky. The group of six stars in the logo represent the M45 cluster (Pleiades), which can be found in the Taurus constellation. The cluster is relatively near to Earth, and so visible with the naked eye.
There is some speculation that the six stars in the logo also refer to the six companies that were merged to form Subaru’s parent company, Fuji Heavy Industries --- sounds similar to the Audi!
Keep Your Eyes Open
You may never see these logos or others in the same way again from now. Companies don’t invest such money in logos for no reason at all. There is nearly always a hidden and deeper meaning just waiting to be discovered.