The Origins of Car Logos


What every manufacturer wants is solid brand recognition. When a product becomes a recognizable brand, the buying public recognizes it for the sum of attributes that is historically associated with the product. Hopefully in a good way. Take the crest that has adorned Cadillacs for over a century. When most people see the Cadillac crest, they usually think of large, luxury American sedans with all the creature comforts. And the owners? Generally older and in most cases retired.

In order to make their brands as recognizable as possible, most companies design logos that represent their brand in some way. Sometimes it’s hard to tell how, but most logos have details that represent strong elements of the product. Car logos are a good example, the problem is that they were designed so many years ago that the details of the logo have been lost to history.


Have you ever looked at the Cadillac crest closeup? It has an elaborate number of features inspired from the coat of arms of French adventurer Antoine de la Mothe sieur de Cadillac. De Cadillac founded the city of Detroit in 1701 and is said to have been an ancestor of Cadillac’s famous founder: Henry Leland.


As the story goes, Chrysler designer AT Fairbanks originally designed the ram radiator cap in the late 1920s. According to Dutchess Chrysler of Poughkeepsie, a local Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer located in Poughkeepsie, NY, Walter P. Chrysler initially rejected the Rams head. Fairbanks reportedly asked Chrysler what a person’s first thought would be upon encountering a ram in the wild. Chrysler’s response was “Dodge!” and it fit perfectly. Today the iconic ram logo, the ancient symbol of Aries, signifies authority, fearlessness, and virility.


The Subaru logo is an oval with a number of stars inside. These stars however aren’t placed there randomly; they’re actually a group of stars in the Taurus constellation called Pleiades. In Japanese, this constellation is called Subaru, which means “unite.” The blue background on the logo is there because the stars in this constellation are a deep shade of blue. Pleiades also goes by the name Seven Sisters, which coincidently is also the name of a prominent group of women’s colleges in America.


Did you ever think what the devil the Toyota logo supposed to be? What is it, an almond wearing a halo? Toyota is the world’s largest auto manufacturer and according to Toyota, the three ellipses symbolize “the unification of the hearts of our customers and the heart of Toyota products” and the background is for the brand’s “technological advancement and the boundless opportunities ahead.”


The BMW logo is instantly recognizable by most car enthusiasts and most think it is an illustration of a spinning airplane propeller. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. As the story goes, in 1917, Bayerische Motoren Werke’s owner, Franz Josef Popp, needed to change the logo after the brand split from Rapp Motors. The logo is basically an homage to Rapp’s old logo and used blue-and-white, the national colors of Bavaria.


Gottlieb Daimler designed the three-pointed star logo for their auto manufacturing brand DMG in the early 1900s. When DMG merged with Benz & Cie in 1926, they included the famous star with a laurel wreath. The wreath has since been abandoned, but the three points in the star are said the represent complete domination of land, sea, and air.


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