How many defunct car brands are you familiar with?
While hundreds of well-known and successful car companies worldwide today, even more have failed over the years. Car legends have risen and fallen throughout Britain, the US, Germany, Italy, and countless other countries.
The common reason behind a defunct car brand’s failure wasn’t necessarily bad branding or marketing. Instead, many bankrupt car companies disappeared due to a lack of funding or an inability to innovate in an increasingly complex market.
Looking back at some of these brands, their logos, and their unique approach to reaching their audience can be an exciting experience.
It’s also worth noting many of the discontinued car brands throughout the world helped to inspire many other businesses in the years to follow. We can still see elements of old car logos in newer designs, from circles and wings to animal figures.
Here’s your guide to some of the most famous car companies that went out of business.
An introduction to failed car companies
As you’ll notice from our list below, many car companies that went out of business over the years with the highest degree of fame came from America. The fast-paced American automotive industry has always been challenging to break into.
However, wherever you are in the world, there’s always a risk your car brand might not survive through the decades. As the automotive landscape continues to evolve, and customers become more discerning about the features they want, it’s becoming harder to compete.
Car brands can fail for a host of different reasons.
Some of the companies we’ll mention below simply didn’t do the right amount of research into their target audience to ensure they would have a good market before starting production. Others failed to deliver on promises of exceptional performance delivered at an affordable price point.
Notably, although all of the car brands on this list no longer produce vehicles, some still maintain an avid collection of fans. Collectors of retro vehicles and car enthusiasts frequently seek out old car brand logos.
There are even museums dedicated to showcasing some of the original cars made by companies that no longer exist.
The world’s most famous discontinued car brands
Let’s start by looking at some of the most famous defunct car brands today. These companies had quite a significant impact on the automotive industry before they shut down completely.
Launched in the United States by the Toyota company, the Scion marque was designed to appeal to a younger audience of customers purchasing their first cars.
The automobile company wanted to create a line of vehicles with a distinctively sporty and stylish aesthetic and was also keen to make these cars as affordable as possible.
The Scion name means “descendent” or “heir” and refers to the company’s position in the more expansive Toyota brand. After three years of producing cars, the organization was absorbed into Toyota. Scion’s logo features an oval badge with a sophisticated “S” shape.
The name “Scion” is also apparent in a bold banner across the oval.
Another excellent example of one of the more famous American defunct car brands, Mercury was produced by the Ford Motor Company in 1938.
The purpose of the marque was to produce a line of mid-price vehicles for all kinds of consumers. Ford hoped to use this company to bridge the gap between the standard Ford and Lincoln vehicle models.
The Mercury logo conveys the simplicity and elegance of the vehicle line-up. The circular badge features three lines in the middle, intended to represent a road. The organization also used a bold all-caps wordmark to convey a sense of strength and durability.
Mercury shut down in 2011.
One of the more famous defunct car brands to come from France, Panhard also had a good run in the automotive industry. The brand produced vehicles all the way from 1887 to 2012, focusing specifically on sports and racing cars.
The Panhard logo was stylish and sophisticated, featuring a monogram P and L connected in the middle of a black circle. The yellow ring around the monogram was unique for a vehicle company at the time, which helped the business to stand out from the crowd.
Panhard also delivered a variety of military vehicles and limousines over the years, too.
Pontiac is perhaps one of the better-known discontinued car brands worldwide. This organization had a good run in the automotive market, lasting almost 100 years before it was eventually shut down.
The company made a massive impact on the vehicle landscape before it eventually shut down, and its logo is a testament to its power in the market. The design features a bold red arrow with a silver outline, which looks similar to a shield, conveying a sense of protection and security.
Pontiac also produced a range of well-known vehicles, including the famous “Trans Am,” before it eventually folded after the GM merger.
While Dusenberg motors only existed for a short period between 1913 and 1937, it significantly influenced the American luxury and racing automotive industry. A Dusenberg car was the first vehicle from America to win a French Grand Prix.
The company was well-known for its opulent vehicles, superb engineering, and powerful performance.
The logo of the Dusenberg company is an excellent insight into the prestige the company wanted to convey. The image features a golden eagle, with plenty of detail, and a large wordmark in all capital, serif letters. The number “8” is also present at the bottom of the animal’s tail.
If you have any background knowledge of bankrupt car companies, then you’re probably already familiar with Hummer.
The company was launched in 1992 and focused consistently on selling SUVs and pickup trucks. Interestingly, the name returned in 2020, not as a full brand, but as a title for a line of specific vehicles created by GMC.
