AA Buyer's Guide: Stories behind cool car brands
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For many of us, sitting behind the wheel of a car is just a daily commute to the office. But have you ever wondered about the story behind the company that makes your vehicle? Some brands have had an extraordinary life and some have evolved a great deal to where they are today.
Brand identity actually has a lot to do with sales - some people choose a vehicle based upon an extension of how they perceive themselves, or as a status symbol. It’s a bit like buying a Gucci Bag or those Prada sunglasses: it’s not just about the style or functionality, it could well be about the way you feel you are perceived behind the wheel of that brand.
Here are some of the back stories of a few of the famous brands we know and love today.
BMW has a history of aviation. It grew out of a company called Rapp Motorenwerke, supplying engines and technical service to the German Air Force. The BMW name was first used in 1917; it made motorbikes from 1923, but progressed to automobiles in 1928.
The classic BMW logo is often said to depict a rotating aircraft propeller, although that’s interpretation rather than intention: the company used its badge as a propeller in a clever advertisement in 1929 and the image stuck in people’s minds.
In fact, the round shape of the BMW logo is derived directly from the original brand of Rapp Motorenwerke, while the blue and white graphic represents the state colours of Bavaria.
Peugeot’s history spans over 200 years, beginning in a town in France called Sochaux. In 1810, Jean-Pierre Peugeot’s two sons, Jean-Pierre II and Jean-Frédéric, founded Peugeot Frères. They transformed their father’s old grain mill into a steel foundry and turned their engineering skills to a wide range of steel products: everything from coffee grinders and springs to saws, umbrella frames and even bicycles.
The famous lion symbol first appeared in 1847. It was used to represent the strength and sharpness of the products and is still in use today.
Peugeot’s first vehicle was produced in 1889. It was the Serpollet-Peugeot, a steam-powered three-wheeler that would surely turn heads even today.
These days the brand is known for its stylish interiors and uniquely French design cues.
Lamborghini was founded in 1963 by Ferruccio Lamborghini, whose company produced tractors bearing his name. It’s often claimed the origin of Lamborghini cars came from a feud between Lamborghini and Enzo Ferrari.
Lamborghini, a rich person, had a love of supercars - including Ferraris. One of Ferruccio’s Ferraris was having clutch issues. The feud ensued when Lamborghini accused Ferrari of using substandard components; Ferrari’s rebuttal was that Ferruccio was a tractor maker who didn’t know anything about supercars.
Ferruccio was angry enough to commit to building his own supercar, and a legend was born.
The emblem of Lamborghini is a bull, showing Ferricco’s other passion in life. Many Lamborghini models use fighting bull breeds for their names.
Tesla was founded in 2003 by a group of engineers, including Kiwi Ian Wright, who wanted to prove that people didn’t need to compromise to drive electric. Musk was a key investor from 2004 and became CEO in 2008.
The same year Tesla 2008 it delivered the incredible Roadster, which featured cutting-edge battery technology and a completely electric powertrain. From there has come a succession of popular models including the S,3,X and soon to be Y. Yes, those letters are part of a 10-year-long joke (unfortunately the “Model E” name is owned by Ford).
In short, the master plan for Tesla was as follows:
- Build a sports car
- Use that money to build an affordable car
- Use that money to build an even more affordable car
- At the same time, provide zero emission electric power generation options
- Don't advertise it
Although its history is a very short one, Tesla and its eccentric CEO Elon Musk have made a huge impact on the automotive world. This brand has a cult following, especially with the younger tech happy crowd.
The Tesla name is an homage to inventor and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla (1856-1943).