How amazed would you be to discover that only six powerful families manufacture a huge percentage of all the millions of cars in the world today?
Most of the automobiles companies behind our favorite cars have been around for 100 years or more, and are still standing powerfully. Of course while all of these are modern corporations with shareholders, a few are basically family businesses, and have been for decades.
One norm that has kept these family automobile companies in their present state is being able to withstand the forces of modern capitalism to maintain control of the company. From time to time, however there may arise the need to take on partners, mostly for reasons of finance and expansion. The terms of these capital investments usually threaten to wrest control from the original owners and founders.
In the US and UK, it is not always easy for automobile companies in need of funds to raise it via the stock markets without sacrificing ownership. Take the case of Jaguar for an example. Its creator William Lyons had no other option than to enter into a partnership with Tata Motors, an Indian international automotive company, when the stock market hesitated to give him funding on terms that would allow him to keep control of his company. The result is that Tata now owns Jaguar.
However, some founding families have persevered. Here are some of the most influential dynasties still calling the shots in the automotive industry:
1. Toyoda family - Toyota Motor Corporation
This Japanese company is presently regarded as the world’s sixth largest company according to its revenue. Since 2009 to present, it is headed by Akio Toyoda, who is the grandson of Kiichiro Toyoda who founded this company on August 28, 1937. Though the company has had three non-family members as president in the past, Akio Toyoda later took over as he provided the company with fresh ideas when the company was in crises after its expansion. Just two percent of the shares are owned by the Toyoda family but many families who are shareholders in the company look at it as a privilege having the company bear the revered family name.
We wouldn't have the Toyota Camry today without founder Kiichiro Toyoda
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2. Quandt family - BMW
Bayerische Motoren Werke AG is a German automobile company that has been around since 1916. BMW is proudly owned by the Quandt family, who own 50 percent of the stock, divided between direct descendants Stefan Quandt and Susanne Klatten. The two are children of founder Herbert Quandt.
The remaining 50 percent of shares are in the hands of shareholders. Stefan Quandt is estimated to have a net worth of $16 billion and his sister Susanne Klatten is worth $18.5 billion. In 1959, Herbert Quandt was persuaded by a shareholders protest not to sell the company.
Herbert Quandt founded BMW but almost sold the company in 1959
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3. Agnelli family - Fiat
This Italian company, full name Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, is owned by the Agnelli family since 11 July 1899. From 1906 founder Giovanni was in charge, then grandson Gianni held court for 60 years till his demise in 2003, and after that Gianni’s grandson John Elkann. Following a crisis, non-family member Sergio Marchionne ran the company, and spearheaded the brilliant Chrysler buy. John Elkann and the Agnelli own a controlling 31 percent today of a proud global brand.
Giovanni Agnelli's family still control 31% of Fiat
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4. The Fords - Ford Motor Co
Having been established since June 16, 1903, the case of American international company, Ford Motors is somewhat different in comparison with similar corporations. It was more of what we may call a case of in-fighting between Henry and his son Edsel. Edsel unfortunately died before his father. Henry Ford, then an old man, was pressured by one Harry Bennett to leave the company to the latter. Bennett was employed by Ford after union troubles, and was a ‘renowned corporate thug.’ Finally through family influences (Edsel’s mother Clara Ford and his widow Eleanor Clay Ford) the company passed to Henry Ford II, Edsel’s son.
The founding family, the Fords, runs a dual-class share system with the shareholders. There are regular complaints and pressures from shareholders to modify the Class B shares the founding Ford family holds. Though the family owns just 2% of stock at present, it votes a massive controlling 40% on the board to retain control.
Henry Ford almost left Ford motors to a stranger, now the family controls 40% of votes
5. Piech-Porsche families - Volkswagen
This German automotive company ownership is the case of two battling families: The Piechs and the Porsches. Ferdinand Porsche, who was an engineer that designed the original Volkswagen in 1931 also became a co-founder. He and the Piechs merged when Ferdinand’s daughter Louise married Anton Piech. Of their four children, Ferdinand Piech would become VW Chairman. Over the years, there has been a succession struggle between the two families. At present, matters appear mollified between them while Wolfgang Porsche remains CEO. The Piech-Porsche family holds 52 percent voting power with just 19% of the stock. Of course, it is public knowledge that Volkswagen also is the parent company of Porsche AG as well as other auto brands.
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Ferdinand Porsche is auto-legendary and his heirs still manage the company he co-founded, Volkswagen
6. Bosch family - Bosch
German company Bosch started as an automotive engineering support company before delving into auto manufacturing. Created by Robert Bosch in Stuttgart in 1886 it has been in existence for more than 70 years. Robert had strong ideas about humanitarian work and a large part of the company’s profit still is committed to charity. The Robert Bosch foundation controls 92 percent of the while the remaining stock belongs to his heirs.
Robert Bosch is inspecting the work with his company staff
FYI: Bosch has just released its autonomous car
In the hands of these capable heirs, the world's automotive industry seems in good hands for another 100 years.