Europe is the birthplace of the automotive industry. It was there, in 1886, that the great German inventor Carl Friedrich Michael Benz invented the world’s first gasoline-powered vehicle. Then his idea was picked up by many enterprises, which reoriented their business to the production of cars with internal combustion engines. For example, Opel started with sewing machines, and ABT Sportsline started with forging metal parts for carts. As a result, they switched to auto production and took the lead along with other brands.
What is European Car Brands?
The automotive industry in Europe is represented by German, British, Italian, French, Swedish brands, which are leaders in the world market. But besides them, there are car manufacturers in other European countries.
The automotive industry’s rapid development was prevented by the Second World War when all factories were forced to produce equipment for the armed forces. In the post-war period, they had to “gain momentum” from scratch so that the European car market could recover only by the 1960s fully. Now there are clear favorites that own dozens of brands. These manufacturers include BMW, Volkswagen Group, PSA, Peugeot Citroën, and Volvo.
The largest center of the European car industry in Germany. German car companies are so mature that they have overseas subsidiaries and brands. For example, Volkswagen owns Lamborghini (Italy), Bentley (UK), and Bugatti (France), while BMW owns Rolls-Royce and Mini (UK). In addition to them, manufacturers are active in Germany, which focused on several major brands. They manufacture cars of different classes – from the luxury segment to the mass market.
1 Porsche (1931-Present)
Porsche is the market leader in luxury cars and supercars as one of the most successful car manufacturers globally. Its rich tradition dates back to 1900, when Ferdinand Porsche, an engineer, introduced electric vehicles’ drive. At the same time, the company itself was founded much later – in 1931. The most striking feature of its cars is the sporty design. It can even be seen in the Cayenne premium crossover and the Panamera fastback.
The expensive and prestigious sports cars produced by Porsche are in great demand internationally. Annual sales are growing every year: as of 2008, it was just over 86%. Releasing sports models, the manufacturer does not forget to take part in auto racing. Now he has over 28 thousand victories on his account.
2 Mercedes-Benz (1926-Present)
The legendary flagship model Mercedes-Benz 600, known as the “600th Mercedes”, challenged Rolls-Royce’s executive cars. This became possible thanks to the merger of Benz & Cie and Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft in 1926. For a hundred years of its existence, the company has become famous for its collectible limousine and other equally prestigious cars. Its lineup is considered one of the widest in the German car market. It includes brutal SUVs, compact minivans, stylish crossovers, luxury convertibles, comfortable sedans, and other vehicle types.
3 BMW (1916-Present)
BMW is a pioneer in the automotive industry. He invented the digital motor, introduced the ABS, and developed many other technologies. And his cars have become a symbol of reliability and quality.
The first German roadster with a twelve-cylinder engine was created under the BMW brand. This company, also known as Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, has produced many cars over a century and a half that have left a noticeable mark on the automotive industry’s history. But once, she did not even have a license for the production of vehicles: she received the corresponding permit only in 1928. Until that moment, aircraft engines were produced at her factories.
4 Audi (1909-Present)
State-of-the-art technology and sophisticated design are what Audi cars cannot do without. The history of this brand began in 1909 with the appearance of the Audi Automobil-Werke company. The first car, called Audi-A, came out in 1910. After 21 years, the manufacturer merged with three car manufacturers to form Auto Union AG. In this union, he was responsible for the manufacture of sports cars and participation in racing competitions.
In 1964, the Audi brand became part of Volkswagen. After the change of owners, the model range was replenished with cars with innovative technological solutions. Such developments include a variator with metal bands, an aluminum body, and a proprietary all-wheel drive.
5 Volkswagen (1937-Present)
Volkswagen is known for its divisions, which are open in many countries around the world. It owns brands from Spain (SEAT), Czech Republic (Škoda Auto), Great Britain (Bentley), France (Bugatti), Italy (Lamborghini, Ducati), Germany (Porsche), Sweden (Scania). The main industrial sites are located in the city of Wolfsburg. The first Volkswagen cars were produced in 1935. The rapid development of the concern began in the second half of the 20th century when it began to buy up other enterprises. Simultaneously, the manufacturer began to actively create new models, the most famous of Scirocco, Passat, and Golf.
