Car brands named after their founders

While majority of them are founders’ namesake and their origin are well known, there are also a few whose lineage are rather not straightforward and I certainly wasn’t aware of.

BHPian Emvi recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

What’s in a name? Well, there’s a lot in a name.

Here I am talking of automobile brands that have been named after surnames/names of the founders. While majority of them are founders’ namesake and their origin are well known, there are also a few whose lineage are rather not straightforward and I certainly wasn’t aware of. Thought of sparing some time and make a list of eponymous automobile brands.



Not surprisingly TATA is the first one to crop up in the minds of most people in our country. TATA Motors inherited the name from the legendary parent group TATA. The parent group was founded by Jamshetji Nusserwanji Tata in 1868. TATA motors, formerly Tata Engineering & Locomotive Company Ltd or TELCO, was founded in 1945 by Jahangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata, popularly known as JRD Tata.

Trivia: Suzanne Briere, mother of JRD Tata, is known for being the first woman in India to drive a car, in 1905. In 1929, JRD Tata became first licensed pilot in India.


In 1945, Mahindra brothers, Jagadish Chandra & Kailash Chandra collaborated with Malik Ghulam Mohammed to establish a steel trading company under the banner- Muhammed & Mahindra. Post Indian independence, Malik Ghulam Mohammed parted ways with the Mahindras and the company was renamed as MAHINDRA & MAHINDRA in 1948.

Trivia: Muhammed settled in Pakistan after the country was carved out of India and went on to become country’s first finance minister.


The Bajaj Group was first found by Jamnalal Bajaj in 1920s. Bajaj Auto, a part of Bajaj group was established later in 1945. The company, during inception was named as M/s Bachraj Trading Corporation Private Ltd which was renamed subsequently.

Trivia: Jamnalal Bajaj was a very close disciple of Mahatma Gandhiji, so much so that Gandhiji is known to have often declared that Bajaj was his fifth son.


TVS Motors is an automotive company that manufactures 2-wheelers and 3-wheelers founded by Thirukkurungudi Vengaram Sundaram Iyengar, in short TVS Iyengar. It was in 1911 a transportation business company was first established in Madurai under the TVS banner. About 7 decades later TVS first ventured into automotive manufacturing and in 1980 rolled out India’s first 2 seater moped, TVS 50.

Trivia: TVS motor company now owns the iconic British motorcycle brand Norton after its acquisition in April 2020 for a 16 million pounds all cash deal.



Suzuki Motor Corporation derived its name from Michio Suzuki, the founder. In 1909, Michio Suzuki first established Suzuki Loom Works in Hamamatsu, Japan. It was only 3 decades later Suzuki ventured into automobile business.

Trivia: Suzuki’s first 2-wheeler was called ‘Power Free’, which was powered by a 36cc, 1 HP 2 stroke engine.


Honda Motor Company Ltd has been named after one of its co-founders, Soichiro Honda. Takeo Fujisawa was the other co-founder. Soichiro Honda first set up Honda Technical Research Institute near Hamamatsu in 1946. The research institute was liquidated and Honda Motor Company was incorporated in 1948. Fujisawa managed the financial aspects of the company, while product development and engineering rested in the hands of Honda.

Trivia: Hirotoshi Honda, son of Soichiro Honda, is one of the co-founders of Mugen Motorsports. The company specializes in engine tuning and performance components manufacturing.


Toyota Motor Corporation was founded in 1937 Kiichiro Toyoda and it was named after him. There is a story behind why it is called “TOYOTA” and not “TOYODA”. In Japanese it takes only eight strokes of pen to write Toyota, while Toyoda takes ten. Eight is a number in Japan that is associated with good luck and fortune. So the name “Toyota” was chosen hoping it would prosper the company as well as the country.

Trivia: The origin of the company can be traced back to 1920s, when Sakichi Toyoda (father of Kiichiro Toyoda) founded Toyoda Automatic Loom Works Ltd. Sakichi Toyoda, a great inventor, is often referred as the ‘Father of Japanese Industrial Revolution’.


