The Evolution of Automakers' Logos
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How Automaker Logos Have Evolved Over the Past Century

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How Automaker Logos Have Evolved Over the Past Century

Can you picture Ford’s blue oval, or Mercedes’ three-pointed star? These are some of the most recognizable logos in the world, thanks to a number of reasons.

For starters, automakers are some of the world’s biggest advertisers. In 2020, the automotive industry spent $33 billion on advertising in the U.S. alone.

Automakers also maintain a strong physical presence by placing their logo on every car they produce. This form of self-promotion is an automotive tradition, and because of it, car logos are designed to be eye-catching and memorable.

To learn more, we’ve illustrated the histories of six brands of interest.

Editor’s note: There are obviously many automotive brands with strong histories, but for this visualization we selected brands that we thought had the most interesting stories and graphical decisions behind their emblems. In the future, we may add more or create a follow-up post if readers express interest.

A Closer Look at Car Logos

Automakers often pack hidden meanings and details into their logos.

For example, Mazda’s current logo, introduced in 1997 and updated in 2015, depicts a pair of wings that represent the brand’s desire to “drive powerful, continuous growth.” The concept of flight is believed to embody the company’s pursuit of ongoing improvement. Of course, the wings also resemble a capital “M” for Mazda, similar to Honda’s “H” logo.

An interesting design choice of the Mazda lettering is that all of the letters except “D” are in lowercase. This was done because Mazda wanted to express precision, and a lower case “d” would have protruded above the upper line of the other letters.

Another logo with deeper meaning is Mercedes-Benz’s 3-pointed star, adopted in 1909. This symbol was based off a postcard that Paul and Adolf Daimler, sons of the company founder, got from their father in which the location of their home was marked by a 3-pointed star.

Today, the three points are believed to represent the strength of Mercedes’ engines across land, sea, and air.

Going Minimal

Over the past decade, many brands have taken their logos in a more minimalist direction. Many recently redesigned car logos are devoid of any 3D effects or color.

Audi is one of the most prominent examples of this trend. In 2016, it removed the chrome effect on its “four rings” and opted for a flat black version instead. This clean and modern emblem is better suited for digital media and appears more bold. Furthermore, the name “Audi” is no longer included at the bottom—a statement of the four rings’ strength.

BMW took a similar approach with its logo in 2020, stripping away the black outer ring and 3D effect. This minimalist and transparent logo is for “brand communication” only, meaning the logos on its cars will remain unchanged.

Finally, there’s Cadillac, which unveiled its own minimalist logo in 2021. This logo is being used to represent the brand’s full-electric future, and features a monochromatic version of the classic Cadillac Crest.

An Opportunity to Reinvent

The race for EV dominance has provided automakers with the chance to update or reinvent their brands. In addition to the companies mentioned previously, Volkswagen and General Motors (GM) have also rolled out recent updates.

Volkswagen & GM logo updates

You may have already noticed Volkswagen’s new branding, which was updated in 2019. On trend with the rest of the industry, the company now uses a 2D logo which offers “outstanding flexibility in digital media”.

More importantly, the company’s branding is intended to feel much more colorful and natural, symbolizing a fresh start from Volkswagen’s 2015 diesel-gate scandal.

Shortly after, GM revealed a new logo as part of a campaign to promote its future electric vehicles. Unlike its minimalist competitors, GM’s new logo features a gradient of light blues that evokes “the clean skies of a zero-emissions future”.

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Automotive

The Most Fuel Efficient Cars From 1975 to Today

This infographic lists the most fuel efficient cars over the past 46 years, including the current leader for 2023.

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The Most Fuel Efficient Cars From 1975 to Today

When shopping for a new car, what is the most important factor you look for? According to Statista, it’s not design, quality, or even safety—it’s fuel efficiency.

Because of this, automakers are always looking for clever ways to improve gas mileage in their cars. Beating the competition by even the slimmest of margins can give valuable bragging rights within a segment.

In this infographic, we’ve used data from the EPA’s 2022 Automotive Trends Report to list off the most fuel efficient cars from 1975 to today.

Editor’s note: This is from a U.S. government agency, so the data shown skews towards cars sold in North America.

Data Overview

All of the information in the above infographic is listed in the table below. Data was only available in 5-year increments up until 2005, after which it switches to annual.

Model YearMakeModelReal World Fuel Economy (mpg)Engine Type
1975HondaCivic28.3Gas
1980VWRabbit40.3Diesel
1985ChevroletSprint49.6Gas
1990GeoMetro53.4Gas
1995HondaCivic47.3Gas
2000HondaInsight57.4Hybrid
2005HondaInsight53.3Hybrid
2006HondaInsight53Hybrid
2007ToyotaPrius46.2Hybrid
2008ToyotaPrius46.2Hybrid
2009ToyotaPrius46.2Hybrid
2010HondaFCX60.2FCEV
2011BMWActive E100.6EV
2012Mitsubishii-MiEV109EV
2013ToyotaiQ EV117EV
2014BMWi3121.3EV
2015BMWi3121.3EV
2016BMWi3121.3EV
2017HyundaiIoniq Electric132.6EV
2018HyundaiIoniq Electric132.6EV
2019HyundaiIoniq Electric132.6EV
2020Tesla3138.6EV
2021Tesla3139.1EV

From this dataset, we can identify three distinct approaches to maximizing fuel efficiency.

Downsizing

Prior to 2000, the best way for automakers to achieve good fuel efficiency was by downsizing. Making cars smaller (lighter) meant they could also be fitted with very small engines.

For example, the 1985 Chevrolet Sprint was rated at 49.6 MPG, but had a sluggish 0-60 time of 15 seconds.

Hybrids

The 2000s saw the introduction of mass-market hybrid vehicles like the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius. By including a small battery to support the combustion engine, automakers could achieve good MPGs without sacrificing so heavily on size.

While the Insight achieved better fuel economy than the Prius, it was the latter that became synonymous with the term “hybrid”. This was largely due to the Prius’ more practical 4-door design.

The following table compares annual U.S. sales figures for both models. Insight sales have fluctuated drastically because Honda has produced the model in several short spans (1999-2006, 2009-2014, 2018-2022).

YearInsight SalesPrius Sales
2005666107,155
2006722106,971
20073181,221
2008-158,884
200920,572150,831
201020,962140,928
201115,549136,464
20126,619236,655
20134,802234,228
20143,965207,372
20151,458184,794
201667136,629
20173108,661
201812,51387,590
201923,68669,718
202015,93243,525
202118,68559,010
20227,62833,352

Source: goodcarbadcar.net

The Prius may have dominated the hybrid market for a long time, but it too has run into troubles. Sales have been declining since 2014, even setting historic lows in recent years.

There are several reasons behind this trend, with one being a wider availability of hybrid models from other brands. We also can’t ignore the release of the Tesla Model 3, which began shipping to customers in 2017.

Electric Vehicles

We’re currently in the middle of a historic transition to electric vehicles. However, because EVs do not use fuel, the EPA had to develop a new system called MPGe (miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent).

This new metric gives us the ability to compare the efficiency of EVs with traditional gas-powered cars. An underlying assumption of MPGe is that 33.7 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity is comparable to the energy content of a gallon of fuel.

The most fuel efficient car you can buy today is the 2023 Lucid Air, which achieves 140 MPGe. Close behind it is the 2023 Tesla Model 3 RWD, which is rated at 132 MPGe.

Check out this page to see the EPA’s top 10 most efficient vehicles for 2023.

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