The drawing of the car, like many other mechanisms, was drawn for the first time by Leonardo da Vinci. Da Vinci’s device was a self-propelled wagon with a spring drive. The advent of a compact, lightweight, sufficiently powerful, and relatively easy to maintain internal combustion engine paved the way for the development of the automotive industry.
The modern automobile industry is striking in its scale. Many automobile brands have European roots. This industry is one of the key sectors of the European economy. The industry affects a number of related sectors, including logistics and transport. Although some brands have brought new ideas and technology to the automobile world, they are long forgotten. Others, though are going strong. Today, we are going to look at active European car brands that are recognized beyond the borders of their origin.
Skoda Auto was a subsidiary of Laurin & Klement, founded in 1895. Its founders, Vaclav Laurin and Vaclav Klement, did not even make automobiles but created their own bicycles. In just 30 years, Skoda managed to become a giant automaker. It became an independent company called Auto Racing in the early 1920s, but in 1990 it switched back to Skoda. Shortly, it was bought out by the VW Group. Today, Skoda is a huge corporation that makes trucks, aircraft engines, buses, and agricultural machinery along with cars. Vehicles that leave its factories are famous due to their reliability, durability, good handling, and relatively affordable cost.
This Czech republic automaker has deep roots (est. 1850) and is second only to Skoda when it comes to sales. The company took its first steps by manufacturing horse-drawn carriages. The first self-propelled carriage was put together in 1897. It was followed by many other cars, including the first truck. The name Tatra appeared only in 1921. Initially, the company’s lineup included both trucks and cars, but the focus shifted only to trucks in the early 1970s. Tatra trucks are known worldwide for their reliability, excellent off-road performance, and the ability to work in harsh climatic conditions.
Peugeot has been building up its reputation since the 18th century. It started out as a family business that focused on making quality metal products. Later, the products it made were more advanced and complex. Only in the early 1880s, Peugeot released a real vehicle – the first large bicycle with wheels of different diameters – the Gran B. The year 1889 marked a day when an actual car left the Peugeot plant. It is one of the few brands in which the descendants of the original owners are still shareholders and in leadership positions. The modern private entity holds second place among automakers in Europe.
Citroen is an enterprise that offers typical passenger vehicles. Located near the capital of France, it is part of the Peugeot-Citroen concern. The actual automobiles under this brand left the factory after the war was over and Andre Citroen began manufacturing cars at the site of the production of ammunition. In early 1919, the Citroen announced its first automobile, which was mass-produced within months. Automobiles made in large quantities left the factory, which did not happen in Europe before. Not so long ago, Citroen began active cooperation with the Chinese company Dongfeng, which supplies it with high-tech parts.
This French brand was brought to life in 1898. Louis Renault, a young engineer, came up with the first-ever gearbox and added it to his first car. This historic figure is known as a remarkable engineer and manufacturer. With the support of two brothers, Louis registered his enterprise in 1899. Since 1900, the brand made a stake on large and powerful vehicles. Nowadays, Renault produces automobiles, including sports, and trucks. The Renault racing team wins in Formula 1, 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Paris-Dakkar Rally, and other competitions over and over again.
Ettope Arco Bugatti, an Italian by birth, was born in 1881 into a family of artists. Before the age of 20, he made his first automobile. It was deemed to be worthy of an award at the well-known industrial exhibition in Milan. They have always stood out for their original exterior and interior and bold, unique, for their time, solutions, and high quality. Bugatti cars are considered to be elegant, exclusive, and luxurious They are known to have both exceptional technical characteristics and striking design. About two thousand various victories and titles were won on the Bugatti models at the most prestigious international automobile competitions.
Back in 1899, a small manufacturing facility “Horch&Co” with 11 people on staff opened in Germany near Cologne. August Horch left “Horch&Co” and created another company in just 10 years. He gave it his last name – Audi, translating it to Latin. Something new was introduced every year, old models were modernized, and Horch’s cars were participating in races more frequently. Over a century, Audi has grown from 11 to over 80 thousand people. Audi regularly updates its models and adds environmental-friendly cars to the line. The principle of “Power and Quality”, laid down by August Horch, is still valid today and is the driving force behind the success of the concern.
