BMW April 2022

If you’d l like to know more about the origins of Car Acronyms … read on. If you’ve ever wondered as you drive behind another car on your daily grind to work what those letters on the bootlid actually stand for – or maybe signify – allow me to enlighten you just a little.

On South African roads the car in front of you could well be a Toyota, Ford or perhaps a Mazda, but should it be a BMW those initials stand for Bayerische Motoren Werk (Bavarian Motor Works). It might surprise you to know that this German marque started out manufacturing aircraft engines long before building cars or motorcycles. Interestingly, that well known badge of theirs reveals alternating blue and white quarters, suggesting a spinning propeller turning in the sky … 

I’ll wager there are still quite a few beautifully built SAAB’s to be seen on SA roads to this day – that particular acronym stands for Svenska Aeroplan AB – or Swedish Aircraft Ltd – a Swedish aircraft company that first turned their hand to manufacture cars quite later in life, 1947 to be exact.

Maybe that brightly coloured SEAT sedan you see from time to time nipping through the traffic jam ahead confuses you as to what it is. That nameplate stood for Sociedad Española de Automoviles de Turismos, a Spanish car manufacturer found these days under the VW umbrella of companies.

Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobil is of course the celebrated and world-renowned Alfa Romeo brand (Lombardy Car Manufacturing Company); while the FIAT nameplate simply translates as Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino (Automobile Factory of Turin).

Not forgetting our two-wheeler readers, a BSA-branded motorcycle stands for British Small Arms, while here in France MBKs are plentiful and as such are simply French-built Yamahas. When Yamaha bought out Mobécane in 2004, it adopted the plant’s three-letter telex suffix as its main French brand.


By Dave Fall