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The brands we drive are not always what they seem

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We think we know what we’re driving, but these days the shifting sands of mergers and acquisitions, not to mention the international nature of automobile production, could mean the badge on the bonnet isn’t quite what it seems.

For instance, you could be driving a Daimler without knowing it. Whilst it would be hard to fail to notice that you were behind the wheel of a British luxury car of a bygone era, you may not realize your Merc is the product of the Daimler AG group. Daimler AG is (and always has been) completely separate from the UK car maker of the same name – and is a German multinational automotive manufacturer and the parent brand of Mercedes Benz (and Smart).

Twenty years ago you might have laughed at the idea of driving a Tata, the (then) utilitarian Indian car brand, manufactured and ubiquitous on the Indian subcontinent. Nowadays, however, your luxury Jaguar and unstoppable off road Land Rover are both part of the Tata group (which is manufactured world wide).

What about Geely? How many people have even heard of it as a brand, much less realize their Volvo – or even their Lotus – is a product of this Chinese multinational?

Or Groupe PSA? This three letter acronym produces Peugeot, Citroën, DS, Opel and Vauxhall brands.

And whilst some companies have acquired brands, others have divested them. Ferrari has been spun back out of the Fiat Chrysler group. Saab closed and was reborn 100% electric in the ownership of a new independent Swedish company - National Electric Vehicle Sweden.

Ownership, partnerships and sometimes production line agreements tie the automotive industry together. The growing markets in China have led to huge companies which have forged partnerships with older marques (although the majority of these collaborations are sold in to the Chinese market so are not seen in Europe).

In addition, as the automotive industry develops electric and hydrogen vehicles and explores new models for vehicle ownership, alliances such as these are likely to be more common.

So – for the time being at least - this is our run down of who owns most of the brands we see on our roads in the UK and Europe.


Toyota Motor Corporation produces vehicles under five brands, including the Toyota brand, Daihatsu, Lexus, Ranz, and Hino. It also holds a 16.66% stake in Subaru Corporation, a 5.9% stake in Isuzu, as well as joint-ventures with two in China (GAC Toyota and Sichuan FAW Toyota Motor), one in India (Toyota Kirloskar), one in the Czech Republic (TPCA).


Volkswagen AG is a German automobile group which owns a range of brands from utility to luxury – as well as its ‘own brand’ Volkswagen marques. The group sells cars under Škoda, Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, SEAT brands; motorcycles under the Ducati brand; and commercial vehicles under the marques MAN, Scania, and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles. VW also has two major joint-ventures in China (FAW-Volkswagen and SAIC Volkswagen). Whilst it is headquartered in Germany, it operates 100 production facilities across 27 countries.


The Hyundai Motor Group comprises Hyundai Motor company, Kia Motors (32.8% owned subsidiary) and the lesser known luxury brand Genesis Motors. The South Korean company is the third largest vehicle manufacturer in the world.

General Motors

Market leading in the US, General Motors current auto brands are Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Holden, and Wuling.


Besides cars and commercial vehicles sold under the Ford brand, the Ford Motor Company also sells luxury cars under the Lincoln brand. Ford also owns Brazilian SUV manufacturer, Troller, and Australian performance car manufacturer FPV, a small stake in Aston Martin and a 49% stake in Jiangling of China. It also has a number of joint-ventures, one in China (Changan Ford), one in Taiwan (Ford Lio Ho), one in Thailand (AutoAlliance Thailand), one in Turkey (Ford Otosan), and one in Russia (Ford Sollers).


Honda sells vehicles under the Honda brand and its luxury brand, Acura.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (FCA) is an Italian-American corporation and currently the world’s eighth largest auto maker. FCA’s brands include automotive brands Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Fiat Professional, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, Ram Trucks.

Groupe PSA

Groupe PSA is a French multinational manufacturer of automobiles and motorcycles sold under the Peugeot, Citroën, DS, Opel and Vauxhall brands. Peugeot is the largest PSA brand worldwide, while Opel is the largest PSA brand in Europe.

Renault Group

Renault group is deeply connected with multiple brands across Europe and beyond. It is made up of the namesake Renault marque with subsidiaries, Alpine, Automobile Dacia (Romania), Renault Samsung Motors (South Korea), and AvtoVAZ (Russia). Renault owns a controlling stake in Nissan and a small stake in Daimler AG of Germany (it has manufactured engines for the Daimler's Mercedes A-Class and B-Class car since 2012). In addition Nissan owns 34% of Mitsubishi, making Mitsubishi automotive part of the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance. Renault is part-owned by the French government.

Daimler AG

Daimler AG is a German multinational which owns or has shares in a number of brands. The best known in Europe are Mercedes-Benz, Mercedes-AMG and Smart Automobile. However the company has interests across the world including Detroit Diesel, Freightliner, Western Star, Thomas Built Buses, Setra, BharatBenz, Mitsubishi Fuso, MV Agusta as well as shares in Denza, KAMAZ and Beijing Automotive Group. It has a partnership with Tesla (which is independently owned after Toyota sold its stake in the electric vehicle pioneer).


BMW is another German brand with a long history which owns a number of brands. Besides its eponymous BMW marque (which includes sub-brands BMW M for performance models and BMW i for plug-in electric cars), it also owns Mini and Rolls-Royce. Motorcycles are marketed under the brand BMW Motorrad. BMW produces motor vehicles in Germany, Brazil, China, India, South Africa and the United States.


Geely is a Chinese automobile multinational. Whilst it manufactures and sells its own brand in China - Geely Auto – it is better known in Europe for its ownership of the Volvo and Lotus brands. It also makes the traditional London taxi under the London EV Company. Other brands include Lynk & Co, Malaysian carmaker PROTON and the Yuan Cheng New Energy Commercial Vehicle brand.

Tata Motors

Who? Tata Motors is India's largest automobile company. In the UK Tata Motors' best known subsidiary is the Jaguar Land Rover brand, making Jaguar and Land Rover (including Range Rover) vehicles. Tata Motors Cars produces passenger cars under the Tata Motors marque. Tata also has a joint venture with Fiat manufacturing automotive components and Fiat and Tata branded vehicles.


Subaru Corporation sells vehicles under its Subaru brand. It is it connected to Nissan which owns less than 5% and Toyota (less than 10%).

In addition there are some more or less independently owned brands like Ferrari, Saab and Mazda - however these are relatively few in the industry.

by Beate Kubitz at 5 Mar 2018, 00:00 AM