BMW emerged in 1917 as a result of the renaming of Rapp Motorenwerke, an aircraft engine manufacturer based in Munich, the capital of Bavaria in southern Germany. BMW (abbr. for Bayerische Motoren Werke AG) is a German manufacturer of cars, motorcycles, engines, and bicycles. Some people, when they hear the word “BMW”, immediately imagine a powerful sports car with a design that awes, while others immediately think of a business class car. This manufacturer regularly has the highest sales across the globe. Almost everyone who sees the BMW logo recognizes the brand immediately.
Mercedes-Benz makes premium cars as well as larger vehicles, such as buses, SUVs, and minivans. Actually, the company probably has the greatest variety of vehicle models in the international car market. Mercedes combines the traditional features of the brand and modern general trends in appearance. The car always looks presentable and solid. The history of the brand creation is associated with two brands: the Mercedes brand, which was owned by the German company Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft, and the Benz brand. In 1926, the two joined forces as Mercedes-Benz. The renowned brand got Mercedes part of its name thanks to an Austrian businessman Emil Jellinek, who invested in it, or rather his daughter.
Over a century, Opel has produced a great number of cars, but it did not start with automobiles. Over the long years of its existence, Opel manufactured sewing machines, bicycles, wheels for carriages, motorcycles, cars, and even military equipment for Hitler’s army. Opel got established in 1898 by the five Opel brothers. Their father paved the way for them by running a sewing machine and bicycle factory. Nowadays, the company strives to make automobile industry innovations widely available to all segments of society. Thus, unlike many German automakers, Opel focuses on creating affordable, yet reliable and high-quality, vehicles for the general public.
It all started in 1931 when Ferdinand Porsche decided to create a company of his own. He was a well-known engineer and even worked for Auto Union and Daimler. Porsche AG specializes in high-performance sports cars, supercars, hypercars, and more recently SUVs and sedans. Porsche built a number of superb racing models that dominated in numerous races. This brand and Volkswagen often combined efforts and without this partnership, a lot of its models would have completely different characteristics. Porsche claims to have the highest profit per automobile.
Volkswagen is an automaker headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany. It makes passenger vehicles, trucks, and vans. In the early 1930s, local manufacturers focused on expensive cars that were beyond the reach of the majority of the population. Adolf Hitler wanted to see cars in a basic configuration that would be reliable and as accessible to the Germans as they were elsewhere. The new factory was simply called the people’s car or “Volks-Wagen”. Golf, Beetle, and Passat were even included in the top ten most sold vehicles. Volkswagen is owned by the VW Group, which owns many local and global brands.
Maybach is a German automaker that is part of the DaimlerChrysler concern. The luxury vehicles it releases amaze with their power and elegant individuality. The Maybach story began in 1921 when the talented Wilhelm Maybach designed his first car, the W-3 model. Maybach lost his parent at the age of 10 and later attended mechanical workshops. Gottlieb Daimler supported these workshops, so when he became manager of a machine-building plant in Karlsruhe, Daimler took Wilhelm with him. In 1907, Maybach left DMG and founded Maybach-Motorenbau GmbH together with his son Karl two years later.
Italian brand Abarth is owned by Fiat. Under this brand, Fiat traditionally releases fast sports cars. This brand emerged in 1949 and was founded by Karl Abarth. Originally from Austria, Karl worked in Italy at the Castagna company, where he designed the chassis of motorcycles and bicycles. Later, he modified and advanced automobile engines and worked for Ferry Porsche, who was a friend of the family. Abarth was also a successful racer in Austria and Italy. Exhaust pipes, manifolds, valves, valve springs, and gearboxes are just a few car parts the Abarth company produced initially. Abarth brand created a variety of impressive cars, and some of them successfully participated in the rally, including as part of the Abarth team.
