In the past 100 years or so of the car industry, automotive brands have become a significant part of our lives. Even if you’re not a car person, you’re sure to easily recognise most of the popular makes and models at least.

That said, there are still some major car companies that are totally unknown to most people, even knowledgeable enthusiasts. We’re not talking about obscure exotic boutique brands either, but companies that sell thousands or even hundreds of thousands of cars each year, including in Europe or America. Lets get right into the video.

Great Wall Motors – China

With an annual production of over a million vehicles, Great Wall Motors is one of China`s top domestic companies. Since China is the world`s biggest car market, which is continually expanding, we’re sure that Great Wall Motors will only grow larger and eventually become a globally recognized name. The company was established in 1985 and today produces a wide range of different models, from urban minis all the way to large SUVs.

Rather like many Chinese companies, Great Wall is continuously under criticism (and few lawsuits) for copying popular designs and shapes. That said, Great Wall is seeing “great” success, exporting its cars across the globe to continents like South America, Asia, and even Europe. In the UK, its cars are not available for purchase, however its commercial pickup range has been popular thanks to their no nonsense design and low prices, something fleet buyers love of course!

Daimler – UK

If you live in the UK or mainland Europe, you’ve probably seen various Jaguar sedans with a slightly different grille or a stylized “D” replacing the Jaguar logo. Eagle-eyed enthusiasts might notice a few more details which underlined the fact that this was not a regular XJ but in fact a Daimler Super V8.

Daimler was a British company established in 1896, which was famous for the production of luxury cars, planes, specialty vehicles, and even military equipment. It was fairly active until the `60s when Jaguar bought it and used the brand to produce even more upscale models than regular Jaguar products. In recent years it has been inactive, but for a long time it was the symbol of elegance and prestige, for people in which a Jaguar wasn’t classy enough, the Royal Family for instance!

Proton – Malaysia

Here is one some of you may know, especially if you live in the UK and have a keen eye. Proton is a Malaysian Car Company which could be considered semi-successful, at least on the European market. Proton Motors first started exporting to the EU in the late `80s and early `90s competing with the likes of Kia and Hyundai. Due to aggressive marketing and their exciting flagship vehicle, the Satria GTI, which was produced with the help of Lotus, Proton managed to sell over 140,000 cars in the UK alone until 1997.

In fact, in 1992, 1 in 5 cars sold in the UK was a Proton and they were outselling their primary competitors from Hyundai and SEAT big time. A 1999 survey suggested that Proton was the even the third most reliable car brand in Britain! Unfortunately, due to the changing global economic climate and increasing competition, Protons sales have diminished in western markets, but they are still a roaring success across the globe.

Perodua – Malaysia

Even if you’ve heard of Proton or perhaps owned one, you’re pretty unlikely to have heard of its fellow Malaysian brand, the Perodua Car Company. Established in 1991, Peroduas main focus is on building economy cars and small vans which are designed in partnership with other Asian brands.

That is why many Perodua cars look like other models from Suzuki, Mitsubishi, Daihatsu, and Hyundai, but they’re not exact clones. Peroduas main selling points are that their vehicles are inexpensive and back to basics, certainly not luxury vehicles! As you might expect, Perodua cars are mostly sold in Asia and in right-hand-drive configurations, although this meant that there were a small number exported to the United Kingdom. Every now and then, you might see a little old lady driving one to the shops, whos probably never heard of the brand either! That said, even though this brand is pretty obscure, their annual production of almost a quarter of million cars is not to be sniffed at!

Mitsuoka – Japan

Most Japanese brands are well known across the globe, but Japans domestic markets still hide some real automotive gems, such as Mitsuoka. Mitsuoka is dedicated to building unique cars based on the running gear of regular production models from brands such as Honda, Toyota, and Nissan. The idea behind Mitsuoka is to bring to market totally unique vehicle designs but retain the everyday usability, low running costs, and easy maintenance that we’ve come to expect from Japanese cars.

The companies first forays into the automotive world were in the early `90s, when it unveiled its lineup of retro-inspired cars that looked sort of like scaled down versions of the Jaguar mark 2. Perhaps one of their most famous cars was the Orochi, which was based on the Honda NSX. Other vehicles they’ve done are the Mitsuoka Viewt, based on the Nissan Micra and the very posh looking Mitsuoka Galue, based on the Nissan Crew, strangely with the RB20E engine from the Skyline R33. Whilst they may seem strange in the western world, Mitsuoka was one of the first companies ever to fully explore retro-themed design languages, something that was later copied by brands like Dahatsu with its Copen or perhaps even modern MINIs!

SsangYong Motors – Korea

Once regarded as part of the Korean rise to automotive power, SsangYong kinda disappeared from global car scene in the `2000s, only recently returning to the European market. The company was established in 1959 and were mainly focused on building off-road and commercial vehicles. It looked like SsangYong was in the right place and at the right time when in 1991 it started a partnership with Mercedes and entered the emerging SUV market with the Musso and Korando.

These two models sold relatively well and gave the company the confidence to invest in other projects, however, the next few models like the Actyon, Rexton, Rodius, and Kyron, were pretty “unusual” shall we say? The cars were affordable and decently put together, mostly using old but tested Merc parts, but didn’t sell especially well in European markets. That said, expect to see a lot more from this brand soon. In the UK at least, they are opening up dealerships rapidly and their Musso pickup and latest Korando SUV are selling like hot cakes!

So, there you are. Have you heard of these brands? Are there any other brands that I probably wont have heard of? Let me know in the comments.