Keeping track of automotive brands can be a hassle.
There have been so many mergers, divisions, and closings among the car world that it can throw anyone for a loop—even experienced automotive journalists.
If you’ve ever found yourself wondering what someone means when they say “the Big Three” or why you’ve heard the name “Stellantis” thrown around a lot lately, you’re not alone. Some corporations, like Volkswagen, own brands as distinct as Lamborghini.
You don’t necessarily need to know which company owns which brands if you’re in the market for a new machine—but knowledge is power, and having some car lingo in your back pocket can’t hurt! At the very least, it can help you know which dealerships you might need to seek out.
Here, we’ll break down which car corporations own which car brands. Our focus is on cars available in the United States and Canada.
Ford Motor Company
The Ford Motor Company is one of Detroit’s Big Three automakers, which was founded by Henry Ford back in 1903. It has kept things pretty simple over the years, with the Ford name sticking on pretty much all of the company’s badging—because why mess with a good thing?
The only big alteration in Ford’s brand lineup was the addition of Lincoln in 1917, which is Ford’s luxury brand.
The second member of Detroit’s Big Three and the largest automaker in America, General Motors was founded in 1908. GM has a massive presence around the globe, with tons of different brands and even sub-brands.
Americans will be most familiar with Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, and the now-defunct Pontiac. Its brands have remained relatively stable over time.
- Hummer, which is a subset of GMC
Stellantis is probably the most confusing and complex corporation available today, and there’s a good reason for that. It’s the result of a recent merger between two previously distinct corporations: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Groupe PSA. These were two powerhouse organizations, with FCA serving as one of Detroit’s Big Three automakers and Groupe PSA holding sway over tons of European brands.
The goal of unification between these two companies was cost savings. It takes a lot of money to run a car company, and consolidating your efforts under one big umbrella makes life a lot easier. It also reduces competition—which is always a nice thing in the car industry.
And if you’re wondering about the weird name, Stellantis supposedly derives from the Latin verb ‘stello,’ which means “to brighten with stars.” A nice name for what Stellantis hopes will be an optimistic future.
- Alfa Romeo
Other international brands unavailable in the US are Citroen, DS Automobiles, Opel, Peugeot, and Vauxhall, which were all part of Groupe PSA. If you’ve ever been to Europe or the United Kingdom, you’ll have undoubtedly seen plenty of these machines on the road.
The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance is another auto corporation that seems pretty confusing. The three companies listed in the name did not merge or buy one another but instead joined a cross-sharing agreement, which basically means that each company is still relatively independent but still works in the best interests of one another. It works out relatively well, since the Japanese and French backgrounds of the corporation come with different goals and speak to different audiences.
The Alliance has had some unfortunate connotations as of late due to Carlos Ghosn, the founding chairman and CEO of the alliance. He was arrested in 2018 over allegations of under-reporting his salary and using company funds for non-company purposes. He stepped down from the company and went on the lam, but the Alliance still remains strong.
A German company, Volkswagen Group—or Volkswagen AG—owns brands as diverse as Volkswagen, Bugatti, and Lamborghini. It even sells motorcycles under the Ducati brand name. Talk about having a toe in all the buckets that matter!
It’s been a long journey since Volkswagen was founded under Adolf Hitler’s rule of Nazi Germany. The VW was designed to be the “people’s car,” a cheap and affordable option that the German people would manufacture, buy, and sell to the world at large. And it has grown ever since its introduction, absorbing other German brands like Audi and Porsche, French brands like Bugatti, and Italian brands like Lamborghini.
Hyundai Motor Group
Hyundai and its luxury brand, Genesis, are the cornerstones of the Hyundai Motor Group, which is a South Korean auto company founded in 1967. It also owns one-third of Kia and has established a fully electric brand called Ioniq.
Since its introduction to the American audience in the late 1980s, Hyundai has carved out a pretty significant fan base in the United States.
- Kia (partial ownership)
BMW was founded back in 1916 with the intention of building aircraft engines and has grown to become one of the most desirable brands amongst auto enthusiasts. It has a long legacy in the motorsport world and has consistently grown ever since its founding.
BMW has acquired two historic British brands, Mini and Rolls-Royce. BMW received Mini as a company and Rolls-Royce as more of a name brand with the legacy that went with it.
Toyota Motor Corporation
The Toyota Motor Corp. is the world’s largest automaker. It, like Ford, focuses primarily on badging all of its cars as Toyota, with Lexus absorbing its luxury machinery. The company was founded in 1937 and has consistently proved to be a global leader in everything from sales to technology and just plain fun.
Toyota also owns small stakes in other companies like Subaru, Suzuki, Isuzu, and Mazda—but these aren’t considerable, most of them clocking in in the single digits.
Honda Motor Company
The name “Honda” is synonymous with affordability and productivity, but the corporation also has a massive stake in motorsport around the world, producing engines for elite series like Formula One.
Like Ford and Toyota, it, too, focuses largely on Honda products, with Acura serving as its luxury brand. But it also produces motorcycles, aircraft, robots, and more.
Most people refer to Daimler as Mercedes-Benz, since the two companies have largely been synonymous since the merger of German brands Benz & Cie. and Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft in 1926. Daimler also entered the American market after acquiring Chrysler in 1988, renaming it as DaimlerChrysler before the two companies split in 2007.
It founded the smart division in 1994 as a way to produce small, cute, and affordable city going vehicles for customers that weren’t interested in the luxury that the Mercedes-Benz name conveyed.
Jaguar and Land Rover used to be owned by Ford, but Tata Motors, an Indian automaker, bought the brands in March 2008. Tata also used to be owned by Daimler before becoming its own corporation, at which point it began producing passenger vehicles. It also had brief ventures with Hyundai and Fiat. If you live in the United States, you’re not likely to see many other Tata machines on the road.
- Land Rover
Zhejiang Geely Holding Group
The Zhejiang Geely Holding Group—more commonly referred to as Geely—is a Chinese company that has been manufacturing its own cars since 1997. As you can imagine, most of its vehicles are based in Asia, so we don’t get to see many of them over here in America. Interestingly enough, the two brands we do get in America are Lotus and Volvo, two companies that Geely acquired that came with long legacies of their own.
Polestar is a newer marque, one derived from Volvo. It develops some gorgeous-looking performance EVs that I’m sure will make waves in the near future.
And Some Others
Not all car companies own multiple brands! Mazda Motor Corporation, for example, owns Mazda. Subaru Corporation owns Subaru. Tesla owns Tesla.
But as you can imagine, these distinctions are pretty tenuous. Brands swap owners all the time, or they go defunct, or they completely change their looks. But don’t worry—we’ll do our best to keep you updated on all the changes you need to know.