For most of his adult life, the founder, Horatio Pagani, lived in the city of Modena, which is the center of the Italian automotive industry. As a boy, Horatio made small wooden models of cars. Juan Manuel Fangio, the five-time Formula 1 winner, was a real inspiration for the young Pagani, who set a goal to create racing cars. Pagani gained great experience working at Lamborghini. He initially founded Pagani Composite Research in 1988. Three years later, Pagani opens Modena Design, which specializes in designing fast cars and creating carbon fiber parts. Horatio Pagani achieved his goal and Pagani cars, including sports cars and supercars, captivate with their exceptional performance and incredible design.
The history of Alfa Romeo starts with the creation of the Societ Italiana Automobili Darracq in 1906, which assembled French Darracq cars. It was rebranded as Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica di Automobili (ALFA) in 1910 for the production of original Italian cars. A new name, Alfa Romeo, was given to reflect the new ownership. Alfa Romeo is owned by the giant FIAT since 2007 and is still made in Italy. These cars are made for people who appreciate style, speed, and exceptional driving performance. Their stylish sports cars stay true to their racing roots. After all, racing has always been part of the Alfa Romeo’s history.
The company created by Enzo Ferrari got registered back in 1947. Racing cars were Ferrari’s childhood dream. In 1918, he managed to get into the Costruzioni Meccaniche Nazionali, a large automobile company. Soon, Ferrari made joined the Parma-Berceto races. In the 1920s, Enzo Ferrari worked as a racing driver for Alfa Romeo. When Alfa Romeo no longer participated in races, Ferrari created his own company. Today, Ferrari is one of the most prestigious and recognized names of all time. It is considered an Italian representation of wealth and luxury. It owns the most powerful vehicle – a special model known as the Ferrari Enzo.
Fiat is an Italian concern, which is short for “Italian Automobile Factory of Turin”. It is part of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Its roots go back to 1899. There are passenger cars, including small city cars, trucks, and other models released under the Fiat brand. Fiat has perfected all the processes thanks to its vast experience. The basis of all developments is technical innovation. Fiat improves production quality while keeping drivers safe. The company also pays great attention to the impact on the environment. That is why Fiat cars are valued by drivers and considered reliable and safe.
It all started with the production of tractors – Lamborghini Trattori. Ferruccio Lamborghini, the founder, created and successfully managed several companies that made tractors of his own design, heating equipment, and air conditioners. He owned multiple luxury cars but was not satisfied with them. So, Ferruccio decided to make his own cars. In 1963, Lamborghini presented the first sports car that marked the beginning of remarkable models. The company still has a tractor line that features bold and powerful vehicles, but it is better known for its sports vehicles and supercars. The brand is owned by Audi AG, while Volkswagen holds a majority share in the latter.
In 1906, a company that played an important part in the development of the Italian automobile industry got established. Lancia specializes in luxury cars, mainly sports cars. Vincenzo Lancia, who was 25 when the company was founded, was not an engineer. However, Vincenzo he had plenty of hands-on experience and was already rich and famous enough to fulfill his lifelong dream – to create the perfect racing car. Although this brand is no longer sold outside of Italy, the recent sales figures of the only model, the Ypsilon hatch, are so high that they exceeded the sales of the Alfa Romeo Giulia and the Stelvio crossover combined, which are sold throughout Europe.
Maserati is a car manufacturer of Italian origin, founded in 1926. The founders, the Maserati brothers, gave their venture their last name. One of them was an artist, the other a racer and the four brothers were engineers. There were no other automobiles that could challenge Mercedes vehicles during races. In 1993, Fiat acquired Maserati, and since 1997, it has been managed by the Ferrari board. Currently, the production lines only have unique luxury cars. These vehicles do not simply get one from point A to point B super-fast, but the designers and engineers created truly remarkable models.
SEAT was formed in 1950. The name is decrypted as Sociedad Espanola de Automoviles de Turismo. FIAT was one of the investors, and the two worked closely for 30 years. In 1953, a factory got set up in Barcelona and the first SEAT left the factory within months. Almost 25 years later, SEAT was among the largest makers of vehicles in Europe. In 1986, Volkswagen became the owner of half of the brand. Shortly, VW had full ownership of the Spanish brand. In 1999, SEAT offered the consumer the first car in Western Europe with low fuel consumption. It also made great achievements when it comes to sports cars.
