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The Deceiving Nature of Brands Part 2: Two Car Companies With Over 20 Commonly Known Brands

Two Car Companies With Over 20 Commonly Known Brands

This is the second article of The Deceiving Nature of Brands series, the first one being about how few food/ snack companies dominate the isles of their industry. This article is again to highlight how many thought of brands/companies, are owned by few companies. This will be the least comprehensive article, as is it is only about 2 companies and not a monopoly.

Volkswagen Group

The Volkswagen Group is a German automobile giant that has its roots in the Nazi era, going back to 1937 when "Ferdinand Porsche is commissioned by the Reich Association of the German Automotive Industry to develop a “Volkswagen”, a “people’s car"". With World War II breaking out, the then Volkswagenwerk GmbH, becomes part of the Nazi armaments industry, becoming mainly foreign forced labourers, tasked with producing military vehicles and other armaments, rather than civilians creating cars. Volkswagen's website describes the depth of this forced labour force."11,334 persons from various countries of origin formed the majority of the total workforce of 17,365 on 30 April 1944. During the Second World War, some 20,000 people are deployed as forced labourers at the then Volkswagenwerk GmbH. Among them are also around 5,000 concentration camp prisoners." The secret police of the Nazi regime, the Gestapo also had "a far-reaching influence on the company. The company’s own plant security is the most important tool for surveillance and meting out punishment." To learn more about its historical past, please click the above link.

Although Volkswagens Nazi links are very interesting, it is not the main focus of this article. What stands out to me about the company's current form, is unlike other massive car manufacturers like Toyota and Ford, Volkswagen has a lot of brands and huge names. Volkswagen's Premium models include Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley, Porsche (Sport Model) and Ducati. In addition to that, they own Volume models such as Seat, Skoda, Cupra and of course Volkswagen. With Volkswagen you get models like Polo, Golf, Bora, Santana and more. Although still owned by Volkswagen, Audi AG manages the premium brands of the Volkswagen Group, Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley and Ducati, but Volkswagen is still the overall parent company of all these companies. Considering the subsidiaries and brands Volkswagen Group has under its belt, it is no surprise they made $250,200 Billion in sales revenue in 2021 and a net income of $15,428 Billion (Page 221).

Stellantis is the 2019-2021 merger of the American company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and the French company Peugeot S.A. (PSA). With the combined brands between them you get a swath of commonly known brands like, Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Citroën, Dodge DS, Fiat, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, Mopar, Opel, Peugeot, Ram, Vauxhall and more. The giant fell short of Volkswagens earnings but still achieved a more than respectable net revenue of $152,119 Billion and a net income of $14,344 Billion (Page 12). The company operates in over 30 countries and 130 markets.

Between just 2 automobile companies, they share over 20 brands and most streets around Europe and beyond, would contain at least 1 of these cars, or maybe more. It differs from my previous article where few companies have their market consolidated with most of the brands between them, as there are many car companies who just manufacture one car. If you went up to a stranger on the street and named all these brands and then said they are owned by 2 companies, they would be shocked. Volkswagen is a good example of how it's easy to get lost in branding perceptions, it's a pretty basic car brand, nothing flashy or too out there, which then leads you to attach those same feelings to the company as a whole. Of all its brands, it's a lot more down to earth, so if you said Bentley or one of the more prestige brands own a lot of companies', people may still be shocked but less surprised. Of course, its name came from its origins, it was not designed to be deceiving, but naturally it is, as we box certain associations and perceptions together, creating our own perceived image. Much like you might just see the Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo as Coke and Pepsi, however, in reality it is so much more. It is, however, still a peculiar thought to picture a Lamborghini, Bentley, Audi, Porsche and a Volkswagen, all sitting at a traffic light and to think they are all owned by Volkswagen. Again, this article was not about anything sinister, or monopolistic, just a thought-provoking exercise about brands. Of all the topics, cars is probably different to just buying up companies for the sake of market consolidation. Nevertheless, it is quite interesting how only 2 companies have so many mainline brands between themselves. The 2 automobile companies have enough cars to race in a Formula 1 race and more (20 cars)


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