Ever Notice The Real Constellation in Your Subaru Logo?

Subaru is one of the world’s leading outdoors brands. So it may not surprise you that the cluster of stars on your Subaru’s logo actually represents one of the night sky’s most recognizable constellations: the Pleiades. What might surprise you is that the automaker went all-in on its Pleiades symbolism and “Subaru” is actually the Japanese name for this constellation. But the word has a double meaning as well.

What is the Subaru logo called?

The Subaru logo is a cluster of stars on a dark blue background. It represents the Pleiades, also called the “Seven Sisters.” But in Japan, this constellation is named Subaru.

Closeup photo of the Subaru logo with its Pleiades Seven Sisters constellation.
Subaru logo | Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Back in 1953, five major Japanese companies merged to form Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (FHI). The conglomerate included a coachbuilder, an engine manufacturer, and even a popular scooter company. The new company brass decided to add an automaker, and so it founded Subaru.

Using the word Subaru was clever branding because it has two meanings in Japanese. Its literal translation is “unity.” It’s a spot-on name for the product of a high-profile merger. Subaru is also the Japanese name for the Pleiades constellation.

Two of the Pleiades’ “Seven Sisters” stars are so close that they look like one bright star to the naked eye. So FHI adopted a Subaru logo with one bright star and five smaller stars: the perfect symbol for the merger between its five companies.

Why does Subaru use the Pleiades?

Originally, the Pleiades constellation in the Subaru logo was used to represent the unification of five small companies into Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI). The logo’s so recognizable FHI changed its name to Subaru and adopted the stars across its portfolio.

Promo photo of a Subaru car parked in a field beneath a bright night sky full of stars.
Subaru at night | Subaru

A good car logo must also be memorable. The Pleiades is one of the most recognizable constellations in the night sky. It is part of the Taurus sign in the zodiac. Because the sun blocks Taurus during the springtime, Taurus and the Pleiades are most visible to North Americans during the fall.

The Pleiades is actually so recognizable that it may have been among the first constellations ever depicted by humankind. Archaeologists estimate that the famous cave paintings in Lascoux, France are over 15,000 years old. In a 1997 paper, astronomer Michael A. Rappenglück proposed that a cluster of stars painted next to a running bull depicted Pleiades–next to Taurus.

What does Pleiades mean?

Pleiades is the Ancient Greek name for the “Seven Sisters” constellation. It literally translates to “daughters of Pleione.”

Telescope photo of the Pleiades logo depicted in Subaru's grille badge logo.
Pleiades constellation | Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In Greek mythology, the Pleiades sisters were seven nymphs who were the daughters of Atlas. While their dad had to hold up the world, the hunter Orion took the opportunity to pursue the seven nymphs. Zeus’ brilliant solution to their pleas for help was to transform them into stars and toss them into the night sky.

Plein also means “to sail” in Ancient Greek. So linguists suspect that the Pleiades got its name because its arrival marked the beginning of the safe sailing season on the Mediterranean.

Next, learn about the forgotten Subaru named after Bruce Willis or see CNBC dive into the future of Subaru in the video below:

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