The history of the GTA brand began relatively recently. The Spanish automobile concern GTA Motor appeared on the market relatively recently but managed to gain a lot of recognition. Moreover, an average car owner cannot afford not only to buy but even to ride on a sports car of this brand. Although, the price seems very justifiable. It all started in 1994 when Domingo Ochoa, the head of the GTA Motor Competicion racing team, launched the GTA Motor auto concern. It focused on designing and manufacturing sports cars. The first-ever Spano supercar, which had Italian designers and mechanics working on it, debuted in 2005. Today, GTA Spano is one of the five fastest cars on the planet.
Volvo cars have always been associated with excellent quality and undeniable reliability. The giant of the industry makes trucks and cars, as well as auto parts. The company was founded in 1915 by Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larson. It was simply a subsidiary of another recognized business that focused on bearing manufacturing. Until 1999, the Volvo line had only passenger models, but then Ford bought out the brand. It was later successfully sold to the Geely concern in China. Even when the owner of the Volvo cars is located in China, the main production facilities are still located in the European Union.
In childhood, the future baron von Koenigsegg dreamed to create an ideal automobile. The car, in his understanding, was supposed to develop lightning speed and represent a real miracle of technology. He was a real genius and made a lot of inventions, although some of them were not initially deemed worthy. In 2002, the first Koenigsegg car was launched into mass production. The developments of Koenigsegg quickly became on a par with Ferrari, Bugatti, Lamborghini, and McLaren, and even surpassed them. After all, the Koenigsegg sports cars and hypercars are not only the best and fastest cars of our time, but these qualities are also accompanied by a futuristic design.
Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget, or Saab, was founded in Sweden in 1937. There was a threat of war in Europe, so the government created a company that produced aircraft to strengthen its air force. After the war ended, Saab started the development of its first passenger car. The first Saab model was launched into production in 1949. Saab cars were distinguished by high quality and non-standard design thanks to their aviation roots. Automobiles under this brand were produced for over 70 years. The model range consisted of sedans, station wagons, and crossovers. Although Saab no longer produces cars, this legendary brand is still going strong in the military, security, and defense sector.
The Scania brand is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of trucks and buses. Scania started its story in 1891 with bicycles and railway cars. It was created by a group of enthusiasts who did not have significant financial resources, but who knew how to design and assemble excellent cars. Gradually gaining popularity around the world, the Scania brand became synonymous with efficiency, reliability, and durability. More than half of the assembly factories are outside of Sweden. Scania vehicles are sold in many countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Australia. In 2008, the Volkswagen concern became the main owner of the Scania brand.
The MOWAG company is not a simple car manufacturer. Its main focus is on-ground and water armored vehicles for the army. These vehicles have a gross weight of ten tons to thirty tons. Originally, the company was established by Walter Ruf, an engineer, back in 1950. Besides army vehicles, there are ambulances, fire trucks, trucks, including long trucks, and even electric vehicles and scooters among other vehicles released under this brand. The main vehicle today is Piranha. Piranhas emerged during the Cold War period when tracked armored tanks still ruled the battlefield. In addition, other armored vehicles based on the American vehicles are also being produced.
Although LeBlanc is not as famous as Lamborghini or Ferrari, its LeBlanc Mirabeau model, for instance, is faster, more powerful, and more expensive. Swiss precision is embodied in this car. The Leblanc Caroline GTR is a mystery to almost everyone. It was a light car with a small engine and maximum adrenaline. Leblanc Caroline GTR accelerated to 100 km/hour in 2.7 seconds and could reach speeds of up to 348 km/hour. Leblanc cars are not mass-produced, but their owners are ready to pay a very high price for their high-performance automobiles.
