Car manufacturers usually just end up naming their brand after themselves — i.e. Ford, Honda and many others. But have you ever thought about how the brands with the more obscure names came about?
Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin (founders of Bamford & Martin LTD) entered their car in the 1914 “Aston Hill Climb” in Buckinghamshire. To capitalize on the success of winning, Bamford dropped his name and Aston Martin was born.
Before they got into the automotive industry, parent company SKF was known for designing ball bearings in Sweden. The name Volvo is derived from “Volvere,” the Latin word for roll. The first-person singular form of verb translates out to “Volvo.”
Founded as August Horch Automobilwerke, several buyouts and mergers forced a name change from the owner, August Horch. While debating a new name, Horch’s son said “audiatur et altera pars” (Latin for “listen to the other side). It was shortened down to Audi, (Latin for “listen”) which coincidentally loosely translates to “Horch” in German.
Kenji Kita, head of Kuji Heavy Industries, wanted to branch out and be involved in the car manufacturing industry. Kuji began building car models under the code-name P-1, while proposals for names were being mulled by Kita. He eventually chose to name it Subaru, after the Pleiades star cluster in the Taurus constellation.
Another “coincidental” name change happened with Mazda. Founder Jiujiro Matsuda agreed to rename the company after Ahura Mazda, the God of wisdom, intelligence and harmony in West Asian civilizations. But, the company also states that the name is a direct derivative of Matsuda.
Toyota needed a name for their new luxury-line of automobiles, so they got in touch with their ad departments and a few image-consulting firms. Out of a list of five possible names, “Alexis” was chosen as the front-runner, but there were concerns about it being more of a person’s name. So the ad agency decided to drop the “A” and changed the “I” to “U,” and there you have it — Lexus.
Originally, the Swallow Sidecar company had the “SS Jaguar” as their most popular vehicle. But, during WWII, SS became synonymous with Nazis and needed to be changed. Once production was allowed to continue after the war, Swallow Sidecar officially changed their name to just Jaguar.
Henry Leland is one of the few founders who did not name his company after himself. Instead Leland opted for Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the French army officer who founded a little city called Detroit (which we now know as the “Motor City”).
Mitsubishi actually got its name from their logo. “Mitsu” is Japanese for three, and “Hishi” (pronounced “Bishi”) means diamond. The logo was created by combining the owner’s family crest, and that of his first employer (Tosa Clan)
Saab is actually just the abbreviation of the parent company Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolag. Saab was formed when “Saab AB” decided to manufacture compact luxury automobiles.
Kiichiro Toyoda, son of Toyoda Automatic Loom Works founder Sakichi Toyoda, decided to start up his own motor division, and the company took off. After holding a competition, the company decided that tweaking Toyoda to Toyota just felt stronger — plus they thought it just sounded better too.
Entrepreneur Emil Jellinek would compete in auto races across Europe and only use Daimler cars when he raced. Jellinek eventually struck a deal with Daimler to send him 36 new cars — on the condition they were named Mercedes, after his daughter.
While there are several theories, the meaning behind the name Lotus is something that no one knows — and no one will ever know for sure! When founder Colin Chapman passed away, the company simply states “the truth died with Chapman.”