Yamaha Motor Company is named after its founder, Torakusu Yamaha. Yamaha Corporation formerly Nippon Gaki Co Ltd, a musical instruments manufacturer, was first founded by Torakusu Yamaha in 1897 in Hamamatsu. Gneichi Kawakami, the fourth generation president of Nippon Gakki was solely responsible for the inception of Yamaha Motor Company in the mid-1950s.

Trivia: Between 1989 and 1997, Yamaha produced engines for Formula One Racing cars. The first engine Yamaha produced was used by Zakspeed team. Other Yamaha powered F1 teams were Jordan 192, Arrows A18, and Tyrrell.


The first company to bear the Kawasaki name was Kawasaki Tsujiki Shipyard which was established in 1878 by Shozo Kawasaki, a tradesman in Nagasaki. By 1906, the company’s product range grew beyond the shipping industry and would become a prominent player in the automotive, railway and aviation sectors. It wasn’t until 1960s that Kawasaki ventured into motorcycle industry after Kawasaki Aircraft Division acquired Meguro manufacturing, an ailing motorcycle manufacturer.

Trivia: In mid 1970s Kawasaki became the first foreign vehicle manufacturer to begin operations in the United States. The Kawasaki KZ400 wasn’t just the first Japanese motorcycle manufactured in the country, it was the first Japanese vehicle of any kind to be built in America.



Ford Motor Company was named after Henry Ford who founded the company in 1903. Henry Ford built his first automobile in 1896 in a workshop behind his home in Detroit, an experimental car which he called a quadri-cycle.

Trivia: In 1913 Henry Ford first invented the assembly lines for making cars. Ford’s invention revolutionized the industry and the paved the way for mass production of automobiles.


Buick is a division of American automotive multinational corporation, General Motors Company. David Dunbar Buick, a Scottish born Detroit based investor is the founder of the Buick Motor Company. The company was first founded in 1899 and was known as ‘Buick Auto-Vim and Power Company’ back then.

Trivia: China sells more Buick cars than the United States. China accounts for the major part of the global sales, selling about 1 million units annually on an average since 2014.


The Chrysler Corporation was named after its founder Walter Chrysler, who in 1925 officially formed the company out of the ailing Maxwell Motor Corporation.

Trivia: Chrysler built 55 turbine powered cars from 1963-64. According to Chrysler, the cars could run on anything with combustible properties like kerosene, diesel, furnace oil, vegetable oils and even perfumes! Only 9 such cars still exist, majority of them in museums.


Dodge brothers, Horace Elgin and John Francis, founded the Dodge Brothers Company machine shop in Detroit in 1900, hence the name. It was only in 1914 the first car was manufactured under the Dodge Brothers Motor Company banner.

Trivia: In 1950s Dodge launched a car ‘La Femme’, specifically targeting women customers. The car came with pink exterior, rosebud dotted upholstery, pink umbrella, pink handbag and many such ‘pink’ accessories!


Formerly Lincoln Motor Company was founded in 1917 by Henry Martyn Leland along with this son, Wilfred Leland. Interestingly the company wasn’t named after the founder. Henry was such a fan of American president Abraham Lincoln that he named the company after him, claiming that Lincoln was the first president for whom he ever voted in 1864.


Lincoln founder Henry Leland was also one of the co-founders of CADILLAC Motor Car division (founded in 1902). Curiously, CADILLAC was named after the founder of Detroit city, Antonie de la mothe Cadillac.
The 1912 Cadillac Touring Edition became the first car to replace the hand crank with an electric starter motor.


Chevrolet Motor Company was named after Louis Chevrolet, a Swiss race car driver and automobile engineer. The company was founded in 1911 by Louis Chevrolet and William.C.Durant, the deposed founder of General Motors.

Trivia: The longest running automobile nameplate in history is Chevrolet SUBURBAN. It was first introduced in 1935! Race car drivers Arthur Chevrolet and Gaston Chevrolet were the younger brothers of Louis.


Tesla Motors Inc. was founded in 2003 by American entrepreneurs, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, and was named after Serbian American inventor Nikola Tesla. In 2004 Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX (an aerospace manufacturer & space transport services company) funded the company with a big investment. Subsequently, Elon Musk joined the company and became chairman of the board of directors.

