Stories behind car brand names and what do words such as Audi, Jaguar and Volkswagen really mean

Car brands that have a far more fascinating explanation behind their names. If not all are fascinating, you will find them interesting.

By: | Updated: October 5, 2017 2:34 PM

Car brand names mostly are relatable with their owners or are simply named after their founders. Names like Ford, Honda, Suzuki, Peugeot, Citroen and Renault, for example, were christened after the founding personality. Rolls-Royce, however, carries names from both its founders. In 1884 Henry Royce started an electrical and mechanical business. He made his first car, a two-cylinder Royce 10, in his Manchester factory in 1904. Royce was later introduced to Charles Rolls, who had been a proprietor of an early motor car dealership. Rolls was impressed with the Royce 10, and in a subsequent agreement on 23rd December 1904, agreed to take all the cars Royce could make with the badging of 'Rolls-Royce'. And then there are those named after places. Vauxhall, for example, is named after the London Borough in which it was founded. Now let's talk about car brands that have a far more fascinating explanation behind their names. If not all are fascinating, you will find them interesting.


A man named August Horch had been working as the head of a motor vehicle department for Karl Benz, the pioneer at Mercedes-Benz, in 1899. Horch eventually decided to head out in the auto industry on his own and founded the A. Horch & Cie. Motorwagen Werke. However, following a dispute with his partners, Horch walked out on that company to set up its rival called Horch Automobil-Werke GmbH, but the court denied him the name as 'Horch' belonged to the previous firm's name.

'Horch' loosely translated to 'listen' in English, 'hearken' in German and 'audi' in Latin. Although the brand name had yet to be trademarked, Audi was born in 1910. It struggled for some 20 years, after which it merged with three other automakers and hence the four-ring logo was created. (Image: Successstory)


Karl Benz was the founding figure of the brand and clearly, the 'Benz' in Mercedes-Benz comes from his name. But according to a popular belief, the brand was named after the motoring pioneer's daughter. Turns out, it isn't true. Mercedes was actually the daughter of Emil Jellinek, an Austrian motor engineer who created the trademark for the Daimler-Benz Motor Group.


This British car manufacturer was forced to change its name after the Second World War. It was, in fact, originally called Swallow Sidecars! The company changed its name to SS and started manufacturing cars. The first proper sports car from the brand was called the SS 100 Jaguar and thankfully the name Jaguar stuck. We're relieved it isn't Swallow Sidecars anymore. We like Jaguar - sounds short, crisp and strong.


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Volkswagen was founded when Germany was still under Nazi rule. Adolf Hitler wanted Germans to have access to cars and ordered the brand to build a cheap car for the masses as an average German back then could not afford anything above a motorcycle. It was founded in 1937 and was then called Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH. Later that year, it was renamed simply Volkswagenwerk, or “The People’s Car Company.” And now shortened to just Volkswagen or even shorter to how we lovingly refer to it as VW.


Volvo has its origin in Sweden, but even then it was thankfully not christened 'The Viking' or anything like that. The name Volvo comes from the Latin word volvere, which means to roll. Seems Latin is a very popular language when it comes to picking names.


Heading over to Italy, we're all familiar with the Italian-ness of Fiat. But the word 'fiat' means victory in a certain language (guessed it right, Latin). The acronym FIAT, on the other hand, stands for 'Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino', or The Turin Italian Car Factory’.


‘Mitsubishi’ comes from the addition of two words - mitsu and hishi. Mitsu means three and Hishi means water chestnut, and the Japanese have used the word for a long time to denote a rhombus or diamond shape. So, it means either ‘three water chestnuts’ or ‘three diamonds’. The company’s badge would suggest the latter.


Nissan is perhaps the most business-focused name of all. It takes its name after Nihon Sangyo, meaning Japanese Industry. When founder Toshisuke Aikawa formed an abbreviation for the Tokyo Stock Exchange, it became Ni-San, later Nissan.


Another name that does not have an obvious car related origin. In Korean, Hyundai is a compound adjective that means ‘of the modern age’. Besides cars, Hyundai is a South Korean industrial powerhouse building everything from ships to hearing aid batteries.

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