Brief Histories of Top Auto Makers
When it comes to automobile brands, there are mainstays and there are newcomers, but in order to be considered a classic, it takes more than just time. Check out the following brand histories.
Jeep is a brand of American automobiles that is a division of FCA US LLC (formerly Chrysler Group, LLC), a wholly owned subsidiary of the Italian-American corporation Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Jeep has been a part of Chrysler since 1987, when Chrysler acquired the Jeep brand, along with remaining assets, from its previous owner: American Motors Corporation (AMC).
Jeep’s current product range consists solely of sport utility vehicles and off-road vehicles, but has also included pickup trucks and roadsters in the past; Jeep will return to the pickup truck market in early 2019. Some of Jeep’s vehicles—such as the Grand Cherokee—reach into the luxury SUV segment, a market segment the Wagoneer is considered to have created. Jeep sold 1.4 million SUVs globally in 2016, up from 500,000 in 2008, two-thirds of which in North America, and was Fiat-Chrysler’s best-selling brand in the U.S. during the first half of 2017. In the U.S. alone, over 2400 dealerships hold franchise rights to sell Jeep-branded vehicles, and if Jeep were spun off into a separate company, it is estimated to be worth between $22 and $33.5 billion—slightly more than all of FCA (US).
Dodge is an American brand of automobile manufactured by FCA US LLC (formerly known as Chrysler Group LLC), based in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Dodge vehicles currently include performance cars, though for much of its existence Dodge was Chrysler’s mid-priced brand above Plymouth.
The Dodge brand has withstood the multiple ownership changes at Chrysler from 1998 to 2009, including its short-lived merger with Daimler-Benz AG from 1998 to 2007, its subsequent sale to Cerberus Capital Management, its 2009 bailout by the United States government, and its subsequent Chapter 11 bankruptcy and acquisition by Fiat.
In 2011, Dodge, Ram, and Dodge’s Viper were separated. Dodge said that the Dodge Viper would be an SRT product and Ram will be a manufacturer. In 2014, SRT was merged back into Dodge. Later that year, Chrysler Group was renamed FCA US LLC, corresponding with the merger of Fiat S.p.A. and Chrysler Group into the single corporate structure of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Kia Motors Corporation, commonly known as Kia Motors, headquartered in Seoul, is South Korea’s second-largest automobile manufacturer, following the Hyundai Motor Company, with sales of over 3.3 million vehicles in 2015. As of December 2015, the Kia Motor Corporation is minority owned by Hyundai, which owns a 33.88% stake valued at just over US $6 billion. Kia in turn is a minority owner of more than twenty Hyundai subsidiaries ranging from 4.9% up to 45.37%, totaling more than US$8.3 billion.
The company opened its first integrated automotive assembly plant in 1973, the Sohari Plant. Kia built the small Brisa range of cars until 1981, when production came to an end after the new military dictator Chun Doo-hwan enforced industry consolidation. This forced Kia to give up passenger cars and focus entirely on light trucks. Prior to the forced 1981 shutdown, Kia rounded out its passenger car lineup with two other foreign models assembled under license: the Fiat 132 and the Peugeot 604. Starting in 1986 (when only 26 cars were manufactured, followed by over 95,000 the next year), Kia rejoined the automobile industry in partnership with Ford. Kia produced several Mazda-derived vehicles for both domestic sales in South Korea and for export into other countries. The first Kia-branded vehicles in the United States were sold from four dealerships in Portland, Oregon, in February 1994.
The Hyundai Motor Company, commonly known as Hyundai Motors is a South Korean multinational automotive manufacturer headquartered in Seoul. The company was founded in 1967 and, along with its 32.8% owned subsidiary, Kia Motors, and its 100% owned luxury subsidiary Genesis Motor, altogether comprise the Hyundai Motor Group. It is the third largest vehicle manufacturer in the world.
Hyundai operates the world’s largest integrated automobile manufacturing facility in Ulsan, South Korea which has an annual production capacity of 1.6 million units. The company employs about 75,000 people worldwide. Hyundai vehicles are sold in 193 countries through some 5,000 dealerships and showrooms.
