A short blog on the history of the names of car brands

Here’s a short list of car manufacturers, and why they have the names they do.

I’ll be frank. Unlike 99.9% of what we write, this blog probably isn’t useful or valuable for you. Unless you’re looking to make conversation over a glass of Pinot this evening.

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Aston Martin: Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin founded the company in 1913 as ‘Bamford & Martin Ltd’. The name shifted to its current form the following year, after Lionel made a particularly successful run up the Aston Hill Climb in Buckinghamshire.

Alfa Romeo: Which other car brand would name themselves ‘Anonymous’? That’s what Alfa did. Alfa started life as an acronym for “Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili”, which translates as ‘Anonymous Lombard Automobile Factory’ in English. Entrepreneur Nicola Romeo did the company a big favour when he took control of the company in 1915, by shortening the name to the considerably more romantic-sounding Alfa Romeo.

Vauxhall: Few brand names date back as far as Vauxhall’s, via a convoluted game of South London whispers. In the late 12th Century, King John granted lands to a nobleman called variously Fulk Le Bréant, Fulk de Brent, or Sir Falkes de Breauté (depending on which late 12th century courtier you ask). Dear Fulk/Falkes was blessed with a name that history couldn’t help but mangle. As if the spelling variations weren’t enough, his new house in London, ‘Falkes’ Hall’, soon became ‘Fawkes Hall’, which elided into ‘Foxhall’ and, finally, ‘Vauxhall’. The car company took their name from that part of London, and also lifted their Griffin logo from Sir Falkes’ coat of arms.

There’s a bunch of other famous names named after founder’s names. Walter Owen Bentley, Enzo Ferrari, Ferrucio Lamborghini, the Maserati brothers, and Henry Ford, please stand up.

And, of course, you could always name your brand after someone else, like the original founders* of (Nikola) Tesla did. Incidentally, the first electric car was invented by another bright spark, a certain Mr Thomas Edison. He called his invention the, er, ‘Edison’.

If you’re looking to name your new product or brand, and your surname just doesn’t cut it, email us. We’ve recently helped create brand names and product names for cosmetics companies, fashion houses and tech startups. And we can tell you why the ice cream ‘Frosh’ would taste creamier than ‘Frish’.

 

*A lot of people think Elon Musk founded Tesla. They’re wrong. The company was founded by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tappening. Musk just turned up the volume.