6 Opel (1862-Present)
Opel’s main industrial sites are located in Rüsselsheim. This car company was created by five brothers who decided to continue their father’s business – the owner of a factory to produce bicycles and sewing machines. They used a common surname for the name. In 1900, the production of ICE carriages began under the Darracq license. Then the brand developed its models. From 1929 to the 1940s, Opel was owned by General Motors. After World War II, the factories were devastated: all equipment was exported to Russia. But this did not prevent the company from regaining lost positions and becoming number 1 in the international market.
In the UK car industry, the leading brands are known for their prestigious luxury passenger cars: Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Jaguar. At the same time, they are matched by luxury sports car manufacturers such as Land Rover, McLaren, and Aston Martin. The mass-market segment is also well developed. Local companies offer quite a few inexpensive cars available to consumers. Also, the factories produce a lot of commercial vehicles. As for the car market, imports still exceed exports.
1 Rolls-Royce (1906-Present)
The Rolls-Royce brand belongs to the German concern BMW. The British company’s main specialization is the production of luxury cars, which it has been doing for over a hundred years. At the beginning of its existence, the company became famous for its participation in the rally, where it managed to occur. Then she became a supplier of vehicles for the Royal Court of Great Britain. But the resounding success was followed by a fall: the company went bankrupt in 1971. It was only possible to save it thanks to state funding and the intervention of BMW.
2 Bentley (1919-Present)
Bentley Motors is one of the many Volkswagen Group brands. She is known for her luxury cars, which have given her the image of the most expensive and elite automaker in the world. The company was founded in 1919 and literally, three years later, began to win first place in prestigious races. In the 1930s, she became part of the Rolls-Royce concern. The manufacturer’s lineup includes executive sedans, full-size convertibles, crossovers, and SUVs. Bentley plans to start manufacturing luxury sports cars and electric cars shortly.
3 Aston Martin (1913-Present)
Aston Martin’s prestigious cars are represented in different market segments. These are dominated by sports and racing models, including super-powerful premium supercars. Now the brand belongs to a consortium of investors, and before that, it was part of the Ford Motor Company. The name Aston Martin is a tribute to a race car driver named Martin, who overtook all the competition on the Aston Clinton circuit.
4 Land Rover (1948-Present)
Land Rover is renowned for making the world’s most luxurious SUVs. At the same time, she is looking for unusual technical solutions to make all-terrain vehicles. The body of her first car, built-in 1948, consisted of a cheap alloy because there was a shortage of steel in Britain at the time. Their reliability and stylish design distinguish modern models. The Range Rover has even been exhibited at the Louvre in Paris as an example of high art. At the moment, the English brand belongs to the Indian conglomerate Tata.
5 Jaguar (1922-Present)
Jaguar’s success story began in 1925 with the production of motorcycle sidecars. Existing developments allowed her in 1931 to start manufacturing luxury cars. Until 1945 the company was called Swallow Sidecar (abbreviated – SS). It received its current name in the post-war period so that there would be no associations with the German SS. The Ford concern, which temporarily bought out the enterprise, tried to make a tuning agency out of it. But executives abandoned the idea, so in 1996 Jaguar had a new race car of its design. The brand is now the property of Tata Motors.
6 Mini (1959-Present)
The modern company Mini, owned by the German concern BMW, continues the old Mini brand tradition, which existed until 2000. In the distant past, it had a different name – Cooper Car Company. The sales of the first cars (racing models) started in 1959. Further modifications of them have entered the history of motorsport forever. Being part of BMW, the automaker is not limited to compact cars. He also has classic crossovers and even limousines.
Italy is rightfully considered one of the leaders of not only Europe but also the world car industry. Moreover, cars’ sale occupies a leading place in the country’s economy: its contribution to GDP reaches 8.5%. The automotive industry in Italy began at the end of the 19th century. In the 1910s, it was represented by dozens of companies, some of which are still operating. In the post-war period, local manufacturers have relied on elitism. They are expanding their assortment now, adhering to three principles: luxury, speed, and high cost.
