Car Manufacturer Family Tree: Which carmaker owns which car brands?

By Leigh Giollo, 25 Nov 2016 Car Advice

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Car manufacturing family tree

Most people know Lexus is Toyota’s luxury arm, and that BMW owns Mini, but did you know Lamborghini is owned by Audi, which is run by Volkswagen?

Most people know Lexus is Toyota’s luxury arm, and that BMW owns Mini, but did you know Lamborghini is owned by Audi, which is run by Volkswagen? Or that Holden started off by making saddles? Below is the current status of every major car brand, as well as a snippet of its history and when it was founded.

Toyota family tree

Toyota – Founded: 1937

Australia’s most popular car brand, Toyota, continues to rank among the big three (with Volkswagen and General Motors) for most cars sold year on year. The company produced almost 17 million cars in 2015 alone and is a world leader in the hybrid market.

Lexus – Founded: 1989

Lexus was established in the late 80s to serve as Toyota’s luxury vehicle division. Lexus sales in Australia have gone from strength to strength in recent times, and it now has a nine model line-up Down Under headlined by the BMW-tackling IS & RC.

Daihatsu – Founded: 1907

Daihatsu is a new name under the Toyota umbrella, having become wholly owned as of August 2016. Originally formed back in 1907 under the name Hatsudoki Seizo, the company was renamed to what it is currently known as in 1951.

General Motors

General Motors – Founded: 1908

GM is an American company that builds vehicles under other names having taken ownership of its twelve current brands at separate stages. It builds cars in 37 different countries.

Chevrolet – Founded: 1911

Following something of a struggle, Chevrolet became a part of General Motors in 1918, before being designated GM’s flagship brand in 1919.

Buick – Founded: 1899

Buick was absorbed into GM upon its creation in 1908, by the then owner of Buick as well as GM William C. Durant. Despite no longer selling cars in Australia, today Buick is stronger than ever after record global sales in 2015.

Cadillac – Founded: 1902

Cadillac is usually seen as GM’s luxury marque, having been purchased by the company back in 1909. Today though, the company has become known for its “Art and Science” design philosophy, featuring sedans, roadsters, crossovers & SUVs.

Holden – Founded: 1856

Originally a South Australian saddlery manufacturer, Holden switched to cars in 1908. Australia’s own car brand was then taken over by GM in 1931, but will cease manufacturing next year as GM continues to seek globalisation.

HSV – Founded: 1987

HSV is known for its high-performance Holdens, and has built an array of modified vehicles, though only the HSV name is owned by Holden. The business itself is owned and operated by Walkinshaw under an agreement between the two companies for the supply of vehicles. HSV holds the record for the most powerful Aussie car.

Vauxhall – Founded: 1857

Vauxhall was founded in 1857 in the UK as a pump and marine engine manufacturer before turning to cars in 1903. It was later acquired by GM in 1925 and since 1980 has rebadged and sold largely the same product in the UK as Opel has in Germany.

Opel – Founded: 1863

Opel was originally founded in 1863 to produce sewing machines. It then took on bicycles in 1886 and automobiles in 1899. GM would then move to take a majority stake in the German brand in 1929 and full control as of 1931.

Volkswagen

Volkswagen – Founded: 1937

VW was founded by the German Labor Front with the goal to make a car for the German populous. From this came the Beetle. The Beetle was sold from 1938 until 2003, making it the longest running and most manufactured car of all time.

Audi – Founded: 1910

Audi, previously managed by Daimler Benz, came under the control of VW in the 1960s. With the Audi name not used for a period of 25 years under Daimler, it was revived in 1965. Today, the brand is one of the world’s leading premium brands.

Lamborghini – Founded: 1963

Today, Lamborghini is owned in its entirety by Audi, which as of 2011 provided the stability of its backing. The brand currently produces some of the most desirable cars in the world, including the Huracan and Aventador.

Bentley – Founded: 1919

The British company known for its luxury sports tourers was a standalone company for 12 years before being taken over by Rolls Royce. Then, when Rolls went bankrupt in 1980, Bentley was sold to Vickers PLC. Finally VW revived the brand when it was purchased in 1998.

Bugatti – Founded: 1909

Bugatti was originally known for its design beauty, having been founded by Italian artist and constructor Ettore Bugatti. However after Ettore died in 1947 the company fell apart and became defunct as a car maker in the 1960s. It was revived in 1987 for a few years by Italian entrepreneur Romano Artioli, and then eventually acquired by VW in 1998.

