The top 10 iconic car logos of all time

The badge on the back of a car is synonymous with branding, and consumers are highly influenced by the reputation of a car’s brand when choosing their new vehicle. Particularly, high-status companies like BMW and Mercedes can sell cars on the brand’s reputation alone. For example, Aston Martin put its name to a reworked version of the Toyota iQ, rebranding it as the Aston Martin Cygnet and bearing the brand’s logo, and it sold at more than double the price of the original Toyota.

To broaden your knowledge of these definitive brands, listed below are ten of the most iconic car logos. By discovering the inspiration behind these logos, we can gain greater insight into the workings of these car manufacturers and their products, and how they sell so well.

Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes Benz

Image via Tetsumo

The Mercedes logo is stylish, sophisticated and yet simple. It presents a clean and professional image, in keeping with the brand. The logo originates from the German carmaker Mercedes-Benz back in 1872. Gottlieb Daimler, the Technical Director of petrol engine manufacturing company Deutz, drew a star above his house on a postcard of Cologne.

He sent this postcard to his wife, vowing that one day this three-pointed star would be emblazoned on his own factory, shining to symbolize prosperity. Deutz upheld his vow, the very same three-pointed star now shines on every one of Mercedes’ motors, simultaneously symbolizing Deutz’s prosperous ambitions as well as making the brand instantly recognizable. It is a universal symbol of quality, due to the established reputation of the brand.

Abarth

Abarth

Image via Julien Haler

The Abarth logo is striking, utilizing vivid primary colors to demand the viewer’s attention. It features a scorpion, representing the astrological sign of its founder, Carlo Abarth. The inclusion of his star sign on the car logo is meant to symbolize the birth of Abarth’s motoring invention. The aggressive and bold image is coupled with a shield, and the two symbols combine to promote victory and strength — both appropriate motifs for a car company with a racing heritage.

Volvo

Volvo

Image via Draco2008

The Volvo logo and typeface was designed by the legendary Swedish calligrapher and typography Karl-Erik Forsberg in the 1950s. The design represents strength, incorporating the symbol for the chemical element of iron, but also playing off the symbol of the male gender. It’s in keeping with Volvo’s rugged vehicle image: Volvo cars are designed to take a few knocks and keep going.

Rover

Rover

Image via Rex Gray

This logo draws inspiration from the Vikings, incorporating the famous long ship. Vikings were selected to represent the Rover brand for their historical reputation of being fearless travelers with unparalleled strength, and are probably the most famous ‘rovers’ of all time. These guys were a mighty force to be reckoned with, an image which Rover emulates by incorporating the culture’s imagery into the company’s branding.

Moreover, because the Viking longship does not appear in any other major brands, consumers are able to quickly identify the unique rover brand.

Cadillac

Cadillac

Image by John Lloyd

The original intention of the Cadillac Automobile Company was to create a reliable, but inexpensive horseless carriage — within the financial reach of the masses. It was a noble mission, and the company wanted a logo to reflect that nobility.

The logo originates from the family coat of arms of Antoine Laumet de la Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, the French explorer who founded the city of Detroit back in 1701. This basic crest has been in the logo for years, evolving with the brand over time. The logo very recently underwent its newest revamp, and one of the most significant yet: see the evolution of the logo here.

Subaru

Subaru

Image by Nomadic Lass

The Subaru logo represents unity, a reflection of the company’s complicated history. In 1953, five Japanese companies merged to form Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI), with Subaru being the motor vehicle arm of this new company.

One facet of FHI was designated solely to the production of motor vehicles: Subaru. The word means ‘unite,’ but can also refer to the six star cluster of the Taurus constellation, know as Pleiades. This cluster of stars was the inspiration for the Subaru logo as it symbolizes the union of the five companies as well as the mythology behind the greek myth of Pleiades, where Atlas’ daughters were turned into stars by Zeus.

Subaru cars have excelled in rally driving competitions, and thus the logo has become associated with exceptional vehicles. As a result of their immense success, the logo has become so iconic that Subaru’s parent company, FHI, officially adopted the Subaru logo as its worldwide corporate symbol in 2003.

Ferrari

Ferrari

Image by David Long

Ferrari’s prancing horse represents strength and power, in an animal inextricably linked with the imagery of cars. The horse on the Ferrari logo was originally painted on a World War I fighter plane. When founder Enzo Ferrari met the parents of the plane’s airman, they suggested that he use this as his logo so that it would bring him good luck. The unique design of the logo has certainly brought Ferrari immense prosperity — merchandise bearing the logo makes up a large portion of the brand’s profits.

Lamborghini

Lamborghini

Image by John Seb Barber

Lamborghini cars are designed to be wild, powerful, and fun to drive. They’re mechanically tailored to imbue a heightened thrill into the driver, and the logo captures this with a snorting bull, symbolic of the brand’s wild nature.

When Ferruccio Lamborghini spent time in Spain at the home of a breeder of prized fighting bulls, he was inspired for this great way to represent his brand. Lamborghini has a long-standing enmity with Ferrari, so it has also been suggested that Lamborghini chose the bull for his company after being inspired by his competitor’s horse. The logo also takes inspiration from the bull-shaped Taurus, zodiac sign of Lamborghini himself.

The brand is quite effective in using this logo to encapsulate their high ambitions for their vehicles. The bull is branded on the front of each car, foreshadowing the wild and rebellious power of the engine simmering within, ready to charge any moment.

BMW

BMW

Image by vincentq

The BMW logo represents elegance and power, and as a result their vehicles are particularly popular with those who wish to display a professional image. The vehicle’s logo is crucial in establishing the brand’s presence in this corporate and wealthy sector.

The logo uses the black outer circle from the logo of Rapp Motorenwerke, an aircraft engine manufacturer which evolved into the present-day BMW automotive company. The blocks of white and blue in the center are commonly believed to represent the propellers of a plane, an idea that has been highly criticized by recent historians. What we do know for sure is that the pattern definitely derives at least partially from the Bavarian flag — the company’s industrial location.

Toyota

Toyota

Image by d3ms

This logo is a symbol of elegance and practicality, which has a wide appeal among motorists. Toyota cars are designed to be simple and reliable, which has made them popular worldwide — Toyota is the largest automobile company in the world. The image is meant to symbolize elegance and simplicity, elements which have been pivotal to the success of the company. Toyota’s logo has become iconic due to the company’s established reputation for providing stylish yet sustainable cars.

Conclusion

These ten examples are pure proof that a car company’s logo has a significant impact on the outcome of the brand, linked with the performance and drivability of the car itself. These manufacturing companies carefully market their company images, and that’s reflected in their carefully designed logos.

What do you think — are these the 10 most iconic car logos? Which others would you add?

This article was written by Bradley Taylor, a freelance writer from Derby, England. He is a motoring enthusiast who loves writing about cars, and anything automotive. You can connect with him on Google+ and Twitter

Header photo: Chris Sampson (via Flickr)

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