A fleet fuel card company knows that there have been many different automakers that have shaped the auto industry and each has had its own history. We dive into some of the world’s biggest automakers to share how they were formed:
Back in the 1930s, the German auto market was comprised mainly of luxury vehicles, so many middle-class Germans couldn’t afford to buy one. To fix this problem, Adolf Hitler demanded the production of a family car that could hold two adults and three children. A car was put into production and Volkswagen (which translates to “people’s car”) was created in 1937. In 1959, an advertising campaign dubbed the car the “Beetle” and by 1972, the Beetle beat the world production record. Today, the company is headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany.
Toyota was also started in the 1930s – it began as a division of Toyoda Automatic Loom Works under the direction of Kiichiro Toyoda’s son in 1933. In 1937, the company changed its name to the Toyota Motor Co. and became independent. During the early 1960s, the U.S. had placed import tariffs on certain vehicles, so Toyota built plants in the U.S. by the early 1980s. It branched out to include trucks and SUVs in its production and in 1989, it got rid of the Japanese letter logo and created the oval “T” logo we know today. Toyota Motor Co. is headquartered in Toyota, Japan.
Ford Motor Company was launched in 1903 by Henry Ford and during its first few years, it only produced a handful of cars a day. The company’s workers popularized the idea of assembly line production and in 1908, the Model T was introduced and 22 years later, the Model A was launched. Ford Motor Company was the creator of many firsts, like the first car with safety glass in the windshield, the first car with rear seat belts, and the first retractable hardtop on a six-seater car. The company became one of the most successful in the world and today, is headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan.
BMW began in 1917, when the aircraft manufacturer Rapp Motorenwerke was restructured. Once the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1918, BMW had to halt their aircraft engine manufacturing. By 1923, however, the company had switched to motorcycle production, which led to car production in 1928. In 1959, BMW experienced financial difficulties, but went on to acquire several companies to become even more successful. Today, BMW still makes motorcycles and automobiles and is headquartered in Munich, Germany.
Also known as GM, General Motors was created as holding company for Buick in 1908. Once Buick’s owner, William Durant, lost control of GM, Alfred Sloan took charge and the company became the leader in global automotive sales for 77 years (from 1931-2007). Along the way, GM acquired many different companies including Oldsmobile, Cadillac, Pontiac, Chevrolet, Vauxhall, and more. After filing for bankruptcy in 2009, the company reorganized its board members and continued its success. Today, GM is headquartered in Detroit, Michigan.
Nissan began as the Kwaishinsha Motor Car Works in 1911 and produced its first car in 1914. Over the years, the company changed its name many times until the Nihon Sangyo holding company was founded and used the name “Nissan” for the Tokyo stock market in the early 1930s. In 1934, Nissan was finally founded as Nissan Motor Co. By the 1950s, the company expanded into worldwide markets and formed a subsidiary in the U.S. By 1989, it was selling its luxury cars under the Infiniti name. Today, Nissan is located in Nishi-ku, Japan.
In 1937, Soichiro Honda created the piston rings company Tokai Seiki. Four years later, the company was mass-producing piston rings for Toyota cars, but after a B-29 bomber destroyed the Tokai Seiki plant in 1944, Honda sold the remains to Toyota and created the Honda Technical Research Institute. The company created motorcycles and became the largest manufacturer of motorcycles by 1964. In 1963, Honda’s first production automobile was created and the company expanded its operations worldwide over the next few decades. Today, Honda is headquartered in Minato, Japan.
Hyundai was created in 1947 as a construction company named Hyundai Engineering and Construction. It began creating cars alongside Ford and in 1967, it changed its name to the Hyundai Motor Company. The first Korean car, the Pony, was released in 1975 and was exported to Canada, where it became the top-selling car. It wasn’t until 1986 that Hyundai started selling cars in the U.S. and the company began using its own technology in 1988 with the Sonata. Today, Hyundai is headquartered in Seoul, South Korea.