Aston Martin is a manufacturer of prestigious sports cars based in Yorkshire, England. It was established by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford in 1913. Although the first model was developed in 1915, the war prevented the launch of mass production. Aston Martin was facing financial hardships and changed owners multiple times until Ford bought the majority of shares in the company in 1987. It is worth noting that Aston Martin has never aimed to have mass production, so its cars have never been cheap and were considered a luxury item.
Bentley brand was born in 1919 when the famous racing driver and mechanic Walter Bentley decided to create his own sports car. Outstanding indicators of speed, handling, and reliability made the Bentley 3-litre car the star of the London Motor Show. In the early 1930s, though, the brand nearly goes bankrupt and Rolls-Royce Motors Ltd. becomes the new owner. The purpose and appearance of cars have changed to a more expensive design. Volkswagen Group acquired Bentley in the 1980s. German experts brought to life the original sporting spirit of the brand and updated the visual design. Bentley are stylish, well-balanced, high-quality, and fast prestigious cars.
Jaguar is known by everyone who values quality cars for its stylish, graceful, and fast cars. Prestigious cars are the main products of the brand. However, when originally established in 1922 under a different name, it was making sidecars for motorcycles. Four years later, William Lyons and William Walmsley decided that it is a good idea to direct their efforts toward car bodies, and they did not stop there. Jaguar gained popularity thanks to its racing success during the 50s and the fact that its cars combined unique technology and outstanding speed.
Initially, Land Rover was an exclusively English corporation, but in 1994, BMW concern bought the brand. Today, the impressive range of cars of the legendary Land Rover company is valued by many. Bad roads simply do not exist for Land Rover cars. SUV design and production got going back in 1951. The Willys army SUV was taken as the basis. In addition to manufacturing SUVs for farmers, the company was developing a more comfortable SUV. A simple SUV, devoid of any comfort, was bought in 68 countries just three months after sales were launched. The SUV has been constantly modernized and new models are regularly introduced.
The entire history of the McLaren Group is inextricably linked with Formula 1 racing. Bruce Leslie McLaren was the founder of the legendary racing team. The Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd racing team, established in 1963 together with his friend Ted Mayer, was also manufacturing and selling cars. The official history of McLaren Automobile started in 1989. Just three years after its formation, McLaren Automobile showed its first small-scale production car – the McLaren F1. It was Gordon Murray who gave an idea to create a sports car adapted for driving on public roads. He was on a team of engineers who engaged in the technological development of Formula 1 cars.
Rolls-Royce became a true legend in the whole industry over the years of its existence. Although the brand name was officially registered only in 1906, its first car made its debut at the Paris Motor Show two years prior. It was created by engineers Charles Stuart Rolls and Henry Royce, who also developed aircraft and automobile engines. The first cars sold very well. After all, these were truly magnificent cars created by an engineering genius. The founders were great partners as Royce knew how to make cars, and Rolls how to sell them.
AC Cars Ltd. originated in 1903, which means it belongs to the oldest companies. The then-unknown engineer John Weller borrowed money from the butcher John Portwine to build his first car. The company’s first car was the Auto Carrier, a three-wheeled, chain-driven vehicle powered by a single-cylinder air-cooled engine. After the war, AC began making four-wheeled vehicles. In the early 1920s, it participated in many automotive competitions and held the 100 mph speed record among cars with an engine capacity of 1.5 liters. Now, AC Cars focuses solely on the production of sports cars that have excellent driving and dynamic qualities.
Arash Farbud is an Englishman of Iranian origin. The 24 hours of the Le Man’s race was the final event that compelled the founder of the Arash brand to finally create his own sports vehicle, which turned out to be the Farboud GT back in 1999. Arash designed and actually put together a new car with his friend in a garage in the backyard. It took some time before the world saw Farbound GT. Since 2006, Arash has been designing and manufacturing the Farboud GT and Farboud GTS. Then, it presented another hypercar – the AF-10, but manufacturing began only in 2011. Arash sports cars turned out a true expression of speed and sleek design.
The European automakers design and manufacture vehicles with advanced technical characteristics and striking interior and exterior design. They often occupy top positions in the ranking of popular vehicles in the world. Each automotive brand stands out with some unique features and has an interesting story of creation and development.