Sunday, May 1, 2016

The companies behind the curtains


In the automotive field, there is a great deal of misdirection going on.  First, there are the parent companies; the company that owns several different brand names and keeps them all under one umbrella.  Then there are brother and sister companies, two different companies that produce the same vehicles under different names, but are still owned by the same parent company.  There are companies that have a stake in other companies, there are mergers, and there are collaborations that take place on a random basis.  To say it’s confusing is an understatement!

When you’re buying a new car from companies like Deals in the D, don’t you want to know a lot about it?  We want to know what kind of warranty is backing the vehicle, what we can expect from the brand, and how well that particular model has done in reviews, studies, and safety testing.  However, when we don’t know the lineage of the cars we’re driving, how can we ever possibly know enough to make us feel comfortable driving them?  There are many car companies with their hands in many different brands, so wouldn’t it be nice to know who actually made your car and who is backing it?

Toyota, the auto giant that produces one of the top selling sedans in the United States, is a Japanese brand that got their start in 1937.  What started as an effort to make quality automobiles has snowballed into a mega-corporation that is the parent company of four additional brand names, and holds a stake in several others.  Toyota is not only, the manufacturing company behind the high-end luxury vehicle company, Lexus, but also is the company responsible for the moderately priced brand name, Scion.  While they also hold a small stake in revolutionary car company, Tesla, it looks as though Toyota has nowhere to go, but up.

General Motors is the perfect example of a parent company, as they’re primary owners of four different automotive companies; Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC.  When the financial crisis of the early millennium took hold of General Motors, they faced some difficulties.  However, they were able to disband, and the new company General Motors Company, LLC was able to form to purchase all of the shares and keep the old name.  GMC and Chevrolet produce many models of the same vehicles, sold under each of the respective names, and they’ve stacked up well against their competitors.  There are also several European companies in which GM has a stake.

Many of the holdings are well known, such as Ford owning Lincoln and Honda owning Acura, but in shocking news Volkswagen is the owner of five major luxury brands.  While Volkswagen is a German company that specializes in producing affordable and approachable vehicles, their holdings are representative of their high-end goals.  As the owners of Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, and Porsche, Volkswagen has created an almost unstoppable empire founded on luxury.  These days, saying you’re a VW fan, could mean much more than it used to!

While VW’s ownership of several luxury manufacturers may come as a bit of a surprise, nothing is bigger than the sleeper Fiat acquiring a fleet of its own.  With a spotty history in the United States, Fiat hadn’t produced a vehicle in the country since 1983, despite having done major business in Europe for over one hundred years.  However, 2009 saw a resurgence of these vehicles here in the states, perhaps due to the major stake purchase in Chrysler.  In addition to being the owner of Chrysler, Fiat also owns Jeep, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Dodge, Lancia, Maserati, and Ram.  For a company that didn’t do well in the U.S. in the eighties, they’re sure doing alright now.

As of right now, Mitsubishi is the only independently owned vehicle manufacturer, with Mazda pulling up a quick second because Ford only owns a very small portion of their company.  Who knew that the classic Jeep vehicle could technically be considered a Fiat, or that Swedish born Volvo is actually owned by a Chinese company?  Much like the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz, there certainly seems to be a man behind the curtain of some of the world’s most powerful vehicle brands.

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