1 Ferrari (1947-present)
Ferrari sports cars are examples of engineering that have delighted fans of luxury cars since 1946. The company’s vehicles are firmly established in celebrity garages. Sheiks and emperors rode them, the race track’s creator, Pierre Bardinon, the American football player Lionel Messi and the German race car driver Michael Schumacher.
Since Fiat has owned 1989 Ferrari, this brand’s sports cars are produced not only in series but also in a single copy. In the latter case, their price reaches several million dollars.
2 Lamborghini (1963-Present)
The most important decision in Lamborghini’s history was the lineup change. The company, which started as a conventional tractor manufacturer, has gradually moved to high-speed supercars. Its first sports car made its debut in 1963. The brand owner created it to compete with Ferrari and prove its superiority.
3 Maserati (1914-Present)
Maserati is an Italian sports car manufacturer that originates from Officine Alfieri Maserati. This was the name of the small garage business of the Maserati brothers. They started a private company in 1914 to make racing cars and compete. And in the 1930s, the assortment now includes prestigious cars for everyday travel. Once in the hands of Fiat, Maserati almost lost its identity. The executives wanted to merge it with Ferrari but then changed their minds and decided to leave it as an independent brand.
4 Alfa Romeo (1910-Present)
Alfa Romeo’s predecessor was a company that produced cars under the Darracq license. But business owners wanted to move away from simple copying and create something unique and embody new technologies. So in 1910, the first Alfa Romeo vehicles appeared, known under the A.L.F.A. brand. Noticing the success and prospects of the company, the Fiat concern bought it out in 1986.
5 Fiat (1899-Present)
Fiat is one of the largest and oldest automotive corporations in Italy. It was founded by investors who teamed up in 1899 to create a joint venture. At first, the plant produced various equipment – from wagons to tractors. But over time, Fiat’s main goal has become the production of SUVs, city cars, and middle-class cars.
French cars are known worldwide for their technological excellence, exquisite design, and high quality. Dozens of enterprises produce them, but two companies are monopolists: Groupe PSA (formerly Peugeot Citroën) and Renault. They account for about 90% of the total automotive industry and almost 100% of exports. The rest of the manufacturers are represented mainly in the country’s domestic market, except Bugatti, which belongs to Volkswagen France.
1 Bugatti (1909-Present)
The Bugatti luxury supercar brand has a long history that began in 1909. As far as is known, the brand was created by the engineer and artist Ettore Arco Isidoro Bugatti. Popularity peaked in the 1920s when the world saw the new Type 35 GP. This model became the record holder for the number of race wins, taking first place more than 1,500 times. After the war, the business fell into disrepair. The situation was saved by the super-fast machine EB110, which appeared in the 1980s. And at the end of the century, the company was bought out by the German concern Volkswagen.
2 Renault (2009-Present)
Nationalization did not go unnoticed for Renault. Having passed into state ownership in 1945, this company received its current name and changed its activity course, releasing the world’s first hatchback. Then the company acquired a division of trucks (Renault Véhicules Industriels), but it was sold to the Swedish concern Aktiebolaget Volvo. By the end of the 20th century, financial difficulties began. To save Renault from bankruptcy, it was merged with Nissan.
3 Peugeot (1896-Present)
Peugeot is a prominent representative of the mass market in the French car market. Moreover, the range of the company is not limited to cars of the middle price category. The range includes small commercial vehicles, crossovers, racing cars, and more. In 1941, an attempt was made to create an electric car to save gas, but the government banned it. Then the company realized its ambitions by releasing the Peugeot 106 and presenting three concept cars. In the 1970s, a significant event took place: the automaker merged with Citroën and became part of PSA Peugeot Citroën.
