Famous car logos: Car brand logos, names, and meanings
How many famous car logos could you recognize in an instant? Car company logos from Ford, BMW, Bentley, and many others have all grown increasingly iconic over the years.
Whether it’s the classy emblem of Aston Martin, or the simplicity of the Volvo marque, every car logo has a unique style. It’s the visual essence of these logos that’s crucial in attracting customers.
For today’s petrol heads and car enthusiasts, car brand logos are often more than just marketing collateral. Vehicle emblems have emerged as beacons of status and personality. Owners, staff, and enthusiasts even are engaged and recognized to wear lapel pins, and cuff-links with car brand logos. Some car badges are so sought-after, people have even resorted to stealing them in the past.
So, why are car logos so appealing, and how exactly did the companies behind these symbols come up with their visual markers? Today, we’ll be taking you on a tour through some of the most famous car logos of all time, and what they mean.
Car insignias and vehicle emblems: An introduction
Notably, automotive companies brand their cars in a number of distinctive ways. While all cars will include a company marker somewhere in the design, some prefer to use a hood ornament, while others use simple badges.
The basic vehicle emblem (like the Ford badge) is the more common choice, particularly among affordable vehicles.
However, more expensive luxury cars still prefer to use hood ornaments, which are small, sculpted figurines placed on the front or back of the vehicle. Think Bentley and Rolls-Royce.
Due to issues with people attempting to steel hood ornaments, many brands have begun to reduce their use of this branding asset.
For the purpose of this overview of famous car logos, we’ll be looking specifically at the car badges, rather than the ornaments occasionally placed alongside them.
The Alfa Romeo car insignia is perhaps one of the most classic, and intricate automotive symbols. A company built on Italian tradition; the Alfa Romeo badge features storied elements dating back more than 100 years.
The original car badges for Alfa Romeo were sculpted in 1918, by Romano Cattaneo. The elements of the emblem, though simplified, are still in the badge today.
On the left, you’ll see a Milanese cross on a white background, and the Biscione snake eating a man on the right side of the badge. The Biscione signifies the house of Visconti who ruled the Milanese during the 14th century.
The colors of gold, blue, red, and green in the emblem signify quality, purity, and indulgence.
Car company logos frequently feature images intended to convey speed and freedom – like wings. The British Aston Martin company is an excellent example of this.
Founded in 1913 by Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin, the Aston Martin brand quickly rose to fame with the production of sophisticated and high-quality cars.
The logo has evolved somewhat over the years, starting with a combined “A” and “M”, but the wings have remained a consistent part of the image for some time. The first winged logo appeared in 1927, and wings are still at the heart of the image today, along with the Aston Martin name.
The wings denote speed and creativity, while the green behind the Aston Martin name highlights feelings of luxury and value.
Easily one of the simpler vehicle emblems around, Audi’s symbol is a beautifully minimalist but meaningful choice. The four rings symbolize the merger of four of the oldest car creators in Germany, back in 1932.
The brands DKW, Audi, Wanderer, and Horch all joined together to create what we know as Audi today.
Originally, the four companies were called the Auto Union, but this name disappeared in 1985, and the “Audi” title took over. Since then, Audi has maintained the four circles in its logo, though the design is a little simpler than it once was.
Some people believe the four circles also represent the four wheels of a car, and Audi themselves have commented on the connection too.
Perhaps one of the most prestigious of our famous car logos, Bentley is a long-standing icon of luxury in the UK automobile market. Bentley cars are also driven across the globe.
The stunning car symbols for Bentley started to emerge in 1919, when Walter Own Bentley founded the brand. The winged design links to the original name of the company, Bentley Aero.
Before making cars, Bentley was responsible for manufacturing rotary engines for planes during the first World War. The image of the Bentley logo makes a lot of sense when you consider the company’s history.
BMW is a car brand known throughout the world for its high-class products and beautiful designs. Over the years, the company has collected countless fans who love any opportunity to be associated with the BMW roundel.
The meaning of this vehicle emblem is still under debate, with some people saying it represents the blue sky and the propellor of a plane, as BMW used to make air vehicles.
Other experts believe the BMW logo comes from the original location of the BMW manufacturing company, in Bavaria. The emblem features the BMW name and a Bavarian flag in the center of a circle.
