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Alfa Romeo – the company was originally known as ALFA, an acronym for Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili. When Nicola Romeo bought ALFA in 1915, his surname was appended.
Aston Martin – from the “Aston Hill” races (near Aston Clinton) where the company was founded, and the surname of Lionel Martin, the company’s founder.
Audi – Latin translation of the German name “Horch.” The founder August Horch left the company after five years, but still wanted to manufacture cars. Since the original “Horch” company was still there, he called his new company Audi, the Latin form of his last name. In English it is “hark.”
BMW – Bayerische Motoren Werke (Bavarian Motor Works).
Cadillac – named after the 18th century French explorer Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, founder of Detroit, Michigan. Cadillac is a small town in the South of France. The company, founded in 1902, was purchased by General Motors in 1909 and survives to this day as a GM brand.
Chevrolet – named after company co-founder Louis Chevrolet, a Swiss-born auto racer. The company was merged into General Motors in 1917 and survives only as a brand name.
Chrysler – named after the company founder, Walter P. Chrysler.
Citroën – named after André-Gustave Citroën (1878–1935), a French entrepreneur of Dutch descent. He was the fifth and last child of the Dutch Jewish diamond merchant Levie Citroën and Mazra Kleinmann (of Warsaw, Poland).
Daewoo – company founder Kim Woo Chong called it Daewoo which means “great house” or “great universe” in Korean.
Datsun – first called DAT, from the initials of its financiers Den, Aoyama and Takeuchi. Soon changed to DATSON to imply a smaller version of their original car, then (as SON can mean “loss” in Japanese) again to DATSUN when they were acquired by Nissan.
Ferrari – from the name of its founder, Enzo Ferrari.
Fiat – acronym of Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino (Italian Automobile Factory of Turin).
Ford Motor Company – named after its founder, Henry Ford, who introduced automobile mass production in 1914.
Honda – from the name of its founder, Soichiro Honda.
Hyundai – connotes the sense of “the present age” or “modernity” in Korean.
Mercedes – from the first name of the daughter of Emil Jellinek, who distributed cars of the early Daimler company around 1900.
Nissan – the company was earlier known by the name Nippon Sangyo which means “Japan Industries.”
Porsche – car company named after founder Ferdinand Porsche, an Austrian automotive engineer. The family name may have originated in the Czech name “Boreš” (boresh).
Proton – Malaysian car manufacturer, where the name is derived from Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional.
Renault – named after the founder Louis Renault.
Rolls-Royce – name used by Rolls-Royce plc and Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, among others. In 1884 Frederick Henry Royce started an electrical and mechanical business, making his first car, a Royce, in 1904. He was introduced to Charles Stewart Rolls on 4 May that year. The pair entered into a partnership in which Royce would manufacture cars to be sold exclusively by Rolls, and the cars would be called Rolls-Royce.
Saab – founded in 1937 in Sweden as Svenska Aeroplan aktiebolaget (Swedish Aeroplane Company); the last word is typically abbreviated as AB, hence Saab and Saab Automobile AB.
SEAT – an acronym from Sociedad Espanola de Automóviles de Turismo (Spanish Corporation of Touring Cars).
Subaru – from the Japanese name for the constellation known to Westerners as Pleiades or the Seven Sisters. Subaru’s parent company, Fuji Heavy Industries, was formed from a merger of six companies, and the constellation is featured on the company’s logo.
Toyota – from the name of the founder, Sakichi Toyoda. Initially called Toyeda, it was changed after a contest for a better-sounding name. The new name was written in katakana with eight strokes, a number that is considered lucky in Japan.
Volkswagen – from the German for people’s car. Ferdinand Porsche wanted to produce a car that was affordable for the masses – the Kraft-durch-Freude-Wagen (or “Strength-Through-Joy car,” from a Nazi social organization) later became known, in English, as the Beetle.
Volvo – which means “I roll” in Latin, from the infinitive form “volvere.” It was originally a name for a ball bearing being developed by SKF
More company name etymologies on Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_company_name_etymologies
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