Hummer kept things simple with its logo, relying on a bold wordmark to demonstrate stability, strength, and confidence. The thick block letters are a great insight into the USP and the value of the brand’s vehicles.
Switching over to British car brands, Rover was a manufacturing company that opened its doors in 1925.
The company had a phenomenal reputation for quality and performance. Moreover, Rover was also responsible for producing the Land Rover series, which became one of the most profitable groups in the automotive space.
Rover closed its doors in 1967 after merging with Leyland motors. The company’s logo is sophisticated and professional, featuring a golden ship with a large red sail in a triangle-shaped emblem. The name “Rover” also appears in capital serif letters.
Oldsmobile definitely had a good run in the automotive space. It first launched in 1897 before eventually closing its doors in 2004. The American brand was best known for producing many vehicles that suit all motoring requirements.
Unfortunately, the business became less profitable and was dissolved to make way for new brands.
Many people still recognize the Oldsmobile logo today. The badge featured a silver oval shape with a slash line through the middle, pointing up and to the right, similar to a road. The company also used a simple sans-serif wordmark in its image.
Easily ranked as one of the most famous car brands from America, Studebaker has roots dating back to the 1850s. The company began producing wagons for farmers and miners before producing more modern vehicles.
Studebaker was quite the innovator and even produced several electric vehicles in the early 1900s. The company had a bold and modern badge featuring bright blue and red combination with sleek silver “s” in the middle.
It’s difficult to say for certain whether the DMC brand, or DeLorean Motor Company would have been nearly as famous without the introduction of “Back to the Future.” The organization produced the famous DMC-12 from the franchise, which continues to be recognized today.
Unfortunately, DMC didn’t last long, operating between 1975 and 1982.
DMC took a simple but confident approach with its logo. The image featured bold block letters outlining “DMC,” with the longer name of the company depicted in serif font underneath. The image is still one many people are familiar with today.
Jensen Motors Limited
The UK company produced sports cars and commercial vehicles from 1922 to 2011. Most of the time, this Jensen was best known for creating specialist bodies for other major manufacturers. It was eventually dissolved when the brand failed to generate enough profits.
Jensen Motors Limited had a straightforward, but eye-catching logo depicted in a black circular badge. The image focused mainly on the wordmark for the organization, written in a stylized serif font with sharp edges across the N’s and the initial J.
Founded in Sweden, SAAB is one of the most interesting defunct car brands on our list.
The business launched in 1945 and concentrated primarily on building unique cars on a small budget. The organization also had a reputation for experimenting with the position of the center console in cars. Unfortunately, the group fell victim to the financial crisis of 2008.
By 2016, SAAB had shut down completely, though General Motors still owns some of its IP. The logo for SAAB was quite modern for the time featuring bold block letters in a soft grey color. The characters seem to be almost connected together.
Learn more about the SAAB logo here.
Another excellent example of one of the top discontinued car brands from Britain, Triumph launched in 1885.
The business began producing bicycles before moving on to its first car production in 1923. Leyland motors eventually purchased the company, and the branding was discontinued.
Triumph had quite an eye-catching logo at the time, different from many of the brand images we see in automotive companies today. The emblem included a wreath circle associated with success in racing tournaments. The word “Triumph” also appears in all capital letters.
Still beloved by car enthusiasts to this day, Berkeley earned a name for itself in the British vehicle landscape for developing stunning, high-performance sports cars. Interestingly, many of the motors for these cars were taken from the motorcycle.
Although the company only operated for around four years, it still managed to cultivate quite a strong following.
The logo for the brand features a large letter “B” within a circular emblem on a silver and red background. There’s also a silver border encircling the badge, which displays the business’s name alongside four stars.
Germany is well-known for producing high-performance cars with exceptional results. However, like all countries, it also had its fair share of defunct car brands. Wanderer was a well-known producer of vans, motorcycles, automobiles, and various other high-quality machines.
The brand was first established in 1896, and lasted an admirable number of years, before closing in 1945. Officially, Wanderer was absorbed into the Auto Union and still plays a part in the development of the automotive industry today.
The Wanderer logo was incredibly eye-catching and unique, with a sleek “W” projected in green, with a wing-like effect. We can also see the wordmark for the company underneath the image.
Other extinct car brands
The defunct car brands mentioned above are widely considered to be some of the most famous in the industry. However, the ever-changing nature of the automotive world means there are countless other options out there.
Here are some of the other discontinued car brands and bankrupt companies you may have encountered over the years.
Marcos was a British sports car manufacturer that opened its doors in 1959.