Either way, the logo today is memorable, easy to recognize, and well-designed. The colors blue and white are excellent for conveying reliability.
Many of the world’s most famous logos come from the name of the entrepreneur behind the business. Ettore Bugatti, continues to live on in the design and development of new Bugatti vehicles, thanks to the company’s logo.
Created in Italy in 1909, the Bugatti brand has taken the world by storm, producing amazing, high-quality, and fast cars.
After Ettore Bugatti, the founder of the company, passed away, fewer than 8,000 Bugattis were on the market. Fortunately, Volkswagen decided to take the helm and continue producing amazing sports and competitive vehicles.
A car company belonging to the larger General Motors brand, Buick was originally launched by David Dunbar Buick, in 1899. The Buick logo has years of history, representing one of the first American marques for the automobile industry.
While the Buick logo has changed a number of times over the years, the shield shape has remained a common component of the emblem for several years. The three shields in use today are designed to represent elements from founder of the company’s coat of arms.
The three different colors of the trilogy of shields represent three of the major cars released by the Buick brand, the Invicta, LeSabre, and Electra. The accompanying metallic silver hue identifies the company as a modern and forward-thinking organization.
Frequently associated with strength and dependability, the Cadillac car logo is a beautiful and modern rendition of a previous design for the brand. The original car emblems for Cadillac represented the family name of Le Sieur Antoine De La Mothe Cadillac.
According to history, Cadillac founded Detroit, Michigan in 1701, and inspired the name for the Cadillac business.
Though less obvious today than it once was, the Cadillac car logo features the coat of arms of Detroit’s founder. Although the newest version of the logo doesn’t feature as many details, like a shield (common on previous iterations), it’s easy to see the connection between the designs.
Today’s Cadillac symbol is easily recognizable, with colors like red and gold to symbolize power and luxury.
Chevy’s bowtie logo is a relatively well-known and attractive emblem for the company. Supposedly, the original version of this design was chosen by William C. Durant, the co-founder of Chevrolet and General Motors, after he saw the repeating pattern on some French wallpaper.
Durant’s wife later disputed this story, saying the symbol was inspired by a newspaper ad.
Additional claims suggest Louis Chevrolet designed the bowtie in homage to the homeland of his parents, so it’s intended to look like a Swiss Cross.
Today, the strong shape, mixed with colors like gold and silver, demonstrate quality and resilience.
Sleek and sophisticated, there are few famous car logos quite like the symbol for Chrysler. Officially part of the Stellantis brand, the Chrysler emblem was based on the Kruessler crest, and adopted a set of wings in the 1930s, intended to represent quality.
The Chrysler design, according to some professionals, was meant to look like a royal wax seal.
Though Chrysler has had moments of uncertainty in its identity over the years, experimenting with “Pentastar” logos and other shapes, the company seems to return regularly to the wings.
Today, the Chrysler badge is a symbol of elegance and grace.
Ferrari is one of a handful of vehicle emblems sure to make an immediate impact anywhere in the world. The official name for the Ferrari logo is the “Cavallino Rampante” or “Prancing Horse”.
According to the company, the founder behind the brand, Enzo Ferrari often shared the story of his first win at the Savio circuit, where he met Count Enrico and Countess Paolina Baracca.
The count and countess were parents of an Italian fighter pilot who flew with a horse on his plane. The son had passed away, and the count and countess passed the design to Enzo, telling him it would bring him luck.
The prancing horse and bright yellow background has been a staple of the Ferrari brand throughout the decades.
Ford is credited with being one of the original companies in the car manufacturing industry. Though the car brand symbols of Ford haven’t changed much over the years, their simplicity makes it easy to recognize the company anywhere.
The blue oval of the Ford car emblem has remained with the company since 1927.
The script within the car insignia, written in white to convey purity and clarity, was created by the Ford Chief Engineer Childe Harold Wills, and was apparently based on the signature of Henry Ford himself, the creator of the company.
Famous car logos don’t have to be complex to be memorable. The Hondo logo is one of the easiest to recognize in the world, with its bold capital “H” at the center of a rectangle with curved edges. As car logo meanings go, Honda’s seems to be obvious.
