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There’s been so much change in the automotive industry of late, it’s hard to know who’s who in the zoo.
Globalisation has seen more car companies change hands, re-brand or change names, and understanding who, or what entity, owns a car company is tricky.
Iconic Italian brands like Maserati, Alfa Romeo and Fiat are in bed with French marques like Peugeot and Citroen, all mixing with Dodge and Jeep from the US. And their headquarters is in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, because of course it is.
If you’ve ever wondered about the corporate origins of a particular brand, then read on.
Ah Bentley. That famous Briti…
Wait, that famous German brand?
Founded in 1919, Bentley has had a number of owners over the years, including fellow Brit (or are they?) Rolls-Royce, but VW snapped it up in 1998, along with iconic Italian supercar manufacturer, Lamborghini and French hypercar brand, Bugatti.
Rather than bundling Bentley production in with one of VW Group’s many facilities in Germany or other parts of Europe, all Bentley models are still exclusively built at its Crewe, UK plant.
Even the Bentayga SUV that shares its underpinnings with the Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne and more. VW reached an agreement with the British government to build it in the UK, rather than the Bratislava, Slovakia factory where the other related models hail from.
Jaguar Land Rover
Ford famously controlled the two brands under its Premier Automotive Group umbrella that was an initiative of then Ford global boss, Australian Jac Nasser.
But in 2008, Indian conglomerate Tata Group took ownership of Jaguar and Land Rover off Ford for £1.7 billion. Incidentally, it also bought the rights to three other dormant British brands – Daimler, Lanchester and Rover. More on the latter brand in a bit.
JLR builds vehicles in the UK and India, as well as parts of Europe. Australian models are mostly sourced from the UK, except the Jaguar I-Pace and E-Pace (Austria) and the Land Rover Discovery and Defender (Slovakia).
Another in a long list of formerly British-owned brands is MG. There’s a real theme emerging here…
After MG Rover collapsed in 2005 following BMW Group ownership, it was briefly acquired by Nanjing Automobile which was in turn bought by SAIC Motor, which owns the MG brand to this day.
What is SAIC Motor? It used to be called Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation and it is a wholly owned commission of the Shanghai state government.
MG’s headquarters and research and development centre is still in the UK but all production comes from China.
SAIC tried unsuccessfully to buy the rights to the Rover name in the early 2000s. Instead, it started another brand that sounds oddly familiar, called Roewe.
Would you believe there’s another British brand that’s now in the hands of another major global player?
In the 1990s Germany’s BMW Group acquired Mini by default when it bought the Rover Group, but realised the Mini brand would be a great way to introduce smaller, more affordable front-wheel drive cars to its catalogue of rear-drive models.
The original Mini hatch continued to be built until October 2000, but then the new modern Mini debuted in late 2000, following a concept at the 1997 Frankfurt international motor show.
It is still owned by BMW and the “new” Mini hatch is in its third generation.
Some say Rolls-Royce is the pinnacle of automotive luxury and even its executives say it doesn’t really have any automotive rivals. Instead, potential buyers consider something like a yacht as an alternative to a Rolls. Can you imagine?
Anyway, Rolls-Royce has been owned by German giant BMW Group since 1998, with the company acquiring naming rights and more from VW Group.
Like Bentley, Rolls only builds cars in England at its Goodwood facility.
We thought we would throw a non-British brand in here, just for some balance.
Iconic Swedish manufacturer Volvo has been operating since 1915 but the first Volvo model rolled off a production line in 1927.
Before that Volvo was part of Ford’s Premier Auto Group with Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin.
Volvo still has manufacturing facilities in Sweden, but it also builds a large portion of its models in China and the United States.