Car emblems are one of those things that hold a firm place inside your brain, but you don’t know how they got there. It’s not like people sit down and commit them to memory, thinking “Today is the day I learn that Audi’s logo is four interlocking rings.” But if you were to ask someone what the Chevy emblem looks like, he could probably draw it without any assistance.
Part of it is the everpresent nature of car commercials. Any guy who watches multiple NFL games on Sundays (i.e. every guy) probably watches somewhere in the area of 100 car ads. Even if you’re in a crowded sports bar with no volume on the TV, that branding still seeps into your head. Then there’s the fact that you see the logos so often IRL. Whether it’s the one on the steering wheel of your own car, or the one on the back of the car in front of you in traffic that you are road raging against, your eyes look at A LOT of car logos.
After seeing them so often, it’s obvious that some car logos are better than others. Sure, the luxury sports car marques have some cool ones, but there are also some duds. Similarly, some of the more everyday auto manufacturers have badges that really stand out.
We rounded up all the car emblems that rise to the top and ranked them 1 through 10. Check it out and see if your favorite made the list.
Try to put aside the emissions scandal that Volkswagen is embroiled in right now and focus just on the logo. “Volkswagen” is a 10-letter word, in a foreign language no less. The beauty of the “VW” badge is its simplicity. The resulting three downward pointing arrows create an idea of forward motion, and as the Beastie Boys showed, they also make for a great necklace medallion.
It’s not surprising that a company that puts out under-the-radar cool cars (Miata, RX-7) also has a subtly great logo. It actually took me a while (I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed) to recognize that the wings on the logo also formed the middle of an “M.” The current logo came out in 1998 and the wings were seen as a symbol of Mazda’s flight into the future.
The stars in the Subaru logo represent Pleiades, a cluster of stars in the Taurus constellation. The reason for those particular stars is because Taurus is Subaru’s Japanese name. But the embelm also works because Subarus are the car of choice for most outdoor enthusiasts, who are the ones sleeping under said stars.
It certainly isn’t the most complicated logo, but that doesn’t make it any less iconic. The three-pointed Mercedes star is a nod to the company wanting to improve transportation easier in three areas (water, land, and air). Most people only focus on the land part and the logo can somtimes be confused for a peace sign, but the Benz emblem is still the ultimate statement of refined luxury.
When you see that Ram in your rearview mirror, it is downright intimidating. There’s no shame in pulling over into the right lane. In fact, legend has it that the name for Ram’s former parent company originated when the logo’s creator asked Walter P. Chrysler what a person’s reaction would be to seeing a ram in the wild and Chrysler’s response was “Dodge!” The emblem perfectly sums up the strength that Ram trucks are known for.
It comes as no surprise that there’s a cool story behind Ferrari’s prancing horse. A heroic Italian World War I fighter pilot painted the horse. The pilot’s mother told founder Enzo Ferrari that using the prancing horse would bring him good luck, so he did it. Ferrari added the canary yellow background because it was the color of Modena, the company’s hometown. The fact that a horse represents a company that makes cars with off-the-charts horsepower is also a nice touch.
Folks in the U.S. don’t see many Peugeots on the road, which is too bad because the French automaker’s logo is one of the best. The Peugeot lion has evolved over the years, at times it’s been a more realistic design, at times it’s been just the head. But the current iteration of a geometric lion reared up on its hind legs does an excellent job of feeling modern and classic at the same time.
3. ROLLS ROYCE
The proper name for the ornament atop a Rolls-Royce is the Spirit of Ecstasy, but she’s more commonly referred to as the Flying Lady. Few symbols better sum up the elegance of a luxury automobile. Perched above the iconic “Double R” logo, the ornaments on modern Rolls’s can recede into the car at the push of a button.
Maserati was founded by three brothers in Bologna, Italy, so a three-pointed trident makes a lot of sense for the company. But it was actually a fourth Maserati brother, Mario, who created the logo, drawing inspiration from a statue of the Roman god Neptune that stood in Bologna. Regardless, the trident is a powerful and unique symbol for a powerful and unique automaker.
Look, a jaguar is a cool animal. There is no arguing that. But there are any number of ways to screw up a logo with the big cat (case in point: the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars). The lines on Jaguar’s jaguar convey both elegance and speed, class and ferocity. It’s the type of design that elicits a definite emotion and makes would-be car buyers want to pounce.