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Most Famous Car Companies and Stories Behind Their Names

Most of us would probably never think about how the names of cars are formed. Because after getting in the car and finding the comfort and speed we want, the name of the car does not matter. However, every car and its name has a story. While it doesn’t sound interesting to say that, the story behind the names of car companies is quite interesting. That’s why we wanted to explain how car companies got their names. Here is the story of the names of car companies …

1. Nissan

Car companies

The company we now know as Nissan started operations in 1914 as DAT Motorcar. The name “DAT” came from the first letters of the three founders’ names. In 1931, DAT introduced a new car, which they named Datson and later renamed “Datsun”. Meanwhile, businessman Yoshisuke Aikawa founded an industrial holding company in 1928 and named his new venture Nippon Sangyo (the name generally translates as “Japanese Industries”). Aikawa’s company bought DAT in 1931, and the name Nippon Sangyo was eventually shortened to Nissan.

Some drivers may remember getting into Datsun before they got behind the wheel of a Nissan. So what caused the name of the company, which is among the most well-known car companies, to change? Until the early 1980s, cars that Nissan exported from Japan had the Datsun name. In 1981, Nissan executives announced that they were changing this practice to strengthen the global awareness of the Nissan brand. Thus, no more Datsun branded vehicles were sold anymore.

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2. Toyota

Car companies

Toyota didn’t start out as a car company. In the early days, it wasn’t even called Toyota. In 1926, Sakichi Toyoda founded Toyoda Automatic Loom Works, a loom company. In 1933, Toyoda’s son, Kiichiro, established a separate engine division, and the company’s cars quickly gained popularity.

So how did the name come from “Toyoda” to “Toyota”? In 1936, the company held a competition to design a new logo, and the winner was made up of three Japanese characters who made up the name Toyoda. However, the Toyoda family decided, after some thought, that the slightly modified “Toyota” was a stronger brand name. Nine brush strokes were required to write “Toyoda”, whereas “Toyota” only needed eight. Also, eight was a lucky number in Japan.


Car companies

Walter Chrysler was probably not on anyone’s list of important people when he was young. He spent most of his youth as a railroad engineer in Texas and developed a lot as a mechanic. In 1911, the talented 36-year-old mechanic became Buick’s production chief, and when he took over the company in 1919, he was making millions of dollars a year.

Chrysler eventually left Buick and, after an unsuccessful attempt to take over the Willys-Overland Motor Company, he used some of his accumulated wealth to buy a controlling stake in the vacillating Maxwell Motor Company. Chrysler’s new company introduced a popular car called Chrysler in 1924. The following year the name Maxwell disappeared behind the name “Chrysler”, which is among the most famous car companies of today.

4. Honda


Honda is named after its founder Soichiro Honda. Soichiro Honda was founded by Honda Motor Co. in 1946 to make small motorcycles. He was a skilled mechanic who founded Ltd. Although the motorcycle industry made a slow start, in the 1960s this business became one of the largest bicycle manufacturers in the world. In 1963, Honda introduced its first vehicle, the Honda T360 pickup truck.

5. Buick


Scottish immigrant David Dunbar Buick was a creative man. Before he even entered the motor industry, he had found a very efficient way to produce enameled cast iron bathtubs. Buick began dealing with engines in the 1890s, and after starting a failed motor company, he tried his luck again with the Buick Manufacturing Company in 1902. Buick’s cars were awesome. But he always needed to find new investors to get him cash, and eventually his company was sold to General Motors founder William C. Durant.

Durant gave Buick a $ 100,000 seniority check piece by piece in 1908. Buick tried to turn that money into a fortune by investing in oil fields, but he was in luck. After trying and failing to return to the car business in the 1920s, he started working as an instructor at the Detroit Business School. This job did not go well either; the school made him a receptionist. When Buick died in 1929, he was a broke man.

6. Chevrolet

Car companies

Just as William Durant had slowly ousted David Buick from Buick’s own company, in 1910 Durant’s own creditors removed him from his management post at General Motors, which he founded. Still, Durant did not stay below for long. In 1911 he worked with Swiss race car driver and mechanic Louis Chevrolet to form a new motor company. The duo named the company Chevrolet.

The company quickly gained a lot of value in the pair. Durant suddenly had enough money to regain control of General Motors and bought General Motors. In 1918, General Motors bought Chevrolet. Louis Chevrolet did not have much success in his life. He sold his stake in the company to Durant in 1914, and despite some success in his career, he never achieved financial success and eventually had to return to Chevy as an advisor.



Brothers John and Horace Dodge were skilled mechanics who founded a Michigan bicycle company in the 1890s. They eventually sold the business and began producing transmissions for Olds in 1902 and Ford in 1903. However, they wanted to create their own cars, so in 1913 they left their profitable supplier positions at Ford and began working on their own car designs. The brothers’ cars soon became among the best-selling cars in the country. Today, Dodge is among the most famous car companies. Viper and Charger models are the most popular.

8. Mercedes

Car companies

In 1897, Austrian entrepreneur Emil Jellinek began ordering “Daimler” cars that could be used in some of Europe’s fast-growing auto racing. This took several years. However, in the early 20th century, there were a number of Daimler that Jellinek loved to drive. He used the name of his 12-year-old daughter Mercedes when racing these cars. In 1900, Jellinek made a deal with Daimler to order 36 new cars provided the cars were called Mercedes. Daimler agreed and the famous luxury brand name “Mercedes” was born.

9. Volvo


The Swedish automaker’s name means “I’m rolling”, which is a combination of the Latin word “volvere”. The company started as part of the Swedish ball company SKF, and after SKF wanted to make Volvo a trademark in 1915, the company planned to put the name “Volvo” on just about everything. However, Volvo did not start the automobile business until 1926 because of World War I.

10. Cadillac

Car companies

A New Yorker named Henry Leland founded the Cadillac Car Company in 1902. The name of Cadillac, one of the most famous car companies in the world, comes from the French explorer Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, who founded Detroit in the early 18th century.

11. Saab


Saab is actually the abbreviation of “Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolag”, which means “Swedish Plane, Limited” in Swedish. The company started producing cars in the 1940s. As the name suggests, it was producing aircraft before.

12. Volkswagen

Car companies

Volkswagen was founded in Germany in 1937 under Hitler’s Nazi government. The company’s name, translated as “The People’s Automobile Company”, was a reflection of the then government’s effort towards German nationalism.

13. Lexus


Lexus is actually part of Toyota, not a separate car brand. Toyota went to an advertising agency and an image consulting firm after it needed a name for its luxury division. At first they decided on behalf of “Alexis”, but gradually transformed into Lexus.

14. Mazda

Car companies

One of the most famous Japanese car companies, Mazda is named after the Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda. According to the company’s website, “Key members of Toyo Kogyo interpreted Mazda as a symbol of the beginning of Eastern and Western civilization, as well as automotive civilization and culture.”

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