Skoda – Founded: 1895

Not fully controlled by VW until 2000, Skoda in its current iteration was aimed at being the group’s entry-level brand, providing cheaper cars than that of Volkswagen, yet using engines and technology common to both marques. Clever design ideas have helped the brand to retain its own identity.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles – Founded: 2014

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles formed as a group relatively recently, after Fiat upped its investment and took full ownership of Chrysler and its American subsidiaries.

Fiat – Founded: 1899

Italy’s largest car brand, while not particularly prominent in Australia, is a powerhouse in Europe. While Fiat is technically a subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler, it holds all control and is best known for its small cars.

Abarth – Founded: 1949

Abarth was formerly a standalone road and racing car producer before its founder Carlo sold the company to Fiat in 1971. By 1981 the brand ended production until it was revived in 2007.

Chrysler – Founded: 1925

Chrysler is one of America’s largest car manufacturers however it had to be saved, primarily by Fiat in 2009, following the US automotive industry crisis. Fiat then took full ownership of the American brand in 2014.

Dodge – Founded: 1900

Under the Chrysler umbrella, Dodge became a subsidiary of the Fiat group in 2009, having also previously been involved with Daimler. Dodge is responsible for both the RAM and SRT subdivisions, RAM being for its large 4x4 trucks and SRT for performance cars.

Jeep – Founded: 1941

Jeep is perhaps best known for its small durable 4x4 vehicles built specifically for the US military. Civilian models then became available in 1945. The company has been owned by several brands, including AMC (with Renault), Chrysler, Daimler, and now Fiat.

Alfa Romeo – Founded: 1910

The Italian brand known for its sports cars and racing exploits was founded more than a century ago. Today it is another subsidiary of FCA, having become a part of the group in 2007.

Lancia – Founded: 1906

Despite being sold only in Italy in modern times, Lancia is still a well-known brand thanks to its highly successful motorsport endeavours, including famous rally cars like the Stratos, Delta and 037. It came under the Fiat umbrella in 1969.

PSA Groupe

Groupe PSA – Founded: 1976

Peugeot took a 90% stake of Citroen following the latter’s bankruptcy in 1976, leading to the joint business format seen today.

Peugeot – Founded: 1810

Originally a coffee mill company, Peugeot switched to bicycles in 1830 before looking to cars in 1882, and eventually becoming a highly successful mainstream vehicle producer. In 2014, the French Government and Dongfeng Motors both purchased 14% stakes in the company.

Citroen – Founded: 1919

Citroen has made waves in the automotive world at various points during its lifetime, and today is best known for quirky small and mid-sized cars. The brand was taken over by Peugeot in 1976.

Daimler AG

Daimler AG – Founded: 1926

Daimler is a German automaker that sells its vehicles under the world renowned Mercedes-Benz brand. The company was formed with the merging of the Daimler & Benz auto companies, before purchasing Chrysler in 1998 and being named Daimler Chrysler AG. After later selling off the US brand in 2007, it became known simply as Daimler AG.

Mercedes-Benz – Founded: 1883

Mercedes-Benz is the world’s oldest car manufacturer. Today the brand is best known for its wide range of luxury cars and its sports car division called AMG, as well as its participation in Formula 1.

Smart – Founded: 1994

Smart is a Daimler AG brand which produces exclusively microcars and subcompacts. Originally just an idea by head of Swatch watches, the company and Mercedes came together that year to reach an agreement to build the cars. The brand was withdrawn from Aussie markets in 2015, due to poor sales.

Maybach – Founded: 1909

Maybach was acquired by Daimler in 1960, becoming the companies’ ultra-luxury brand – direct competition for Rolls Royce. However poor sales meant that the marque was shut down in 2012. It was then revived in 2015 as ‘Mercedes-Maybach.’

BMW Group

BMW – Founded: 1916

Bavarian Motor Works celebrated its centenary in 2016 and has shareholders spanning most continents of the world. Strategic investors hold shares of around 47% of the luxury brand, while institutional investors from North America, UK, Ireland, Germany and other parts of Europe hold a combined 40% share.

Mini – Founded: 1959

Mini was originally introduced as a model, founded by the British Motor Corporation, before becoming a marque in its own right in 1969. It has since changed hands several times by groups related to BMC until it was acquired by BMW in 1994.

Rolls Royce – Founded: 1906

Rolls Royce is possibly the most highly regarded luxury car brand in the world, while also producing engines for commercial airliners. The company was nationalised in 1971, then privatised in 1987. It was then purchased by Volkswagen in 1998, before being acquired by BMW in 2003.

