In the business world, there are no guidance counselors, and no moms incessantly nagging for a company to figure out what it wants to do for a living. While some of the world largest and most celebrated car manufacturers laid their very foundation on the automobile, quite a few were around for ages before ever making a single car. Here are five examples; you've no doubt heard of one or two of them...
Long before it ever produced a vehicle, Toyota -- known in those days as Toyoda -- made some of the world's finest automated looms. Seriously, like, sewing looms. The company began in 1926 as Toyoda Automatic Loom Works, Ltd. That distinctive front-styling feature you see on every Lexus? That's a nod to the looms.
Fun fact: Fellow automaker Suzuki was founded specifically to build Toyoda looms.
Founded in 1870, Mitsubishi was originally a shipping company, and in the decades that followed it continuously expanded into areas like coal mining, banking, and paper. Even today, the automotive sector is just one part of a much wider corporation that ranges from oil and gas, to insurance, to satellite-launching rockets.
McLaren is sort of an odd duck here. Its race cars have been winning for decades, so it's entirely understandable for someone that's unaware of the brand's history to think it's been making road cars for just as long. Founded in 1963 by Bruce McLaren, the company existed for the singular purpose of racing. Some of the greatest race cars in history ensued, but the company didn't produce its first road car until the 1990s. Then it went on hiatus for a few years again.
Ferruccio Lamborghini was a mechanically inclined guy, and after WWII, he built his own tractors largely out of miscellaneous spare parts. Lamborghini Trattori is still in business, though no longer related to the car company. As an Italian man of means, he enjoyed fast cars, and owned a Ferrari 250 GTO. Once he realized that the 250's clutch was the same unit he used in his tractors, he asked Enzo for a few spares, and... let's just say in the wake of the feud, the first Lamborghini as you know it was born.
Sir William Lyons founded the Swallow Sidecar Company in 1922, as a manufacturer of, well, motorcycle sidecars. The company expanded its efforts to cars, becoming SS Cars Limited in the 1930s. As for the name change? In the context of World War II, the letters "SS" had a decidedly evil connotation, so the name officially changed to Jaguar on March 23rd, 1945.