Top 5 European Automakers

Top 5 European Automakers

Top 5 European Automakers


The European Union is the world’s biggest manufacturer of automobiles, with around 18 million vehicles produced within a year only. The automobile industry provided momentum to the economy of many European countries. Europe is recognized for its excellent automobile industry and outstanding engineering. European automakers are known for producing one of the best performing and handling vehicles.

The European auto industry is a global player, delivering quality ‘Made in Europe’ vehicles around the world. There is no doubt that European cars are the most popular cars in the world. When one talks of a European vehicle, a couple of things come to mind such as beautiful interiors, charisma, and speed. So, here are top five automakers from European region that are known across the world for their engineering and design.


Audi AG:

HQ- Ingolstadt, Germany

This German automaker has been in business for more than 100 years. Audi designs, engineers, produces, markets and distributes luxury automobiles. The name of the company is based on the Latin translation of the surname of the founder, August Horch. “Horch” which means “listen” in German become “audi” in Latin.

On 14 November 1899, August Horch established the company A. Horch & Cie. and in 1902 moved his company to Reichenbach in Vogtland. On May, 10th, 1904 he founded the August Horch & Cie. Motorwagenwerke AG, a joint-stock company in Zwickau. After troubles with chief financial officer of Horch, August Horch left Motorwagenwerke and on 16 July 1909, founded his second company in Zwickau; the August Horch

Automobilwerke GmbH. August was not allowed to use "Horch" as a trade name in his new car business, so with his business friends, Paul and Franz Fikentscher, he came up with the name, Audi. On 25 April 1910, the Audi Automobilwerke GmbH Zwickau was registered became Audiwerke AG Zwickau from 1915. The company produced its first automobile, the Audi Type A 10/22 hp Sport-Phaeton the same year, followed by its successor Type B 10/28PS. The four brands, the Saxon brands of Audi and Horch from Zwickau, Wanderer from Chemnitz and DKW from Zschopau combined in 1932 to form Auto Union AG – with the sign of the four rings. During this time only, the company offered the “Audi Front” that became the first European car to combine a six-cylinder engine with front-wheel drive.

Volkswagen is the largest shareholder of Audi that holds around 99.5% of the share capital. Along with BMW and Mercedes-Benz, Audi is a member of the “German Big 3” luxury automakers. Audi’s slogan Vorsprung durch Technik means “Progress through Technology”. However, Audi USA is using the slogan “Truth in Engineering” since 2007.



HQ- Munich, Germany

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG or BMW is a German automobile, motorcycle and engine manufacturing company that was established in 1916. The history of BMW goes back in 1913 when there was huge demand for aircrafts. In October 1913, Karl Friedrich Rapp establishes "Rapp-Motorenwerke" in a former bicycle factory near Munich.

However, the sales of Rapp’s power-plants were good due to a reliability flaw caused by unwanted engine vibrations. Close to Rapp´s factory, Gustav Otto, the son of the inventor and industrialist Nikolaus August Otto, sets up an aircraft factory, Gustav Otto Flugmaschinefabrik, which was renamed Otto Werke in January 1915. In 1916, Rapp’s company secured a contract to produce 25 large V12 aircraft engines on behalf of Austro-Daimler.

As there were issues of engine reliability with Rapp’s company so, they purchased four-cylinder water-cooled aircraft engines from the Gustav Otto factory. In the following months the Otto’s company also failed. So, as a mutual benefit for both the companies Gustav Otto´s Company merged with Rapp’s company to form “Bayerische FlugzeugWerke”, in English “Bavarian Aircraft Works”. On 7th March 1916, soon after the merge, the company name changed into “Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH” or BMW, which became BMW AG in 1919.

The company’s first aircraft engine, Type IIIa, a water-cooled, six-cylinder inline engine goes production in 1917. In 1919, after the end of the First World War an agreement was signed, the Allies prohibited German military to produce aircraft engines. Therefore, BMW shifted to the production of boat and truck engines and farming equipment. In 1923, the company entered in the production of motorcycles and the same year manufactured its first motorcycle, the R 32. The first car successfully manufactured by BMW and that launched the company on the road to automobile production was the Dixi in 1929. It was based on Austin 7 and licensed from the Austin Motor Company in Birmingham, England.

In 1936, the company started the production of the BMW328 sports car. Until Second World War, aircraft engines, motorcycles, automobiles were the main products of the company. For several years after the war, the company was not allowed to manufacture anything, but in early 50s with the launch of BMW 501 followed by 502 that was powered by the world’s first light-alloy V8, the brand showed its commitment to the technology. BMW’s Isetta a small two-seat microcar became the best-selling BMW of that decade. The company soon entered in F1 racing, and won the 1983 Formula One World Championship. In the mid 90s, BMW entered into the partnership with Rolls-Royce and continued its research and development of aircraft engines along with its work on gas turbines. In 1994, BMW acquired the Rover Group for six years and later launched the MINI series in 2001.