4 Citroen (1919-Present)
Citroën, which has represented the Groupe PSA concern since 1976, was founded in 1919. It has never changed its traditions; therefore, from the very beginning, it produced inexpensive and high-quality mass-consumption cars: crossovers, sedans, hatchbacks, and other models. This manufacturer also became famous for its unusual approach to advertising because, for almost ten years, it used the main attraction of Paris – Tour Eiffel as a billboard.
Automotive manufacturing in Sweden began in 1927 when Volvo produced the first passenger car. This “delay” could be because there was no branched road junction due to the difficult terrain. This also explains why 80% of manufactured vehicles are sold abroad and not in Sweden itself. Despite the current situation, there are enough local producers who are in no way inferior to competitors on the international market. The most famous of them are Scania, Saab Automobile, and Volvo.
1 Koenigsegg (1994-Present)
The Swedish car industry is not limited to the mass market. This country has developed the production of luxury cars, and one of the representatives of this segment is Koenigsegg, a private company that produces luxury models. She specializes in powerful and fast supercars and plans to break the world speed record for production cars. The headquarters of the company is located in the suburb of Ängelholm.
2 Volvo (1927-Present)
Volvo is a luxury car manufacturer from Sweden. The first model of this brand rolled off the assembly line in 1927. Then, one after another, revolutionary innovations followed. Moreover, the company became famous for its cars and technological developments that provide increased safety while driving. They have become the basis for modern international standards. Volvo changed owners several times: after briefly staying with Ford Motor Company, it became part of Geely Automobile Holdings Limited.
3 Saab (1947-2012)
SAAB has a tragic history: having worked in the automotive market for 75 years, it went bankrupt and was closed in 2012. Its commercial success began in 1959 with the release of the famous Saab 95 station wagon. Then it became a pioneer in the field of safety, developing several technical innovations. In 2000, the enterprise was completely taken over by General Motors. Several unsuccessful decisions of the new owner started financial problems for SAAB. In 2012, the brand was acquired by National Electric Vehicle Sweden and immediately discontinued.
4 Scania (1911-Present)
Scania buses and trucks are renowned worldwide because this manufacturer pays attention to quality and modern technology. The company has been working for a long time in cooperation with the Spanish company Irizar. Together they created a model of the Century 3000 bus, where the body was from Irizar and the chassis from Scania. Also, the company produces engines that consume biogas, rapeseed biodiesel, and ethanol.
Other European Countries
Germany, Italy, Great Britain, France, and Sweden are not the only European countries with the developed car industry. Of course, they are leading the world market, but other nations are also betting on the automotive industry. Moreover, many brands belong to famous German concerns, so they have every chance of staying afloat. For example, the Czech Škoda Auto and the Spanish SEAT are part of the Volkswagen Group.
1 Škoda (1925-Present)
Škoda is one of the oldest and largest car manufacturers in the Czech Republic. It was created in 1925, but its predecessor, Laurin & Klement, began work in the middle of the 19th century. A resounding success came to Škoda after Volkswagen became interested in it. Having become part of the German concern, the Czech manufacturer has released its most famous novelty at Octavia.
2 SEAT (1950-Present)
The Spanish brand SEAT, like Škoda, belongs to the Volkswagen concern. Its main products are passenger cars of various models, including high-speed sports cars. The company was founded in 1950, and the first car was produced three years later. The main plant, which produces most SEAT vehicles, is located in the capital of the autonomous community, Catalonia.
3 Lada (1970-Present)
The automobile brand Lada was founded by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and has been owned by AvtoVAZ since the times of the Soviet Union. The main plant is located in the city of Togliatti and was built jointly with the FIAT concern. The automaker has a wide range of all-terrain vehicles and front-wheel-drive cars. The latter include vehicles of the Priopa, Kalina, and Samara families.
10 Most Popular European Car Brands in the U.S.
Despite the developed automotive industry within the country, many European brands are in demand in the United States. Moreover, Americans buy imported vehicles in different segments – from the mass market to the premium class. The best-selling German Mercedes-Benz remains, which attracts the attention of connoisseurs of luxury. And in second place is BMW – also a luxury brand from Germany. She managed to overtake Volkswagen, aimed at the consumer class.