However, the H apparently stands for more than just the word “Honda” – a name chosen for the founder, Soichiro Honda.
While the H does play homage to the company founder, mechanic, racer and tuner, it’s also intended to look a little like a person raising their arms to the sky in victory. This is why the top section of the H is much broader than the bottom.
At first glance, Hyundai’s emblem doesn’t look like it should be on a list for the most unique car company logos. You could even argue the design looks similar to the Honda symbol. However, this insignia still has its own unique appeal.
The South Korean company say the logo stands for more than most people would think.
While the H stands for “Hyundai”, it’s also intended to look like two people shaking hands. The decision to encase the H in an oval was also deliberate. Hyundai says the oval represents the internationality and inclusivity of the company.
One of the more modern famous car logos we’ve looked at so far, the Nissan luxury brand “Infiniti” uses a partial metallic oval, with a triangle in the center.
According to the branding team for Infiniti, the design isn’t just supposed to be an eye-catching shape. The triangle in the center represents a road trailing off into infinity.
Tasteful and clever, the Infiniti car insignia combines simplicity with hidden meaning. Although the business is still relatively new compared to some of its competitor, the Infiniti logo is helping to carve a place for the Nissan brand in logo history.
Similar to BMW or Ferrari, Jaguar is a name most people would associate with strength, luxury, and power. The Jaguar emblem seems like a natural choice, featuring a leaping Jaguar with its teeth bared.
According to the history of Jaguar, this symbol was actually a nod to the Swallow Sidecar business who produced the SS Jaguar in the 1930s.
Eye-catching and meaningful, the Jaguar logo conveys power, strength, and beauty. This car insignia is also an insight into how many companies use animals in their car brand badges.
Another well-known luxury brand, Lamborghini’s car badges are associated with class and quality. Similar to many other car company logos created for the premium market, the Lamborghini logo has its own animal mascot.
The bull represents strength, while also paying homage to founder Ferruccio Lamborghni, who visited Don Eduaro Mirau’s ranch and saw fighting bulls for himself.
Interestingly, Lamborghini also used the name of fighting bulls, as well as bullfighting terms for the names of cars, like Islero, Jalpa, and Diablo.
The use of gold and black as a color scheme denotes quality and luxury, while the shield shape is all about reliability.
The Lexus logo is an unusual, but simple addition to our list of famous car logos. Compared to other motor brands, Lexus is still relatively new, so it hasn’t had a chance to gain much of a name for itself yet.
However, the simplistic emblem is helping to generate brand awareness among motor lovers.
The current emblem features the letter “L” in a circle. The L stands for “Lexus”, which was taken from the name “Alexis” – the title Toyota originally wanted to use for its premium car brand.
The circle surrounding the “L” could be a nod to community, or inclusivity.
The Lotus brand, founded by Anthony Chapman, started life as a manufacturer of road and racing cars. The Lotus emblem features Chapman’s initials, including the middle names, Colin, and Bruce.
Throughout the years, most of the elements of the Lotus icon have remained the same. Since the company began in 1952, it’s maintained a consistent image, with the British racing green in the background, and a bright yellow to symbolize happiness.
Lotus car’s have achieved a lot of fame over the years, particularly in the Formula 1 racing industry. Though Chapman is no longer with us, the Lotus company continues to produce some of the world’s best racing cars.
Originally conceived in 1936, Mazda’s logo started life as a triple-stacked “M”, meaning Mazda Motor Manufacturers. Over the years, Mazda experimented with different designs, adding wings to symbolize agility, then eventually simplifying the logo to an M in a circle.
In 1992, Mazda introduced a new brand symbol made of a circle with a curved diamond shape in the middle.
The logo we see today is an oval with a set of simplified silver wings in the center. The shape in the middle of the oval is intended to represent wings, but it can also look a lot like an “M” when combined with the surrounding oval.
Another great insight into the power of simplicity in the motor world, the Mercedes Benz logo is eye-catching and easy to remember.
Designed by Paul and Adolf Daimler in honor of their late farther, the original Mercedes logo focused on the shape of a star, intended to represent prosperity and good luck for the growing company.
The Mercedes company trademarked both a four-pointed version of the star, and the three-pointed alternative we know today.