The group was formed through the purchase of 51% of South Korea’s second largest car company, Kia Motors, by Hyundai Motor Company in 1998. As of December 31, 2013, Hyundai owns 33.88% of Kia Motors. The Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group also refers to the group of affiliated companies interconnected by complex shareholding arrangements, with Hyundai Motor Company regarded as the de facto representative of the group.
Mitsubishi Motors Corporation is a Japanese multinational automotive manufacturer headquartered in Minato, Tokyo, Japan. In 2011, Mitsubishi Motors was the sixth-biggest Japanese automaker and the sixteenth-biggest worldwide by production. From October 2016 onwards, Mitsubishi has been one-third (34%) owned by Nissan, and thus a part of the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance.
Besides being part of the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance, it is also a part of Mitsubishi keiretsu, formerly the biggest industrial group in Japan, and the company was originally formed in 1970 from the automotive division of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation was formerly a part of Mitsubishi Motors, but is now separate from Mitsubishi Motors, which builds commercial grade trucks, buses and heavy construction equipment, and is owned by the German automotive corporation Daimler AG (though Mitsubishi continues to own a small stake).
Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. is a Japanese multinational automobile manufacturer headquartered in Nishi-ku, Yokohama. The company sells its cars under the Nissan, Infiniti, and Datsun brands with in-house performance tuning products labelled Nismo. The company traces its name to the Nissan zaibatsu, now called Nissan Group.
Since 1999, Nissan has been part of the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance, a partnership between Nissan of Japan, Mitsubishi Motors of Japan and Renault of France. As of 2013, Renault holds a 43.4% voting stake in Nissan, while Nissan holds a 15% non-voting stake in Renault. In 2013, Nissan was the sixth largest automaker in the world, after Toyota, General Motors, Volkswagen Group, Hyundai Motor Group, and Ford. Taken together, the Renault–Nissan Alliance would be the world’s fourth largest automaker. Nissan is the leading Japanese brand in China, Russia and Mexico.
Nissan is the world’s largest electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer, with global sales of more than 320,000 all-electric vehicles as of April 2018. The top-selling vehicle of the car-maker’s fully electric lineup is the Nissan LEAF, an all-electric car and the world’s top-selling highway-capable plug-in electric car in history.
Chevrolet, colloquially referred to as Chevy and formally the Chevrolet Division of General Motors Company, is an American automobile division of the American manufacturer General Motors (GM). Louis Chevrolet and ousted General Motors founder William C. Durant started the company on November 3, 1911 as the Chevrolet Motor Car Company. Durant used the Chevrolet Motor Car Company to acquire a controlling stake in General Motors with a reverse merger occurring on May 2, 1918 and propelled himself back to the GM presidency.
After Durant’s second ousting in 1919, Alfred Sloan, with his maxim “a car for every purse and purpose”, would pick the Chevrolet brand to become the volume leader in the General Motors family, selling mainstream vehicles to compete with Henry Ford’s Model T in 1919 and overtaking Ford as the best-selling car in the United States by 1929.
In North America, Chevrolet produces and sells a wide range of vehicles, from subcompact automobiles to medium-duty commercial trucks. Due to the prominence and name recognition of Chevrolet as one of General Motors’ global marques, Chevrolet, Chevy or Chev is used at times as a synonym for General Motors or its products, one example being the GM LS1 engine, commonly known by the name or a variant thereof of its progenitor, the Chevrolet small-block engine.
Those brief histories, of which you can read much more via the source links provided begin to unfold the rich, powerful backstories of some of the automobile giants of the past century. The brands have stood the test of time and are as reliable as vehicles get.
The next time you actually have time, test drive one of these auto makers. Get behind the wheel of the all-new Hyundai Santa Fe. Rev the engine of the ultra-sporty Kia Stinger. Take the new Mitsubishi Outlander on an off-road adventure. Experience the joy that any of these top auto manufacturers can bring. Make your great car deal today.