Trivia: It is technically illegal to drive a Tesla Model X across the Brooklyn Bridge as it exceeds the maximum weight limit for the bridge which stands at 6000 pounds or 3 tons. Although the car’s kerb weight is 5441 pounds, the actual gross vehicle weight rating is 6768 pounds, which is well over the legal limit.


Harley Davidson was founded in 1903 in Milwaukee and officially incorporated in 1907. The company was named after its founders William Harley and Davidson brothers- Arthur, William and Walter.

Trivia: Harley Davidson motorcycles are often referred to as “Hogs”. The nickname came from their racing days on the dirt tracks in 1920s. Their racing team “Wrecking Crew” dominated the races that they entered and were known for their winning combination. It was during this time that race team member Ray Weishaar acquired a piglet, which went on to become team’s mascot. After a race victory, the winner of the Harley team would take a victory lap with the mascot pig riding on the fuel tank. This made the racing fans and media to lovingly call them Harley Hogs. Overtime, Harley Hogs changed into simply “Hogs” and the nickname stuck for their bikes!




Luxury car maker Rolls Royce was named after the company founders Charles Stewart Rolls and Frederick Henry Royce. In 1884 Royce established an electrical and mechanical business under the banner of F.H Royce and Co. (renamed Royce Ltd in 1899). He built his first car in 1904. Later in the same year he met Rolls, whose company C.S.Rolls and Co. (founded in 1902), sold quality cars in London. The two men forged a business alliance and Rolls-Royce was established.

Trivia: Only one man, Mark Court has been painting the coachlines/pinstripes on all Rolls-Royce cars since 2003.


Bentley is a luxury car brand founded by in 1919 in Crewe, England by Walter Owen Bentley and named after him.

Trivia: The winged sides of Bentley logo are asymmetrical- the number of feathers on both sides are not the same. The number not only differs on either sides of a logo, they also differ among different versions/models of the car. For instance, logos in vintage cars typically have 13 feathers on the left and 14 on the right. There are cars with 10/11 feathers combination as well as 10 on each side.


Aston Martin is a manufacturer of luxury sports cars founded in 1913 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford. Their company Bamford & Martin sold Singer brand of cars in West London. Martin regularly competed in hill climb races at Aston Clinton. A simple combination of the name of the racing event and the driver gave birth to the brand Aston Martin when the pair decided to manufacture their own cars.

Trivia: The Aston Martin logo is derived from ancient Egypt. The logo features a pair of wings which is based on Egyptian scarab beetle.


Norton is a brand of motorcycles manufacturer named after its founder James Lansdowne Norton, who founded the company in 1898 in Birmingham. The company started operations as a manufacturer of fittings and parts for the two wheeler trade and by 1902 the first Norton motorcycles were produced using French and Swiss engines. The company is currently owned by TVS motors as aforementioned.

Trivia: Norton is widely considered to be the only manufacturer to have successfully raced Wankel Rotary engine motorcycles. Also in 2009, the then CEO Stuart Garner set the world speed record for the fastest speed for a rotary engine motorcycle. He clocked 173 mph for a timed mile followed by a top speed of over 180mph on a Norton NRV588.



Mercedes Benz is an automotive giant founded in 1926 by a collaboration involving two companies, Benz & Cie.(founded by Karl Friedrich Benz in 1883) and Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft- DMG (founded by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in 1890). The origin of the brand name Mercedes Benz is not without intricacies. Karl Benz is widely credited for his invention of first internal combustion engine in a car, the Benz Patent-Motorwagen in 1886. Later in the same year Gottlieb Daimler along with Wilhelm Maybach converted a stagecoach into a motor vehicle by installing a petrol engine in it. They sold their first automobile in 1892 and eight years later Gottlieb Daimler breath his last. In the meantime, a wealthy European entrepreneur, Emil Jellinek developed an association with DMG by buying and selling their cars to his wealthy friends and associates. Jellinek also raced cars and persuaded DMG to produce faster and more powerful cars. A Daimler Phoenix was the first automobile entered in a race by Emil under the pseudonym of “Mercedes”, which interestingly was his daughter’s first name. His success, key contributions to the technical development of products and major orders which he placed in 1900 elevated him to the DMG’s supervisory board. In December 1900, DMG delivered the first “Mercedes” automobile equipped with a new engine to Emil, a 35HP racing car. The car was a runaway success and the brand name “Mercedes” was trademarked in 1902. From then on, the curved MERCEDES lettering adorned the radiator grilles of DMG passenger cars. It was only in 1926 MERCEDES-BENZ brand name vehicles were produced following the merger of Karl Benz’s and Gottlieb Daimler’s companies into the Daimler-Benz company.