According to the Mercedes team, the choice of the 3-pointed star was based on the company’s desire to one day create vehicles for three different purposes – land, sea, and sky. The simple shape drawn in silver continues to earn attention around the world today.
Many famous car logos involve the name of the company placed somewhere in the brand’s badge. Nissan’s logo is a simple chrome badge with the word “Nissan” written in capital letters.
The origins of this symbol begin with Nissan’s ownership of the Datsun company. The Datsun brand used the name of the company in a blue rectangle atop a red circle – similar to the Japanese rising sun image.
The existing Nissan logo appeared in 2001, built on a more modern interpretation of the Datsun emblem. Today, the badge is available in both chrome and black. Both of these color choices are excellent for representing creativity and modernism.
Frequently compared with Ferrari for the use of a prancing horse, the Porsche logo is an image focused heavily on sophistication, luxury, and heritage. It’s hard to find a famous car logo more eye-catching than this stunning crest, featuring the colors gold, red and black.
The symbol of Porsche hasn’t changed much since its original introduction in 1952, when the Porsche brand was brought to life. The unique coat of arms used in the Porsche logo has a strong connection with the city of Stuttgart, where the Porsche headquarters is located.
The antlers and black and red stripes surrounding the horse represent the Wurttemberg state in Germany.
Saab’s iconic vehicle emblem dates back to the production of airplanes in the 20th century. A company named Swedish Aeroplane Limited (Svenska Areoplan AB) decided to begin producing cars in the 1950s.
The logo of the business previously featured the front of an airplane propeller, which didn’t make much sense on a car. The brand decided to use a red Griffin with a golden crown to symbolize fantasy, creativity, and luxury.
The Saab name was adopted with the new logo. Interestingly, the choice of the red Griffin is also inspired by the logo of Vadis-Scania, a truck manufacturer which partnered with the Saab parent company.
The griffin also appears in Swedish coats of arms.
The Suburu brand is actually named after the Pleiades, a star cluster from the Taurus constellation. Once you know this, it’s easier to understand the logo. There’s often a connection between car logos and names, and the Subaru brand is no exception.
The badge shows a selection of six stars from the Taurus constellation – the ones most visible to the naked eye when star gazing.
The five smaller stars behind the larger star also represents the merger of five small companies which combined to become Fuji Heavy Industries. The choice of blue and silver represent the colors of the night sky, but also the concepts of reliability and credibility.
At a glance, it’s easy to see why most people would see the Toyota emblem as an artistic or hand drawn “T” in an oval. However, according to the creators of the company, the meaning of this logo actually goes a lot deeper.
While the design is intended to remind people of the Toyota name, the choice to layer ovals on top of each other was deliberate.
The overlapping ovals in the Toyota logo symbolize trust between the car maker and its customers. The white space on the emblem is also meant to demonstrate the future potential of the company. The color red is for passion, power, and strength.
One of the largest manufacturers of cars in the world today, Volkswagen also has an extremely simple, but easy to recognize emblem.
The Volkswagen logo uses the letters W and V for “Volks” (people in German) and “Wagon” (cars in German). The stacked letters create a beautiful and simplistic shape, perfect for the front of a car bonnet.
The decision to surround the letters in a circle highlights ideas of community and inclusivity – values of the Volkswagen brand.
Taken from the Latin word “Volvere” for roll, the name Volvo is an important part of the company’s logo choice. The original emblem for the company was a blue oval with the name “Volvo” in the middle, and the words “Gothenburg, Sweden” underneath.
Over time, Vovlo began to embrace the icon of the Greek god of war, a symbol with an arrow pointing right and upwards.
According to the Volvo team, the icon is meant to symbolize the strength of the company and its commitment to protecting its customers. The arrow pointing upwards also evokes ideas of exploration and forward-thinking innovation.
There’s no shortage of famous car logos in the world today. Whether you’re a motor enthusiast, or just an everyday citizen, you’re probably familiar with a fair few of the car brand logos we’ve covered here today.
Car logos are more than just a mark on a piece of paper – they’re also important badges of identification in the automotive industry, each with their own unique power. Some of the leading car brand logos even inspire a sense of passion and community in their fans.
To learn more about the car brand logos mentioned above and where they came from, make sure you visit the individual Logofiles we have on our favorite car symbols.