Behind the Badge: 20 Fascinating Facts About the Hidden Meanings of Car Logos
Ever wonder what the meaning behind your favorite automotive company’s logo is? Let’s uncover the hidden symbolism behind 20 of the most prominent car badges. Are you ready to have your mind blown?
Fun Facts & Hidden Meanings Behind Popular Car Logos
- Alfa Romeo
The Acura luxury brand takes its logo design from the shape from an upright pair of calipers enclosed in an oval. As a tool used for pinpointing exact, detailed measurements, calipers fit the automaker’s name, with the prefix “acu,” meaning sharp or precise.
Yes, Alfa Romeo’s badge does feature a man getting eaten by a giant snake. It’s the symbol of the influential Visconti family of 11th century Milan. While there are half-a-dozen different interpretations of the design, the most accepted interpretation today is that the man being devoured is a Moor being defeated during the Christian Crusades.
The four interlocking rings of Audi’s logo represent the four individual companies that formed the Audi family when they merged in 1932: DKW (motorcycles and small cars), Wanderer (midsize cars), Audi (deluxe midsize cars), and Horch (high-end, luxury vehicles).
Buick’s three-flag badge began as a one-flag homage to the Buick family coat of arms, chosen by Scottish-American founder David Dunbar Buick, and didn’t become three flags until 1959 when two more flags were added. Each of the three represented one of the brand’s models: the LeSabre (red), the Invicta (grey), and the Electra (blue).
The Cadillac logo began as the family crest of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the founder of the city of Detroit, though it’s debated whether Antoine invented his noble ancestry. For much of the 20th century, the Cadillac emblem bore two trios of Merlettes, or ducks, representing the Holy Trinity and nobility of mother and father’s noble lineage.
Everyone loves Chevy’s bowtie badge. The most prevalent explanation of its design is from the company’s co-founder William Durant saw the pattern on wallpaper in a French hotel. However, the Durant family disagrees with that story and claims he designed it himself.
Ferrari’s prancing stallion actually came from Count Francesco Baracca, a renowned Italian air force pilot during World War I. Baracca is considered a national hero by Italians; his plane had that same design printed on its side.
While the Hyundai logo may just look like an italicized letter “H” to most people, it also bears a secret meaning as the stylized silhouette of two individuals shaking hands. One individual is a company representative and the other is a satisfied customer.
Kia’s American logo is pretty boring, but the automaker actually has a different badge on its Korean models: the letter “K” with a diagonal double-line and lack of a vertical backbone. It’s slick and kinetic, and suggests high-excitement driving.
The meaning of Lincoln’s star badge is hotly debated, but the predominant theories are that it represents a compass with hands directed to the four corners of the earth, a celestial body that reflects the brand’s opulence and radiance, or a simplified version of a coat of arms.
The pointy Maserati badge is in fact the trident held by Neptune (known in Greek mythology as Poseidon) in the Fontana de Nettuno statue in Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore. This city served as the hometown of the Maserati family and location of the company’s first plant.
Mazda’s logo has been drastically redesigned over the years, but its current form is a highly stylized letter “M” with its arms raised like wings, symbolizing the brand’s “flight toward the future.”
Mercedes-Benz has used its three-pointed star emblem for years. According to the company, it represents the automaker’s drive toward universal motorization with its engines dominating the land, sea, and air. Yes indeed: the Mercedes-Benz emblem is a symbol for the company’s plan for world domination.
The emblem that the Mitsubishi company has used for almost 150 years originated from the founder’s idea to combine two important family crests: the triple-oak-leaf crest of the Tosa Clan from where he was born and the three-tiered water chestnut leaves of his family.
If you glance briefly at Saturn’s logo, you might think it looks like a big X, but it’s actually the lower-left quadrant of the planet Saturn, with its famous rings wrapping around it. That curved, sweeping arc across it might also be the tail of NASA’s Saturn rocket, which originally inspired the automaker’s name.
The Smart brand’s deceptively simple logo consists of a lower-case letter “C” standing for “compact” and the right-facing arrow represents its forward-thinking target customers.
The name “Subaru” is also the Japanese name for a cluster of stars in the Taurus constellation, known to many by the name “Pleiades.” These are the five stars in the automaker’s badge; the large star symbolizes Fuji Heavy Industries and the five smaller stars indicate the five companies that merged to form FHI.
Yes, the Tesla logo is the letter “T,” but it’s also a stylized Nikola Tesla coil, Part of the schematics symbol for “battery,” the rotor slot in an AC induction motor, one pole in a rotational electric motor, and maybe even a cat’s nose.
The fascinating Toyota badge has multiple layers. Its two inner, perpendicular ellipses symbolize the merging of the hearts of customers and the company. Another claim is that the three ovals represent the three cultural aspects of the company: freedom, team spirit, and progress. You can even see the automaker’s name hidden in the lines of the logo.
Is the Volvo badge the male gender symbol? Originally the astrological symbol for Roman god Mars’ sword and shield, the symbol was later used by Renaissance alchemists to represent the element iron. Thus, Volvo’s “Iron Mark,” reflects the strength of the Swedish company.