Ten Car logos and their origins

From Ford’s scripted oval to Volkswagen’s Germanic simplicity, from Ferrari’s swaggering black stallion to Volvo manliness, car logos aim to communicate unique brand credentials of the manufacturer, the car and indeed the driver. But what of the stories that lie behind logos? VCARS.co.uk’s Paul Reaney dug a little deeper and unearthed a few things you might not know about the logo on the front of your car.

Ford’s Blue Oval

Truly ubiquitous, a mainstay of modern logo design, the famous ford blue oval effortlessly balances modernity against heritage. The original badge was designed by an engineering colleague of Henry Ford. His assistant simply knocked up a stylised version the words ‘Ford Motor Company’. After experimenting with a winged triangle, in the mid-twenties the blue oval appeared. Ford’s Model A was the first car to carry the iconic logo. Apart from a brief flirtation with a squat diamond in the mid-seventies, the current logo continues to this day.

History of Ford logos


VW’s Iconic Circle

The famous VW logo was designed by Franz Reimspiess, the winner of an office-wide competition to come up with a new logo. Reimspiess was also the man who designed the engine for the Beetle. Interestingly, the original VW vehicles were inspired by a 1933 meeting between Hitler and Porsche. Hitler wanted an affordable car capable of transporting two adults and three children at a max speed of 62 mph (100kmh). After WW2, the British took control of VW and got rid of the German flourishes on the outer of the logo, stripping it back and simplifying to the third logo here – a forerunner of today’s more corporate look.

History of VW logos


Mazda’s Winged Chariot

Upon direction from the company’s founder Jujiro Matsuda, Mazda’s name derives from Ahura Mazda, the Avestan name for a divinity exalted by the ancient Iranian prophet Zoroaster – the source of wisdom, intelligence and harmony! The current logo, designed in 1997, shows a pair of wings in flight. As well as communicating creativity, vitality and flexibility, it purports to show Mazda is ready to take flight.

History of Mazda logos


Renault Brotherly Love

Founded in 1989 by Louis, Marcel and Ferdinand Renault, the company were originally famous for their taxis (before building aeroplanes and tanks in WWI). The first logo was supposedly designed to capture the initials of all three brothers (can you see the F?) and updated during WW1 to include a tank. The now famous diamond was included in 1925 and yellow (symbolising joy, prosperity and optimism) in 1946. 

History of Renault logos


Ferrari’s Horse Play

Enzo Ferrari was inspired by the horse painted on the aeroplane of Italy’s heroic WWI airman Francesco Baracca. Ferrari has confessed: “In 1923, I met count Enrico Baracca, the hero’s father, and then his mother, countess Paulina, who said to me: Ferrari, put my son’s prancing horse on your cars. It will bring you good luck.” The black horse has become, perhaps, the most iconic image in the automotive industry. Did You Know, yellow was added as it is the colour of Modena – home to Ferrari’s factory?

History of Ferrari logos


Audi’s Rings

Now part of the VW family, Audi was born in 1899 from the drive of German August Horch. Horch left Horch & Cie, set up AutomobilWerke Horch Zwickau GmbH. Due to legal wranglings over the similarity of the name, he launched a new company Audi which is a Latin translation of Horch, meaning ‘listen’. Horch and Audi were joined by DKW and Wanderer and merged to form Auto Union AG. The interlocking rings symbolising the four brands.

History of Audi logos


Fiat Bendy A

Fiat have been Italy’s household auto name since 1899 and the country’s industrialization. The logo’s most striking component is the semi-bent upper case A, appearing for the first time in 1901. Fiat’s logo has been perhaps the most changed, tampered with and ‘updated’ of any of the main car brands. The most recent logotype appeared in 2006, re-introducing red to the logo for the first time since 1959.

History of Fiat logos


Toyota’s Floating T

With a mission statement ‘create and develop advanced technologies and provide outstanding products and services that fulfil the needs of customers worldwide’, this logo has its work cut out. The current logo, three ellipses which co-join to create a T, is relatively simple while communicating quickly and effortlessly a harmony and creativity. The original logo, dating back to 1936 was designed to communicate speed and the result of another of those office-wide competitions. Today, Toyota explains their logo thus:

The two perpendicular centre ovals represent a relationship of mutual trust between the customer and Toyota.  These ovals combine to symbolize the letter “T” for Toyota.  The space in the background implies a global expansion of Toyota’s technology and unlimited potential for the future.

History of Toyota logos



Founded in 1927 in Gothenburg from a company that used to make ball bearings, the Volvo name is derived from ‘I roll’ in Latin. The currently logo is the ancient symbol for Iron (circle with an arrow pointed diagonally right and up), as well as begin the symbol for Man. Grrrrr…

History of Volvo logos


Mercedes Benz

In wonderfully Germanic style, the three-pointed star represents domination of the land, sea, and air! It was designed by Gottlieb Daimler in 1909 and combined with the Benz laurel wreath in 1926 when the two partnered up. The ring joined in 1937.

History of Mercedes logos


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