What Automobile Logos Tell You About the Brand

What Automobile Logos Tell You About the Brand

Luxury items are often identified strongly by their associated logo. The swiss watch, the designer handbag, the perfume bottle: all of these are given credibility, style, and a promise of quality by the logo attached to them. But nowhere is that maker’s mark more definitive than on our cars, where the logo conveys status, lifestyle and more.

We’ve taken a look at where some of the world’s most famous automobile logos came from, and how each one has come to resonate with the brand.


The simple, blue-and-white logo was designed as a nod to the Bavarian flag (and nothing to do with an aircraft’s propeller, as the myth goes). The logo resonates well with the brand. Its clear lines match the precise workmanship and reliability of the cars, and reinforce its German heritage.

There are always decisions to make over the national identity of a brand. The vast majority of manufacturers aim to sell into multiple territories, and choosing whether or not to keep a clear sense of country of origin is not always straightforward. Thanks to cultural stereotyping, there are immediate connotations to any national heritage.

With their logo, and their brief, very Germanic slogan “Das auto” (though one which is less used currently), BMW has chosen to take advantage of their national identity. The whole ties into an idea of efficiency, simplicity, and reliability – qualities associated with the Germanic in popular consciousness.


Audi’s four rings are the result of the merger of four companies: Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer. In the original logo, the names of each company appeared within each ring, making the whole sound large-scale, and also very much a German brand. However, with the end of WW2, the company was shut down for its part in weapons manufacture.

With an involved series of steps, the company was rebuilt in Bavaria, in West Germany. Investment from Volkswagen eventually saw the firm relaunched with just the four rings as its emblem. It was then, simply, “Audi,” a name that came from the Latin for “to listen to.”

Audi has sloughed off a great deal of its difficult heritage and become a standalone brand within the Volkswagen group. Its four rings may tell a story, but are now a simple mark of quality and craftsmanship, uncluttered by any of the difficult path the brand has taken. And with its hint of Olympic excellence, the logo now stands Audi in good stead as a luxury car manufacturer.


There is a wealth of hidden meaning in the Toyota logo – with different levels there for the taking. It was redesigned in 1989 to celebrate its 50th anniversary, and a great deal of thought went into the design. The T is made up of three interlocking ovals, and Toyota reports that this represents the customers’ needs (the horizontal oval) interlocking seamlessly with Toyota’s own ideals (the vertical oval). The oval on the outside represents the world embracing the brand.

But that’s not all the logo represents. The design as a whole resembles a car steering wheel, and Toyota’s origins as a loom manufacturer are potentially traceable in the needle-shape of the middle oval.

There are questions over how much of this is actually apparent when viewing the logo. The oval shapes have a futuristic rather than historic or customer-focused element to them, at a first glance. The complexity of the design also implies a less simple, elegant design than many leading luxury car manufacturers. But Toyota has its eyes on the future, with its initial move into the hybrid car market, so perhaps they have their logo just right.


The Swedish car manufacturer chose to be all about sturdiness and reliability in its choice of logo. Based on the iron badge, the symbol for the Roman god Mars, the design has also long represented the element iron itself.

The logo’s no-nonsense shape, cut through with a diagonal, combined with the sturdy lettering, has toughness and practicality in every part of it. Volvo has chosen strength over elegance, and their cars have worn the badge with pride ever since.

Alfa Romeo

A close inspection of the Alfa Romeo logo often brings up a good question: is that really a snake eating a man on the right? And yes, it is. The brand has chosen to base its logo on two coats of arms, the red cross on the left the symbol of its hometown in Milan, and the creature on the right with the crown represents the ancient Visconti family of the same city.

The choice to reference a noble heritage is entirely at one with a brand that has aimed itself at luxury. The heraldic effect echoes the exclusive, extravagant style of the firms’ car models, and its pride in its Italian heritage. Because, after all, Alfas are not bought for reliability: they are bought for almost-affordable style.