BMW started out with the production of aircraft engines followed by motorcycles and then automobiles. The company’s advertising slogan describes its vehicles as “the ultimate driving machine”. Over the years, the brand has become the standard for performance and luxury.



HQ- Saint-Ouen, France

Citroen is a French automobile manufacturer that produces a full range of passenger and light utility vehicles. It was founded in 1919 by French industrialist André-Gustave Citroën. Within eight years, the company became Europe’s largest car manufacturer and the 4th largest in the world. It was the first mass production car company outside America.

After working with the car company ‘Mors’, Citroen established his own company, 'Andre Citroen & Cie' in 1905. By 1913, the name of the company changed into ‘Societe des Engrenages Citroen’ (Citroen Cog Factory). The automaker produced Europe’s first all-steel-bodied car, the B10 in 1924. In the 1930s, Citroën designed and manufactured the revolutionary Traction Avant (front-wheel drive) automobile that was one of the first cars

that features a unitary-type body and no chassis frame for holding the mechanical components. From 1948 to 1990, the Citroën 2CV was manufactured. The car was a people’s car as it was basic, powerful and inexpensive. After the death of André Citroën in 1935, the French tire manufacturer Michelin Company took over the company. In 1954 Citroën produced the world’s first hydropneumatic self-leveling suspension system, and in 1955, it came up with the revolutionary DS, the first Europe produced car with disc brakes.

In 1967, to allow greater visibility on windy roads, Citroën introduced swiveling headlights in several models. During the 1970s oil crisis, Michelin tried to sell the company to Italy’s Fiat, but the French government intervened and prohibited that shift. However, in 1975, Peugeot finally took over Citroën, and there it remains today. Citroën and Peugeot cars share many components and platforms, but the two brands still exist.



HQ- Stuttgart, Germany

The German luxury-car maker known for its luxury automobiles is a multinational division of German manufacturer Daimler AG. It is one of the world’s best known and established automotive brands. The beginning of Mercedes-Benz goes back in 1926 when Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) and Benz & Cie merged together to become Daimler-Benz AG.

In 1844, Carl Benz invented the vehicle that changes the way people move. It was a three-wheeled, self-propelled “Motorwagen” with a rear-mounted cylinder engine. Gottlieb Daimler introduced his first four-wheeler, a Victoria-type motor driven carriage in the year1886. Demand for Daimler’s engine increases in 1890 and as a result a corporation

named, the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (Daimler Motor Company) was formed on November 1890. On the other hand, Carl Benz with other associates formed company, Benz & Cie, at Mannheim in 1883. A wealthy Austrian banker-sportsman, Emil Jellinek got impressed by the success of DMG in racing competitions. Jellinek pursued DMG to build the powerful 35-hp racing car. And on 22nd December 1900, the first vehicle to be fitted with a 35-hp racing car was built by the chief engineer at DMG, Wilhelm Maybach. The vehicle was named in the honor of Jellinek daughter, Mercedes. In March and August 1901, the 12/16-hp and 8/11-hp sister models appeared. On June 23, 1902, Mercedes was lodged as the trade name and was legally registered on 26th September.

After the World War I, it became difficult for companies to survive (especially luxury car makers). Even many financially strong companies were frequently converting into mergers and cooperative ventures. It was at this time, DMG and Benz & Cie. formed an association in 1924. During this period, the two companies generally marketed their products jointly, although still under separate trademarks. Two years later, in June 1926, the two oldest motor manufacturers merged to form Daimler-Benz AG and launched the first vehicle under the Mercedes-Benz brand. As a part of the company, Mercedes-Benz cars division includes Mercedes-Benz and smart car production. The cars manufactured by Mercedes-Benz come with breathtaking, exotic and spectacular looks. Mercedes-Benz stands true to its slogan, i.e. "Das Beste oder nichts" or "The best or nothing".



HQ- Rüsselsheim, Hesse, Germany

On January 21, 1862 Adam Opel founded a company named Opel in Hessen, Germany beginning with the production of sewing machines. In 1886, Opel started the production of high-wheel bicycles also known as 'penny-farthings'. Opel entered into the production of cars in partnership with Friedrich Lutzmann in 1899, but the partnership ended after two years.

In 1901, the company signed a licensing agreement with the French automobile maker, Darracq S.A. to sell vehicles under the name Opel-Darracq. The cars manufactured have Darracq chassis and are made up of Opel bodies. However, this partnership also did not last for a longer period of time and dissolved in 1907.

The company entered into the production of motorcycles in 1902 and in 1907 it started producing its own cars in parallel with sewing machines. In 1911, the factory literally burned down into ashes and when the production resumed, only the manufacturing of cars continued. 

In March 1929, General Motors (GM) bought 80% of Opel shares, with the decision of car-making left to the company only. In 1931, the partnership increased to 100%. The company’s designed and manufactured vehicles are sold under the Buick brand in the US, Canada, Mexico and China. And the Holden brand in Australia, New Zealand and the Vauxhall brand in the United Kingdom. Opel operates 12 vehicle, Powertrain, and component plants and four development and test centers in seven countries.


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