Introduced in 1886, Karl Benz’s Patent Motorwagen is universally accepted as being the world’s very first purpose-built automobile.
Daimler introduced its first car in 1889 and although both names exist as the motor manufacturer Daimler-Benz – builders of Mercedes-Benz automobiles since 1926 – as a marque, neither qualifies in this listing of the auto world’s oldest surviving brand names.
Peugeot is a family business, founded in 1810, making coffee mills before expanding into bicycles and steam-driven tricycles. Its first petrol-powered car appeared in 1890. Today, the French company forms a part of Groupe PSA, which consists of Peugeot, Citroën and DS Automobiles.
Czech company Tatra’s origins go back to 1850. The company built the first motor car in central Europe in 1897 and the name Tatra stemmed from the Tatra Mountains on what was then the Polish-Czechoslovak border. Tatra cars are no longer produced, but truck manufacture continues.
Renault began in 1899 and ever since, has remained a leading manufacturer in many aspects of the auto world. Post-war, the French company was involved in a number of alliances with other manufacturers, but its current link with Nissan has brought prosperous stabilisation.
Adam Opel made sewing machines and bicycles before producing his first car in 1899. General Motors took a majority stake in Opel in 1929 and assumed full control in 1931. Adam Opel AG is the parent company of GM UK Ltd (Vauxhall) and various other GM subsidiaries.
The first Fiat car appeared in 1899 and the company grew into Italy’s largest motor manufacturer. After numerous alliances, in recent times Fiat Automobiles SpA (which includes Alfa Romeo and Lancia) became a part of Fiat Italy SpA, itself a subsidiary of FCA – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Cadillac is the oldest surviving US brand (Buick started earlier, but is no longer in production). Cadillac was founded in 1902 from what remained of the Henry Ford Co (formerly the Detroit Automobile Co) and established itself as a producer of luxury vehicles. It became part of GM in 1909.
When ol’ Henry left the short-lived (less than a year old) Henry Ford Co with the rights to his name, he quickly established a new company in June 1903 that today is the second-largest US automaker, behind GM, and fifth in the world. Henry pioneered the automotive production line in 1913.
Vauxhall began manufacturing cars in 1903 and was bought by GM in 1925. From 1980, its products were badge-engineered Opels and the sales market was restricted to the UK, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. It now operates as an affiliate company of Adam Opel AG.
One of the most famous and distinguished brands in auto history, the first Rolls-Royce appeared in December 1904. The company bought Bentley in 1931 and the partnership set an enviable benchmark for luxury and prestige. In 1998, Rolls-Royce became part of the BMW Group, while Bentley was sold off to VW.
Lancia started in November 1906 and soon held a reputation for good workmanship and high performance, especially for its Stratos and Delta models, which brought in 11 World Rally Championship crowns. Lancia became part of the Fiat Group in 1969, and is now restricted to the Italian market. Its only remaining model is the Ypsilon.