The inception of the European automotive industry is traced back to the late 19th century when it first arose in Germany and France. Now it has become one of the leading branches of all the industrial sectors. And statistical data prove it: European car industry comprises 6.9% of EU GDP; it makes the trade surplus of 95.7 billion euro and provides employment for 12.9 million people who work in about 290 assembly and production facilities in 25 European countries. It worth saying that 22% of all passenger cars (14.6 million units) are produced in the European Union.
But if to switch off from figures, the European car makers have a high reputation for their quality made cars, innovative technologies and trend-setting marketing and design.
To tell the truth, European cars list includes the safest, cleanest and the most noiseless brands in the world. They are the most ingenious as well. For instance, the European automakers reduced noise from passenger cars by 90% since 1970s and the fuel consumption by 15% for the last 10 years. When it comes to cars shapes and sizes, they satisfy even the most freakish demands.
Speaking about the concrete brands, Volkswagen Group was at the helm of the list as the leading car manufacturer as of 2013. Volkswagen chalked up another first as the best-selling car in Europe that year, and the Volkswagen Golf marque remained the favorite car among the Europeans for five successive years.
The French automakers PSA Group and Renault held the second and the third positions respectively as for vehicles production, and Ford and Opel were the best-sellers in EU after Volkswagen.
The Most Popular European Car Brands
Below you can find more information about the most popular European brands of all times:
Founded: 7 March 1916
Founder: Camillo Castiglioni; Franz Josef Popp; Karl Rapp
Headquarters: Munich, Germany
BMW is a German car manufacturer with headquarters in Munich, Bavaria, which also owns Mini and Rolls-Royce marques. It had a great start in 1916 as the producer of aircraft engines, but due to the Treaty of Versailles after World War I the company had to stop this activity. In 1923, they changed to motorcycle manufacture and continued with automobiles in 1928. BMW made their debut with Dixi 3/15 model which became the hit of the time. In 1933, they released BMW 303 which made the brand recognizable worldwide by the iconic kidney-shaped grill. What concerns the car round blue and white logo, it is widely considered that it resembles a spinning airplane propeller to honor the aircraft heritage. However, the emblem actually reflects the national colors of Bavaria.
BMW Group is one of the “German Big 3” luxury car brands together with Mercedes-Benz and Audi. It seems like their cars are ahead of time perfectly combining engine efficiency, lightweight construction and splendid design.
Founder: August Horch
Headquarters: Ingolstadt, Germany
Parent: Volkswagen Group
Audi AG is a very popular European carmaker headquartered in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, Germany. It is by 99.55% the subsidiary of Volkswagen Group since 1966. The parent company — Auto Union — was founded by August Horch in 1932 after the merger of four companies — Audi, Horch, DKW, and Wanderer. And actually the four interlinked rings of Audi’s logo represent these four brands.
Audi won great acclaim as a manufacturer of luxury cars, and together with Mercedes-Benz and BMW it ranks among the “German Big 3” luxury automakers. And not without reason Audi cars are preferred by government officials in many countries, especially in China. It is known that the company produces cars with 100% galvanized bodyshells to avert corrosion, and actually they were the first manufacturer to do that wholesale. Audi is also claimed to be the first to carry crash tests of their vehicles.
Founded: 28 May 1937
Founder: German Labour Front under Adolf Hitler
Headquarters: Wolfsburg, Germany
Parent: Volkswagen Group
Volkswagen is by far a legendary European car brand. Its history extends back to the 1930-s when only expensive luxury cars were produced and a rare German could afford it. But Adolf Hitler wanted his nation had greater access to cars and inspired the production of a vehicle capable to transport two adults and three children at 100 km/h and, the most important, being available for masses. That was how the first Volkswagen Beetle appeared in 1938, manufactured by outstanding Ferdinand Porsche. The same year saw the birth of a new car manufacturer with a sense-comprising name — Volkswagen, meaning “People’s car” in German. The brand is still faithful to tradition and offers quality but affordable cars up to date.
