The origins of car manufacturers' names


Customers in the market for a new car are currently spoilt for choice. Where we once had forecourts stuffed with brown Rovers and beige Vauxhalls, we now have an increasingly diverse array of attractive metal filling the glass halls of local dealers.

The exotic selection of metal often comes with an equally colourful brand name, but have you ever wondered where these names come from?

We've had a search through the history books to find out the etymology behind the world's most famous car manufacturers.


During the 1940s, Adolf Hitler commissioned Ferdinand Porsche (of Porsche notoriety) to create a fun, affordable vehicle that could be enjoyed by the inhabitants of Germany. Volkswagen – aka The People's Car or 'car of the people' - was soon fashioned and Mr Porsche unveiled the VW Type 1, which went on to be affectionately known as The Beetle after WW2.


The marque currently storming the UK sales charts with its increasingly popular SUV models takes its name from an amalgamation of Nippon and Sangyo, which translates into Japanese Industry. As for its popular SUVs, the Qashqai is named after a clan or tribe of people found in Persia, Turkey and some Arab states.


A number of manufacturers take their names from the company's respective founders but the story behind Mercedes-Benz is slightly more complicated. Karl Benz invented the Benz Patent Motorwagon in 1885. By the 1900s, a company called DMG (Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft) also invented a car called the Mercedes – named after the daughter of board member Emil Jellinek. Soon after, the two companies joined forces and the name Mercedes-Benz must have been considered catchier than Daimler-Benz because it stuck.


The origins of the word 'Jeep' are a little hazy but it is commonly believed that it is a slurring of the acronym G.P, which stood for General Purpose or Government Purpose vehicle during World War 2. Jeep quickly became a common name given to any four-wheel-drive vehicle used by the military but Willys-Overland – the original producers of military-spec off-road vehicles - were granted the privilege of owning the word 'Jeep' as a trademark in the 1950s.


If August Horch wasn't squeezed out of his original car company in the early 1900s, flash Harrys would be driving around in Horch R8s and Horch TTs today. Following a dispute, August Horch left his original company and ventured off alone, opting to call his new company Audi, or the Latin for 'listen', which in turn is similar to the German word 'to hear' - 'horcher'.

Alfa Romeo

Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili makes up the Alfa part and Nicola Romeo loaned his surname to create the beautiful brand that is now synonymous with a pure Italian driving experience. Funnily enough, Fiat now owns Alfa Romeo and the marque derives its name from another acronym - Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino – or loosely translated to 'Italian car manufacturers of Torino', the place where it all started.

Take a trip through history in the gallery below

The origins of car manufacturer's names

The origins of car manufacturer's names