Trivia: Karl Benz became first legally licensed driver in the world in 1888, when the Duke of Baden granted him the distinction.

Mercedes-Benz was the first manufacturer to develop and patent crumple zones in cars in 1952 and featured first in the Mercedes-Benz 220 series cars in 1959.


Maybach is an ultra-luxury car brand which today is a part of Mercedes Benz. The brand gets its name from its founders, Wilhelm Maybach and his son Karl Maybach. The origins of the brand trace back to 1909 when the father-son duo founded the new company, Luftfahrzeug-Motorenbau GmbH in 1909. Wilhelm was technical director of the DMG until 1907 before falling out of favor with his peers. It wasn’t until 1919 that they produced their first automobile. This experimental car was put into production two years later adorning the “double M badge”.

Trivia: With a length of 6499 mm Mercedes-Maybach Pullman S600 is one of the longest cars ever produced.


Audi is a manufacturer of luxury cars founded in 1909 by August Horch. The history and origin of the name of the company is no less complex. August Horch who first worked for Karl Benz from 1896, went onto establish his automotive business under the banner- ‘A.Horch & Cie.’ in 1899. A few years later in 1904, the company was reorganized into a joint-stock company and renamed as ‘Horch & Cie. Motowagenwerke AG’. Following a dispute with the board members, August Horch parted ways with the company and in 1909 he went on to form his second company- ‘August Horch Automobilwerke GmbH’. Horch was sued by his former partners for trademark infringement and the German supreme court agreed. As Horch was prohibited from using "Horch" as a trade name in his new car business, he called a meeting with close business friends to discuss a new name for his company. Horch’s friend Franz Fikentscher hosted the meeting at his apartment. During this meeting, Franz's son was quietly studying Latin in a corner of the room. On multiple occasions he looked like he was on the verge of saying something but would just swallow his words and continue studying, until he suggested the name “Audi” out of the blue. Horch means ‘listen’ in old German and its equivalent in Latin is ‘Audi’. The idea was enthusiastically accepted by everyone attending the meeting. On 25 April 1910 the ‘Audi Automobilwerke GmbH Zwickau’ was registered and the brand AUDI was born.

Trivia: Audi was the first car manufacturer to win the famous Le Mans 24 hours endurance race with both Diesel (R10 TDI in 2005) and Hybrid(R18 e-tron Quattro in 2012) powered cars. Audi boasts an incredible 13 Le Mans victories.


Porsche is an automobile manufacturer of high performance cars. The company is named after its founder Ferdinand Porsche, a German automotive engineer. The origins trace back to 1931 when Ferdinand along with Adolf Rosenberger and Anton Piech first established an independent design and engineering firm- “Dr. Ing. C.F. Porsche GmbH” in Stuttgart.

Trivia: The legendary Volkswagen Beetle was designed by Ferdinand Porsche who had commissioned by Adolf Hitler to design a simple, reliable, and economic vehicle for the people.


Peugeot is a brand of automobiles named after its founder Armand Peugeot. The company’s origins trace back to 1810, Peugeot brothers- Jean Pierre II and Jean Frederic established a steel foundry producing hand tools, umbrella frames and coffee mills. Armand was the grandson of Jean Pierre II. The first PEUGOET automobile, a three wheeled steam powered car was produced in 1889.

Trivia: In 1913, racing a Peugeot car, Jules Goux became the first European to win the prestigious Indianapolis 500 race.


Founded in 1898, Renault is French multinational automobile manufacturer. The company is named after the founders Louis Renault and his brothers Marcel and Fernand.

Trivia: In 1977 Renault RS01 became the first Formula One car to be powered by a turbocharged engine. It was also the first to use radial tires, which were provided by Michelin.


Bugatti is a manufacturer of high-performance cars which was founded by Italian born Ettore Bugatti. The automobile company that bears his name was founded in 1909 in the then German city of Molsheim, Alsace.

