Curious Car Logos

Logos are a visual representation of a company’s brand. They are a symbol that represents the perceived characteristics of a company and its products or services. Interestingly, though, this all-important symbol is often designed for reasons that have been lost to history. In this article, we will look at a few of the iconic logos in the automotive field and listen to the stories that they tell.



In 1929, a young sculptor named Avard T. Fairbanks arrived at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor to head up the sculpture department. As the story goes, he needed a more reliable car than his old Willys-Knight but didn’t have money to get one. Being a talented sculptor, he reasoned that perhaps he could design a new radiator cap ornament for one of the car companies in Detroit in trade for a new car. The first company he approached was Chrysler Corporation. He presented them with a beautiful radiator cap with a ram’s head design.  According to Roberts Chrysler of Meriden, a local Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer located in Meriden, NY, Walter P. Chrysler initially rejected the design. Fairbanks then reportedly asked Chrysler what a person’s first thought would be upon encountering a ram in the wild. Walter Chrysler’s response was “Dodge!” and he agreed that was perfect.



Have you ever looked at the intricate Cadillac crest closeup and wonder if it has any meaning? As it turns out, it was inspired by the coat of arms of French adventurer Antoine de la Mothe Sieur de Cadillac. De la Mothe Sieur de Cadillac was the founder of the city of Detroit in 1701 and is said to have been an ancestor of Cadillac’s famous founder: Henry Leland.



Did you ever think what the Toyota logo supposed to be? Is it just a fanciful “T” for Toyota?  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 Subaru logo is an oval with a group of stars inside. These stars, however, aren’t placed there randomly; they’re actually a group of stars in the Taurus constellation called the 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. The Pleiades also goes by the name Seven Sisters, which coincidently is also the name of a prominent group of women’s colleges in America.



Gottlieb Daimler, the founder of DMG Motors, designed the three-pointed star logo for their auto manufacturing brand in the early 1900s. The three points in the star are said the represent complete domination of land, sea, and air. In 1926, when DMG merged with Benz & Cie, they included the famous star in a logo that featured a laurel wreath. The wreath was included on the Mercedes logo for many years but today has been abandoned.



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 isn’t a spinning aircraft propeller as they didn’t manufacture aviation components. It is basically an homage to Rapp’s old circular logo and used blue-and-white, the national colors of Bavaria.