The story behind your car's name

We reveal the meaning behind the biggest names in the business.

From family surnames to Japanese and German words, discover the story behind your car's name.

Alfa Romeo

Originally named ALFA, an acronym for Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili, the Italian company was rebranded to Alfa Romeo when Nicola Romeo bought the company and added his surname in 1915.

Audi

German Engineer August Horch founded the motoring company August Horch & Cie. Motorwagenwerke AG in 1904 but, due to disagreements with his partners, left to start his own company. After forming his own automobile manufacturer in 1909, Horch was told that using his name would be a trademark infringement. Horch changed his company’s name to the Latin word ‘Audi’, meaning 'hear', as it has a similar meaning to his German surname.

BMW

BMW is an acronym for Bavarian Motor Works. The BMW emblem incorporates the Bavarian state colours of blue and white into its propeller design in homage to their history as an aircraft manufacturer.

Hyundai

Founded in 1947 as the Hyundai Engineering and Construction Company, the word Hyundai is Korean for 'modernity'. The H in the logo doubles as the first letter of the company's name and is a stylised image of two people shaking hands. 

Kia

The brand name is a Korean compound word made up of the characters ‘Ki' and 'A'. When combined, the words translate to 'To rise from Asia'. 

Mazda

Originally named Toyo Kogyo, the company first released a tricycle truck named the Mazda-Go. The company’s name later changed to Mazda, which was inspired by Ahura Mazda, the god of wisdom, intelligence and harmony in early Asian civilisations. 

Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi stands for ‘three diamonds’ and is a mixture of the Japanese words mitsu (three) and hishi (diamond). In Japanese, 'h' often becomes a 'b' sound when in the middle of a word, hence Mitsubishi. 

Nissan

First known as Nippon Sangyo, which translates to 'Japan Industries', the company combined the words to form Nissan. 

Subaru

The word Subaru is Japanese for 'unite' and is also a term for a cluster of six stars. Subaru was the first auto brand to use a Japanese word that wasn't derived from a family's name.

Tesla

The electric car company was named in honour of renowned inventor Nikola Tesla. Tesla's work on the AC electric motor was paramount to the design of the electric engines now used in Tesla vehicles.

Toyota

Founded by the Toyoda family in 1937, the company initially operated under the family name. The name was later changed to Toyota as it takes only eight strokes to write in Japanese and eight is considered lucky in Japanese culture.

Volvo

Volvo is Latin for 'I roll' and was initially used by the company to sell its ball bearing line of products, before being taken across to the automotive brand.