It’ll take ages to talk about certain Volkswagen marques: each of them is a story in its own. It must be noticed though that three marques of Volkswagen — Golf, Beetle and the Passat — make the worldwide list of top 10 best-selling cars of all time. And Volkswagen Beetle is reported to be longest produced car in the automotive history with the 65 years of manufacture. All in all, Volkswagen Group is currently the world’s largest car manufacturer in terms of vehicle production as well as the best-selling European brand.
Founded: 28 June 1926
Founder: Karl Benz; Gottlieb Daimler
Headquarters: Stuttgart, Germany
Parent: Daimler AG
Part of the “German Big” luxury car manufacturers, Mercedes-Benz perhaps is one of the most prestigious European car brands. And it is by far a milestone of all the automotive history as it was company’s pioneering founder Karl Benz who invented the first petrol-powered automobile in 1886. Mercedes-Benz itself appeared as Daimler-Benz company in 1926.
Mercedes-Benz offers fashionable design, driving pleasure and the latest technologies to their customers. But the major pride of the company is their attitude to human safety. Mercedes perhaps excelled all the other European carmakers at the question of safety. They were the first to introduce an airbag on the European market as well many other security systems. It mustn’t escape the attention that Mercedes-Benz is the only company in the world which allows other automakers to implement their safety developments in cars disregarding competitive advantages.
Founded: 13 September 1939
Founder: Enzo Ferrari
Headquarters: Amsterdam, Netherlands (de jure)
Owner: Exor N.V. (22.91%); Piero Ferrari (10.00%); Public (67.09%)
In any corner of the world Ferrari is associated with red color, speed and eye-catching luxury design. The history of the marque extends back to 1929 when Enzo Ferrari founded Scuderia Ferrari which was aimed to manufacture sports cars and prepare and sponsor amateur drivers. In 1947, he began to reluctantly produce road cars in order to provide funding for Team Ferrari. That was a year when car manufacturer Ferrari S.p.A was officially established.
Ferrari made its mark on history when it first appeared in Formula One race in 1950 and became the most successful F1 constructor and race-winner and the most recognizable European sports car brand since then. It’s worth saying that the company’s logo — a prancing horse — is a tribute to Italian national hero of the air force Francesco Baracca who painted a horse on his planes.
Apart from high-performance sports cars, Ferrari made its name as a prestigious road cars manufacturer introducing such models as California T, FF, LaFerrari, F12 Berlinetta and others.
Founded: 24 June 1910
Founder: Alexandre Darracq; Ugo Stella; Nicola Romeo
Headquarters: Turin, Piedmont, Italy
Parent: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
Owner: FCA Italy
Alfa Romeo is a famous European manufacturer of small luxury cars founded in 1910 in Milan, Italy. From the early years of existence, the company is a devoted motorsport participant and won international recognition with victories in Le Mans, Grand Prix and of course Formula One. Many motorsport admirers easily recognize Alfa Romeo’s symbol — a cloverleaf — on their racing cars.
Few people know, but along with stylish passenger cars Alfa Romeo produces trucks, light commercial vehicles, buses and even aircraft engines. It’s currently a subsidiary of the Fiat Group.
Founder: Lionel Martin; Robert Bamford
Headquarters: Gaydon, Warwickshire, England, United Kingdom
Aston Martin is a famous European luxury performance car manufacturer of the British origin. It was founded by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford in 1913. It’s notable, that the company got its current name after Lionel Martin made a successful run of his car at Aston Hill Climb.
Throughout all its history Aston Martin has always been passionate about motorsport. The brand showed great success in Formula One, Le Mans and other important competitions. To produce highly competitive eye-catching luxury sports cars became the company’s strong point. Though Aston Martin’s exquisite grand tourers remained no less popular. One of them — the renowned DB5 model — swept everybody off their feet filming in notorious James Bond sequel ‘Goldfinger’.
The brand saw several ownership changes. It was on the peak of success during Sir David Brown, as well as proved prominence while owned by Ford Motor Company.
Apart from listed above, there are many other reliable European cars: Bentley, Bugatti, Citroen, Daimler, Fiat, Lamborghini, Maserati, Maybach, Opel, Peugeot, Porsche, Renault, Rolls-Royce, Rover, Saab, Seat, Skoda, Volvo.