Companies behind famous car brands

Roman Danaev

We know cars by their brand name — it’s what makes many of them so iconic.

Despite a long and rich history of many of the names in motoring history, though, the number of manufacturers has dwindled, so that each maker lays claim to a number of different familiar badges.

Let’s see what groupings there are, starting with those manufactured in the UK:

Aston Martin

One of the iconic British marques, the company was bought by Ford in 1994 but this changed in March 2017 when Aston Martin regained its status as an independent British company. Click here for more information.


The same cannot be said for another of Britain’s most well-loved makes, the Mini, which started out in 1959, marketed under Austin and Morris badges and was owned first by the British Motor Corporation (BMC) and subsequently the Rover Group, before being acquired by German manufacturers BMW in 1994.


The Bentley marque was bought by another British company Rolls Royce in the 1930s until both companies were acquired by German car makers VW and BMW in 1998 — VW got the Bentley brand and BMW Rolls Royce.

Rolls Royce

With its Ghost and Wraith models still built at Goodwood in Sussex, the British legend that is Rolls Royce is now owned by BMW.

Land Rover

Another British icon, Land Rover was also bought by Ford — part of the American Premier Automotive Group (PAG) — but the marque was then bought by the huge Tata Group of India, Tata Motors.


The same fate befell the once British Jaguar — first bought by PAG but then also sold to Tata.


Perhaps one of the most surprising stories of a classic British sports car manufacturer, Lotus, was its purchase first by the Malaysian Proton group and then, most recently in May 2017 by Geely of China — which also now owns the Swedish Volvo Car Group.


Vauxhall is one of Britain’s oldest car manufacturers and its Astra and Vivaro van continue to be made here, but under the long-time ownership of the American General Motors group.


There is a strong presence of Japanese car makers, including Honda, in the UK, where both the Civic and CR-V are made in Swindon.


Another Japanese company — in which French manufacturers Renault also have a major stake — is Nissan, which makes its Leaf, Note, Juke, Infiniti Q30 and Qashqai models at its Sunderland plant.


The Toyota Motor Corporation remains a firmly Japanese company, but its Avensis, Auris, and Auris hybrid are also made in Derbyshire.

Overseas Car Manufacturers

Other marques of global significance include:


The major manufacturer BMW (Bayerische Motoren Werke) still has its headquarters in Bavaria in Germany — and as already mentioned, also owns Mini and Rolls Royce.


It is sometimes forgotten that the German manufacturer’s original name was Daimler Benz, so, in addition to the Daimler marque, it also owns Mercedes-Benz, Mercedes-AMG, and Smart.


Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino (Fiat) is the major Italian company which also controls the American Chrysler Group (makers of icons such as Jeep, Dodge, and Ram, as well historic Italian marques such as Lancia, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, and Abarth).


The founding father of all motor cars, some might say, the American company once owned Aston Martin, Land Rover, Jaguar, Mazda, Mercury and Volvo — but today it’s only marques are Ford and the Lincoln.


The American General Motors company manufacturers Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC, and Holden brands.


Hyundai is a South Korean manufacturer, which also owns a stake in Kia.


Founded in the 1920s, this Japanese company started making cars in the 1930s and once had a third of its shares owned by Ford (but now sold).


A Japanese company founded in 1970, Mitsubishi is now owned by the Nissan-Renault group.


French motor giant Renault also controls Nissan, Romanian car manufacturer Dacia, Russia’s AvtoVAZ and Mitsubishi.


A terminally ailing and fast-disappearing marque is the Swedish marque Saab.


Subaru is a Japanese company owned in part by Toyota and is a subsidiary of Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI).


Tata car makers are part of the giant Indian group, Tata Industries, and also owns iconic British marques, Land Rover and Jaguar.


Tesla is very much the new kid on the block, producing its electric vehicles in California, USA.


One of the largest car manufacturers in the world, the brand also owns Lexus, Daihatsu, and Hino Motors and its plants in the United States have been producing cars for that market since the 1980s.


The Volkswagen Group is the world’s biggest car manufacturer — in addition to all VW models, it also owns Audi, Porsche, Ducati, Seat, Bentley, Lamborghini, Bugatti, and Skoda.


Volvo is now owned by the Geely, part of the Chinese Zhejiang Geely Holding Group

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