Which Automakers Own Which Car Brands?

Craig Cole
by Craig Cole

At times the auto industry can feel overwhelming, with all the different products, brands and stories to keep straight. There’s always something going on in this business, from breaking news to vehicle reviews.

And for non-automotive-journalists, which are most of you out there, it can get pretty confusing at times, especially when it comes to keeping the various product lines straight. In an effort to help you understand which parent company owns a particular marque here’s a breakdown of various automotive brands sold around the world. We hope it helps you keep things straight.

Please note, we did not try to list every single automaker; we merely focused on the major players in this industry and ones that have a strong presence in North America. We apologize in advance is you were dying to learn about Hindustan, Lada or Proton but you’ll have to look elsewhere.

First let’s take a look at the independents, brands that aren’t really affiliated with other companies. Mazda, Subaru, Lotus and Aston Martin are some of the most significant and perhaps desirable singles out there, though there are many more. Tesla is the newest of this group, Volvo is now owned by Chinese automaker Geely and then there’s lonely old Mitsubishi who we’re not going to unnecessarily lambaste.

Now for a few companies that are joined at the hip. Some of obvious binaries include Ford and its Lincoln luxury division, then there’s Hyundai and its corporate cousin Kia as well as British brands Jaguar and Land Rover, which used to be closely tied to Ford but are now owned by Indian Firm Tata. Lastly there’s Honda and its North American luxury brand Acura, though the company also makes motorcycles and power products, among other things. We want to know when Asimo will become its (his?) own brand!

Next up is Nissan. This Japanese company is best known for its namesake brand but you cannot forget about Infiniti, their luxury division. Beyond the obvious they recently relaunched Datsun, which is designed to provide low-cost vehicles to buyers in emerging markets around the world, so don’t go looking to buy a Go hatchback here in America. Additionally Nissan is deeply allied with French automaker Renault, which itself has Dacia, a Romanian company, and Renault Samsung, another separate brand.

Bavarian Motor Works has long been the enthusiast’s choice in the luxury-car field. Nonetheless this firm has grown over the years. Of course there’s the namesake BMW brand with its M performance division as well as the brand-new i sub-brand, but the company also owns MINI and Rolls-Royce, two uniquely British companies on opposite ends of the automotive spectrum. And lest we forget, BMW also makes motorcycles.

Automotive juggernaut Toyota has a few divisions in its branding toolkit. Obviously there’s Lexus and Scion; the former serves affluent customers with luxury vehicles, the latter attempts to appeal to younger drivers, though with mixed success. Beyond that Toyota also has Daihatsu, which generally focuses on super-small vehicles as well as Hino, a brand dedicated to commercial trucks.

Now things are starting to get out of hand. Sure, GM may have shed a number of divisions when it entered bankruptcy in 2009 but it still has quite a few brands sprinkled all around the world. Its core marques include Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac. But beyond this quartet they also have Opel in Germany, Vauxhall from Great Britain, Holden down under in Australia, GM Korea (the division formerly known as Daweoo) plus a number of subsidiaries in China. Have you heard of brands like Baojun, Wuling and FAW? Well, now you have!

But this is not the limit of GM’s branding bonanza. Despite losing a number of notable marques like Pontiac, Hummer and Saturn, in the company’s distant past certain divisions used to have companion makes, product lines that were designed to fill pricing gaps in GM’s overall lineup. Brands like LaSalle, Viking and Marquette used to pad the company’s lineup and truly provide a vehicle for “every purse and purpose” as company honcho Alfred Sloan famously said.

Daimler is the parent company for a whole slew of different divisions. Of course they’re most famous for Mercedes-Benz and to a (much) lesser extent smart, but they have MANY others. There’s Freightliner, Fuso, Western Star and Bharat Benz, which build commercial vehicles and heavy trucks. Then there’s Thomas, Setra and the company’s financial various services divisions. How about that? Naturally if you want something with mega performance you can always get an AMG model.

“Volkswagen” stands for “people’s car,” though it’s hard to believe that name today. The VW brand itself has blossomed into a full-line manufacturer all on its own. Their lineup ranges from the fuel-sipping XL1 to the Phaeton luxury sedan to commercial vehicles and trucks to just about everything in between.

But there’s far more to the Volkswagen Group than just this. Their family of brands includes Audi, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Bentley and Porsche. Then they own Spanish brand Seat (pronounced say-aht) and Skoda, which is Czech. Beyond all of this international flair VW also sells motorcycles with their Ducati division as well as heavy trucks and buses through their Scania and MAN branches. Talk about variety!

Finally we come to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, a company that’s really blossomed in recent years. Aside from their namesake brands they also have divisions like Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Abarth and Fiat Professional, the latter of which builds commercial vehicles. Beyond all of this there’s Jeep, Dodge, Ram, Mopar, Ferrari, Maserati and arguable SRT depending on how you count. They even have a few non-automotive divisions, firms like Comau that manufacturers robots, Teksid, which is famous casting high-quality engine blocks and lastly VM Motori, an Italian company famous for building diesel engines.

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Craig Cole
Craig Cole

Born and raised in metro Detroit, Craig was steeped in mechanics from childhood. He feels as much at home with a wrench or welding gun in his hand as he does behind the wheel or in front of a camera. Putting his Bachelor's Degree in Journalism to good use, he's always pumping out videos, reviews, and features for AutoGuide.com. When the workday is over, he can be found out driving his fully restored 1936 Ford V8 sedan. Craig has covered the automotive industry full time for more than 10 years and is a member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).

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Join the conversation
  • Jerry Baustian Jerry Baustian on Oct 15, 2014

    The panels for Fiat Chrysler and Volkswagen AG are mislabeled.

  • Pixel Pixel on Nov 02, 2014

    If the panel include MAN for the VW group, for FCA you should put CNH (Iveco - Magirus - New Holland - Steyr), which is like FCA belong the Agnelli family corporation EXOR