Trivia: The two fastest cars that Bugatti has ever produced, Veyron and Chiron were named after the company’s racecar drivers of the time, Pierre Veyron and Louis Chiron respectively.


Citroen is a French brand of automobiles founded in 1919 by an industrialist Andre Citroen and named after him.

Trivia: In 1922 a convoy of 5 half-tracked Citroen B2s undertook “Saharan Cruise” cross-country adventure from Touggourt to Timbukutu, thereby became the first ever cars to cross the Sahara.



Piaggio is an automotive company named after its founder Rinaldo Piaggio, which he established in 1884, initially a marine fit out company before going on to produce locomotives, railway carriages, luxury coaches, and special truck bodies in the early part of twentieth century. It was in 1946 the revolutionary ‘scooter’ concept was conceptualized, designed, patented and produced under the ‘Vespa’ brand.

Trivia: At the end of World War II, most Italians, bad affected by the war, lacked viable modes of transport and financial constraints meant purchasing a four wheeler unfeasible. It was then in 1947 Piaggio came up with the idea of a light 3-wheeled commercial vehicle to help reconstruct economy and the first “APE” took shape which essentially was an improvised Vespa with two wheels added to the rear.


Lancia is a car manufacturer founded in 1906 and named after one of its two founders Vincenzo Lancia. Claudio Fogolin was the other founder who was a friend of Vincenzo and both of them were Fiat racing drivers during that time.

Trivia: Despite having withdrawn at the end of 1993 season, Lancia still holds the record for the most successful marquee in the World Rally Championship with 10 world titles to its name.


Maserati is a luxury car manufacturer founded in 1914 in Bologna, Italy by the Maserati brothers- Alfieri, Ettore and Ernesto and named after them. Spark plugs were the company’s first major product and the first automobile they ever produced was a racing car, Tipo 26 in 1926.

Trivia: The famous Trident Maserati emblem was designed by Mario Maserati, a fourth brother who was an artist and unlike his brothers did not have a penchant to cars. Mario chose to use one of the most iconic symbols of Bologna- the trident from the statue of Neptune in Piazza Maggiora, a symbol of strength and vigor.


Alfa Romeo is a premium car manufacturer founded in 1915. The legend of Alfa Romeo started in 1910 when Cavalier Ugo Stella acquired the shares of the economic crisis hit French Automaker, “Societa Italiana Automobili Darracq”, subsequently relaunching and renaming it as “Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili” acronymised as ALFA. During the First World War, ALFA lacked funds to switch over to wartime production. This is when (in 1915) Neapolitan entrepreneur Nicola Romeo stepped in, took over the company and changed its name to ALFA ROMEO.

Trivia: After Nicola Romeo left the company in 1928, Alfa Romeo was acquired by the Italian Government in 1933. The company remained under government control until 1986 when FIAT bought it.


Ferrari is a sports car manufacturer named after its founder Enzo Ferrari. In the early 1920s in the nascent stage of his career, Enzo was an Alfa Romeo works racer. A few years later close to the end of the decade he setup his own racing team, Scuderia Ferrari in Modena and fielded Alfa Romeo cars for ‘gentlemen drivers’ thereby operating as the racing division of Alfa Romeo. With Alfa Romeo withdrawing its works team in 1933, Scuderia Ferrari took over the mantle. In 1938, Alfa Romeo formed “Alfa Corse” bringing back the racing operation again in-house and Enzo was made the chief of the new racing department. However, in 1939 Enzo parted ways with Alfa Romeo and immediately after that he founded his own company Auto Avio Costruzioni. As a condition of his departure, he was required not to use the Ferrari name in association with any of his car or races for at least four years. It wasn’t until 1947, the first FERRARI badged car rolled out of the factory- Ferrari 125S powered by a 1.5L V12 engine.

Trivia: While Ferrari cars are famous both on racetracks and roads, there is more to the brand- Ferrari. Licensing and merchandising is a big business for the company generating a yearly revenue of about $1.5 billion these days.


Lamborghini is a sports cars and SUVs manufacturer named after its founder Ferruccio Lamborghini. The origin of the company traces back to 1948, when Ferruccio started building tractors out of discarded war materials and went on the establish tractor manufacturing company- Lamborghini Trattori. In 1960s, he ventured into the luxury car industry and in 1963 the company Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A was incorporated.