Groupe Renault

Groupe Renault – Founded: 1899

The French brand was set up at the end of the 19th century and has since grown to be one of the world’s most powerful and best-selling brands. The company is part-owned by the French government (20%), and itself has a 43% controlling stake in Nissan.

Nissan – Founded: 1933

The Japanese brand has been controlled by Renault since 1999 through the powerful Renault-Nissan Alliance, which sees Nissan hold a 15% non-voting share in the French brand. Nissan in turn holds Mitsubishi Motors as a subsidiary of its own, with Nismo its in-house tuning brand.

Infiniti – Founded: 1989

Infiniti is the luxury division of Nissan, serving to produce various impressive models for Australia. Despite offering direct competition to Lexus for a number of years, to date the brand has failed to attract as much interest Down Under.

Mitsubishi – Founded: 1917

Mitsubishi was originally founded as a shipbuilder, with its dedicated motor division not emerging until 1970. The wider Mitsubishi brand still commands a 20% stake in the company, but Nissan took a 34% stake as recently as October 2016.

Tata Land Rover

Tata Motors – Founded: 1945

Tata is an Indian brand and part of the wider Tata conglomerate. Between 1954 and 1969, the brand enjoyed collaboration with Daimler-Benz. Jaguar Land Rover was later purchased from Ford in 2008.

Land Rover – Founded: 1948

Land Rover was acquired by Tata Motors in 2008, but is still revered as a British icon. Range Rover meantime has long been established (since 1970) as the brand’s flagship model range.

Jaguar – Founded: 1922

Jaguar is a British luxury car brand previously controlled by Ford, from 1989 until 2008. Under Ford’s ownership the brand never made a profit. In the wake of this failure and the Global Financial Crisis, Ford opted to sell the brand along with Land Rover, to its current owner, Tata.

Hyundai

Hyundai – Founded: 1967

Along with its 34% owned subsidiary Kia, the Hyundai group is one of the world’s largest carmakers. The brand continues to build inexpensive and conservative cars for non-car enthusiasts, but have in recent times investigated performance models to broaden appeal.

Kia – Founded: 1944

The Hyundai owned brand is similar to its parent in that it is based in Korea and builds affordable and inoffensive cars, albeit in smaller volumes. The company was crippled in 1997 though, before being bailed out through an ownership exchange with Hyundai.

Genesis – Founded: 2015

Genesis was originally Hyundai’s top of the range model, however was later moved to become its own standalone marque.

Geely and Volvo

Geely – Founded: 1986

Geely is a Chinese car brand which has grown exponentially since it first began producing cars in 2002. Selling a vast majority of its cars in China, the brand was able to purchase Volvo from Ford in 2010.

Volvo – Founded: 1453

Originally a Swedish ball-bearing company, Volvo began manufacturing cars in 1927. It wasn’t until 1999 that the Volvo group opted to sell its automobile division in order to focus on commercial vehicles. Ford purchased the brand before going on to sell it to Geely in 2010.

Fuji Heavy Industries

Fuji Heavy Industries – Founded: 1950

Subaru’s parent company is by and large run independently however it does have close ties to Toyota Motor, which holds a 16.48% stake in the company. FHI has announced plans to integrate its industrial products company with the Subaru business, and change its name to Subaru Corporation in 2017.

Subaru – Founded: 1953

Best known for its boxer engines, rally success and commitment to all-wheel drive system development, the Subaru brand has earned a loyal following in Australia, and is a consistent top ten seller.

STANDALONE BRANDS (AT THE MOMENT)

Independent brands

Ford – Founded: 1903

Ford at different times has had control of various other car brands, but at present only holds a small stake in both Aston Martin and Mazda (8% & 2.1% respectively). Despite having seen more profitable periods, the brand has grown in wealth since being close to bankruptcy following the financial crisis.

Honda – Founded: 1946

As well as being the world’s leading motorcycle producer, Honda is one of the largest car manufacturers. The brand continues to work independently of other car brands, apart from its Acura luxury indent sold in some markets.

Suzuki – Founded: 1909

Despite holding limited traction in the Aussie car market, Suzuki is a major player on the world stage. At one point Volkswagen held a 19.9% share of the brand (between 2009 & 2015), but Suzuki later purchased it back.

Mazda – Founded: 1920

Despite being owned for a short time by Japanese banks and Ford, Mazda has continued to be, for the most part, guiding its own destiny. At the height of Ford’s ownership in 1996 it held a 33.3% stake.

Ferrari – Founded: 1939

The prancing horse has long been known as one of the world’s most influential brands, despite never selling large volumes. For a significant chunk of its history, Fiat owned a 50% stake Ferrari (1969-2014) before the company eventually regained independence.