The organization was best known for creating high-quality and speedy vehicles for a small group of people, and the name comes from the combined surname of its two founders. Before the financial crisis, the brand went into voluntary liquidation in 2007.
Marcos embraced a star-like emblem for its logo, with two points facing up and down. There’s a central blue badge, featuring the company’s name in stylized sans-serif font. The blue coloring was intended to represent reliability and sophistication.
Though it only produced cars between 1945 and 1951, Kaiser-Frazer is still one of the first companies’ customers think about when looking for discontinued car brands.
The organization was one of the few makers of vehicles in the US to achieve success for only a few years after the second World War.
The Kaiser Frazer logo was unusual, taking inspiration from a traditional family emblem. The image featured a stag head, numerous crowns, flowers, and even its own golden banner. Overall, the aesthetic was one of sophistication and heritage.
A Japanese car brand produced as a sub-division of the Mazda company; Amati was built to deliver luxury vehicles to consumers throughout the 1980s.
Unfortunately, while introducing the new marque generated some hype, the organization never really had a chance to thrive. It shut down in 1992 before it had an opportunity to deliver any actual vehicles.
The Amati logo was still in its initial stages of design when the business came to an end. However, it’s still a great insight into automotive logo design, with two V shapes designed to create an image similar to a set of wings.
Horch may be a name you’re familiar with if you’re already aware of the Auto Union, which emerged from the combination of Audi, Wanderer, Horch, and DKW. The organization first launched in 1904, focusing on producing high-quality premium cars.
The business officially “shut down” in 1959, before it had much chance to thrive.
The Horch logo is quite old-fashioned, with a large block H and the word “Horch” placed on a banner above the letter. The design of the word “Horch” was intended to look like a crown, representing expertise and excellence.
Talbot was both a British and French brand, that initially launched in 1903.
The company produced many popular vehicles throughout the years and lasted for more than 90 years before it eventually shut down. Ownership of the marque was passed to Peugeot as part of a merger, but the company still became one of the longest-lasting French vehicle brands.
The Talbot logo was simple, modern, and effective. A 3D version of the letter “T” was projected in white and blue on a red background symbolizing the French and English flags. The company also used a bold sans-serif wordmark.
Known better as Saturn LLC, the Saturn automotive company was established in 1985 as a subsidiary of General Motors.
The organization was created in an attempt to compete with Japanese imports in the compact car market throughout the USA. Branded as a “different kind of car company,” the organization focused heavily on innovation.
Saturn had a powerful logo before it shut down in 2010. The image featured a red square with a symbol picture of a portion of Saturn in white. Underneath this emblem was a stylized version of the company’s name, where the U and R are merged.
One of the most notable defunct car brands on our list, Rickenbacker Motor Company was a vintage-era automotive company first launched in Michigan. The brand only survived between 1922 and 1927, but it helped to pioneer the production of four-wheel brakes.
The organization was established by the World War 1 flying expert, Eddie Rickenbacker, in collaboration with Barney Everitt.
The logo comes from the pilot’s Fighter Squadron emblem, which depicts an upside-down top hat in the colors of the American flag surrounded by a ring. The emblems were positioned on both the front and back of cars.
A large number of discontinued car brands over the years were initially produced as sub-brands for existing automotive companies.
Edsel was a division of the Ford Motor Company, which ran between 1956 and 1959. The company aimed to give customers access to the ultimate “American” car. However, the brand never had a chance to thrive.
The original car revealed by the company was met with a lukewarm response from customers. Edsel also had quite a distinctive logo, featuring a large letter E in a sans-serif font in a green circle. The circle was surrounded by various lines intended to represent motion.
The American Motors Corporation was founded as part of a merger between two other brands, the Hudson Motor Company, and the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation.
At the time, it stood as the largest corporate merger ever to take place in U.S. history. Initially, the business focused on developing fuel-efficient cars before moving into the Jeep landscape.
Unfortunately, the AMC company fell apart in 1988 after producing the Jeeps that Chrysler Eagle would eventually sell. The organization had a relatively patriotic logo, with geometric elements in red, white, and blue. The name of the business also appeared in bold sans-serif font.
Remembering defunct car brands
There is no shortage of defunct car brands. While you might be familiar with many of the names mentioned above, some entered and left the market so long ago that they no longer impact a modern audience.
However, while many discontinued car brands might not have survived the test of time, their legacy lives on in developing new features and functionality for our current cars.
In some cases, looking at failed car companies and extinct car brands can also give us an insight into how the logos of vehicle organizations have evolved over the years.
Fabrik: A branding agency for our times.
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