As Tesla Inc. co-founder Elon Musk would be happy to tell you, building a successful car company from scratch is one of the most challenging and complicated entrepreneurial endeavors — and despite its success, the electric car company is still bleeding massive amounts of cash.
If Tesla succeeds in becoming a profitable mass producer of cars, it will stand out among a graveyard of failed ventures — brands that were successful for years in some cases but eventually disappeared.
Nearly every aspect of the business is a complicated, expensive task. A common industry estimate is that it costs about $1 billion to develop a new vehicle and up to $6 billion if all parts of the vehicle – the platform, the engine, the transmission, the body style – are also brand new. And that assumes a company already has a factory, which itself can cost at least $1 billion to construct from scratch. Even then, the most well-made and stylish vehicle is not guaranteed a commercial success.
With so many factors at play, starting a car company today without any support from an existing major auto industry player is almost impossible. Yet, this is exactly what many tinkerers did over a century ago when all it took to build and sell a car was a blacksmith shop and a modest amount of seed capital.
Those days are gone, and with them most of the car manufacturers that kicked off the automotive revolution of the early 1900s. The following is a list of famous auto brands that have been lost to history. Many of these brands were manufacturers which used their own nameplate on cars, and others were popular brands that were eventually phased out when Americans no longer wanted to buy them.
24/7 Wall St. researched the history of well-known but defunct U.S. automobile brands to identify the years they were active. We reviewed manufacturing figures and past media reports to identify popular models these companies produced. In some cases, the automakers were founded as standalone companies but later spent years as divisions of the Big Three automakers, General Motors, Ford Motor, and FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles). The years active figures are meant to represent the years cars were produced with the brand name, and not necessarily when the company started or went bankrupt.