Trivia: Like most successful businessmen, Ferruccio too owned a few luxury cars. It was in 1958 he bought his first Ferrari- 250 GT, and went on to add a few more to his stable. Although he liked his Ferraris, he found them to be too noisy and rough to be proper road cars and wasn’t happy with a few quality aspects of his cars. He then decided to report the imperfections to Enzo Ferrari directly. The constructive criticism did not go well with Enzo Ferrari due to his pride. It is believed that Enzo retorted asking Ferruccio to focus on his tractor business than paying attention to his cars. Enzo was of the opinion that Ferruccio did not know a thing about his cars, or cars in general. Enzo’s comments spurred Ferruccio to prove him wrong and decided to pursue his vision of a perfect sports car. Soon LAMBORGHINI brand of cars was born.


Pagani is a sports cars and carbon fiber components manufacturing company founded in 1992 by Horacio Pagani and named after him.

Trivia: Bolts on a Pagani Huraya cost $112,000. All of the 1400 bolts in the car are crafted from grade-7 Titanium, with each having Pagani logo etched into it and priced at $80.


Benelli is a two wheeler manufacturing company established in 1911. The company is named after Benelli family. In the spring of 1911 widowed mother of six, Theresa Benelli invested all her money in order to setup a business for her sons- Giuseppe, Giovanni, Filippo, Francesco, Domenico and Antonio Tonino. At the beginning it was only a service garage, where some spare parts of cars and motorcycles were also made. Eight years later they established themselves as a motorcycle manufacturer. Since 2005, Benelli is owned by a Chinese company, Qianjiang Motor Group.

Trivia: Benelli is not only famous for its bikes, they are a renowned shot gun manufacturers as well. The firearms division was founded by the Benelli brothers in 1967 who happened to be passionate hunters. It is currently owned by an Italian holding company, Beretta Holding.


Moto Guzzi is a motorcycle manufacturer established in 1921. The company is named after one of its founders Carlo Guzzi. Two other co-founders are Giorgio Parodi and Angelo Parodi.

Trivia: Moto Guzzi built the world’s first motorcycle specific wind tunnel in the 1950s. They are the oldest European motorcycle manufacturer who have been operating non-stop.


Moto Morini is a motorcycle manufacturer whose name is derived from its founder Alfonso Morini who founded the company in 1937.

Trivia: The first automobiles manufactured under the Moto Morini brand were 350cc and 500cc 3-wheelers. Following the production interruption due to World War II, the company established itself as a motorcycle manufacturer later.


Ducati is a motorcycle manufacturer named after its founder family- Ducati comprising of Antonio Cavalieri and his three sons, Adriano, Marcello and Bruno. The company what started as a radio and electronic equipment manufacturer in 1926 transformed into an automotive manufacturer in the late 1940s.

Trivia: Ducati bikes are considered hand built because they are majorly assembled by hand with minimal usage of robotics or automation of any kind.


MV Agusta is a motorcycle manufacturer founded by Agusta brothers, Domineco and Vincenzo in 1945. The abbreviation MV stands for Meccanica (meaning Mechanics) and Verghera, the hamlet where the first MVs were made. The company’s origin is linked to Agusta Aviation Company formed by Count Giovanni Agusta (father of Domenico & Vincenzo) in 1923.

Trivia: The 500cc ‘MV Agusta Tre’ is considered the most successful racing motorcycle in history. The legendary Giacomo Agostini won 7 consecutive world championships in the 500cc class with this bike from 1966 to 1972.


Koenigsegg is a Swedish sports car manufacturer founded by Christian Von Koenigsegg in 1994 and named after him.

Trivia: Koenigsegg Agera One was the first ever production car to feature a 1:1 power to weight ratio. The car was powered by a V8 5.0 liter aluminum engine good enough to pump out 1360 PS of power and 1371 N-m of torque with the car weighing only 1360 kg. Since the power output is equivalent to one megawatt, the company claims it to be the world’s first “Megacar”.

Information collected and collated from various sources on the internet. I stand to be corrected if any part of the aforementioned information is found imprecise.

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