Not every car company began with the intent of designing and making cars. The ten listed here started making a varied range of products as you will discover. The fact is they became successful for their transition into automobiles and have each made their mark in the industry that excites drivers the world over. So clue yourself in and impress your friends with a part of automotive history.
Ever wondered what BMW actually stands for? Bayerische Motoren Werke (Bavarian Motor Works in English). They initially produced motorcycles of their own design as well as airplanes. But we all know them as cars these days with a huge stable of models to choose from.
Known for their popularity and reliability the world over, Mazda (believe it or not) began life as a cork manufacturer producing compacted cork boards under the name ‘Toyo Kogyo’ in 1920. The company expanded into drilling equipment, lamps and small machinery before producing the ‘Mazda Go’ in 1931 which prompted the name change into one of the biggest car companies in the world.
Svenska Aeroplan AB (SAAB for short) was strictly an aerospace company until after World War II when they ventured into making cars to fill a huge shortage of private vehicles in Northern Europe. Unfortunately they had issues this century with selling the company while wanting to keep control of the design – which ended the production. Shame as they were a great car known for reliability and a great engine. They also had a unique dashboard design based on their cockpit control design.
Founded way back in 1870 by Yataro Iwasaki, Mitsubishi started out as a shipping company to export and import goods to and from the Western world, and quickly expanded thanks to his strong ties and support with the Japanese government. The company also forayed into other areas of manufacturing and commerce before producing the first passenger car in 1917 – 47 years after the beginning of the company.
Starting life as Toyoda Automatic Loom Works Ltd in 1926, it was the son of owner Sakichi Toyoda – Kiichoro Toyoda who founded his own car division under the name ‘Toyota’ nine years later. As much as the car is still going strong, so is the loom business.
Despite the sporty prowess of its namesake, Jaguar debuted as the ‘Swallow Sidecar Company’ in 1922 purely making motorcycle sidecars. In the 1930’s the company expanded into cars abbreviating its name to SS Cars Ltd until 1945 when they changed name again to Jaguar (as the ‘SS’ had decidedly evil connotations linked to World War II).
Synonymous with high-end luxury and speed and the lifestyle one needs to afford one, you’d be surprised to find out that Ferruccio Lamborghini actually began producing tractors just after World War II in 1948 using mostly miscellaneous spare parts. A far cry from the cars we associate Lamborghini with these days. His first foray into car making didn’t start until the early 1960’s and he hasn’t looked back.
Small motorcycles and piston rings were Soichiro Honda’s first step into the world of moving transport before producing sub-compact cars. While the motorbikes are still a popular favorite today, his cars took a while to gain momentum, but are now one of the trusted names in the automotive industry.
Just like Toyota, Suzuki also started life as a weaving loom company – it must have been something in the water. With Suzuki however, their first foray into engines was in the production of clip-on bicycle motors before moving into cars. Suzuki has and still is focused on producing efficient and economical cars.
Determined entrepreneur Chung Ju-Yung founded the Hyundai Engineering & Construction Company in 1947 to assist in the re-building of Korea after the destruction caused by World War II. However, due to the Korean War, he found a new career with the Korean Ministry of Transport. In 1968 Chung collaborated with Ford to develop the ‘Cortina’ for the British Commonwealth market which launched his career into the production of his own line of cars that we see today.