The Meaning Behind Car Logos: Subaru is Stellar, Acura Precise, and Ferrari Honorable

Car logos are incredibly powerful symbols. At a glance, they convey much more than just the name of the company behind them, they also reflect the overall image that a brand is trying to convey. Although some car logos have changed over the years, the majority of them have remained mostly the same, adding to their iconic nature. It’s easy to assume that they are merely symbols, but most have interesting stories behind them. Did you know, for instance, that one manufacturer’s logo is based on a constellation? Learn about the meanings behind today’s most recognizable car logos below:

Acura Represents Precision and Quality

Photo by Mike Mozart / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Photo by Mike Mozart / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Honda’s luxury car offshoot, Acura was founded in 1986. Its logo, an upright pair of calipers enclosed within an oval, was introduced in 1990. Many see the letters A and H in the logo, which may represent Honda and Acura. Acura clearly chose calipers because, as measuring instruments, they represent precision and quality. Indeed, the brand’s slogan was once “precision-crafted performance,” so it makes sense that the black, white and silver logo includes this symbol.

Audi’s Four Rings / CC0 1.0. / CC0 1.0.

Boasting four silver, overlapping rings, Audi’s logo reminds many of the symbol for the Olympic Games. However, the four rings actually represent the four companies that merged together to create Audi’s predecessor, Auto Union–Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer. The distinctive logo has remained virtually unchanged through the years, but it was updated slightly in 2009 in honor of the company’s 100th birthday.

BMW: It’s not an Airplane Propeller / CC0 1.0. / CC0 1.0.

Many people believe that the roundel that makes up the BMW logo represents a stylized airplane propeller spinning against a blue sky. However, the symbol was actually selected to represent the official colors of the Bavarian Free State, which are blue and white. Originally, the lettering on the logo was gold, but it evolved into white and silver versions. Through the years, the shade of blue was tweaked and the proportions were changed. It was standardized with white letters in the 1950s, and the roundel was switched to be three dimensional in 1997.

Chevrolet: The Legendary Bowtie / CC0 1.0. / CC0 1.0.

Rumor long had it that Chevrolet founder Bill Durant was inspired to create the iconic bowtie logo for Chevy after seeing a similar pattern on the wallpaper of his French hotel room. However, his widow, Catherine, later reported that he actually first saw the symbol in a newspaper ad while vacationing in Hot Springs, Virginia, in 1912. Later research confirmed that such an ad did appear during that time in the Atlanta Constitution. It was used by the Southern Compressed Coal Company for its “Coalettes,” except the bowtie was slanted. Chevy later made the logo gold, and it has remained virtually unchanged.

Ferrari: The Prancing Horse of the Italian Air Force / CC0 1.0. / CC0 1.0.

Ferrari’s logo comes from an image that was emblazoned on the side of a fighter plane. The plane was flown by Italian air force pilot and national hero, Count Francesco Baracca, who was shot down during World War I. In 1923, Enzo Ferrari, the founder of Ferrari, met Baracca’s parents, who asked him to use their son’s symbol on his vehicles. Ferrari complied, adding a yellow background to represent his hometown of Modena. The letters S and F were also added; they stand for Scuderia Ferrari, which is the name of the racing division. Red, white and green stripes, representing Italy, are also depicted.

Ford: The Timeless Blue Oval                                 

Photo by Truck Hardware / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Photo by Truck Hardware / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

When it debuted in 1903, the Ford Model A featured a logo that crammed the words “Ford Motor Company” into a very small space. When Ford cars made their debut in Great Britain in 1907, the logo was switched to have an oval shape. The 1927 Model A was the first to have the oval badge on its grille as well as a deep royal blue background. Starting in 1976, the blue and silver oval logo was featured on all Ford vehicles. The latest version, which was developed in 2003 in honor of the company’s 100th birthday, switched to a gradient blue background, a flatter oval, and white instead of white-silver lettering.

Honda: Simplicity and Sophistication / CC0 1.0. / CC0 1.0.

For more than 50 years now, Honda’s iconic logo has remained virtually unchanged. Featuring a bold, Roman-style letter H within a trapezoidal outline, it is designed to convey durability and confidence. The arms of the H appear to be reaching for the sky, suggesting the brand’s commitment to continual improvement. The colors carry meaning too, with black representing sophistication, red representing passion and silver representing elegance.

Lamborghini’s Bull Represents Fierceness, Power and Rivalry / CC0 1.0. / CC0 1.0.

The famous gold snorting bull that’s featured on the Lamborghini logo is partly designed to represent Taurus, which is the zodiac symbol of founder Ferruccio Lamborghini. He was also fascinated by bull fighting, and this undoubtedly played a part in selecting the bull symbol. Many also believe that Lamborghini deliberately chose a bull due to its similarity to Ferrari’s stallion, as the two brands have always been fierce rivals.

Mercedes-Benz: The Iconic Three-Point Star / CC0 1.0. / CC0 1.0.

Mercedes-Benz’s iconic three-point star has been used by the brand throughout nearly its entire 120-year history. Originally designed by technical director Gottlieb Daimler, the three points represent the company’s domination of air, land and sea. Years back, the logo included a laureate wreath and the brand name. Today, its sleek simplicity brings to mind timeless elegance and superior craftsmanship.

Mitsubishi’s Three Diamonds / CC0 1.0. / CC0 1.0.

Mitsubishi’s three-diamond logo was created by combining two family crests. One represents three oak leaves and the other represents three tiered water chestnut leaves. The logo was registered in 1914 and has remained the same since then. Each diamond has a particular meaning, with one representing reliability, one representing integrity and the third representing success.

Porsche’s Crest is a Homage to Stuttgart / CC0 1.0. / CC0 1.0.

Adopted in 1952, Porsche’s famous black horse logo is believed to have been inspired by Stuttgart, Germany, which was famous for its stud farms. The name Stuttgart also stems from the Old High German word “Stuotengarten,” which translates to “stud garden.” Ferry Porsche sketched the first draft in 1952 in New York while in a restaurant with Max Hoffman, who was the importer for the U.S. When Ferry went back to Europe and accepts the crest that was sketched by Franz Xaver Reimspress. The logo includes black and red stripes and antlers in honor of the German region of Baden-Wurttemberg, as well as a prancing stallion, which is depicted in the coat of arms of Stuttgart.

Subaru: The Heavenly Seven Sisters

Photo by Charles Kenny / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo by Charles Kenny / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Last but not least, we come to the car logo that was inspired by the heavens. Subaru’s logo features the stars of the Pleiades cluster and has remained unchanged since 1958. The word Subaru means “united, unite”, and is also the Japanese name for the Pleiades (known as The Seven Sisters). The cluster of seven stars that is found in the Taurus constellation.

The five smaller stars in Subaru’s logo represent the five companies that merged to create the Fuji Heavy Industries, the parent company of Subaru. The larger star represents the Fuji Heavy Industries company. You might think that one star is missing from the logo, as the logo features six, and there are seven stars in the cluster. The large star, however, represents two stars from the cluster. These two sisters are so close to each other in the constellation that they appear to be one and the same.
As you can see, today’s most famous car logos have quite fascinating back-stories and symbolism. While these logos may be tweaked more in the future, odds are that they will remain mostly unchanged and timeless.

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