Tatra is a Czech vehicle manufacturer in Kopřivnice. It is owned by the Tatra Trucks company, based in Ostrava, and is the third oldest company in the world producing cars with an unbroken history. The company was founded in 1850 as Ignatz Schustala & Comp., in 1890 renamed Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau-Fabriksgesellschaft when it became a wagon and carriage manufacturer. In 1897, Tatra produced the first motor car in central Europe, the Präsident automobile. In 1918, it changed its name to Kopřivnická vozovka a.s., and in 1919 changed from the Nesselsdorfer marque to the Tatra badge, named after the nearby Tatra Mountains on the Czechoslovak-Polish border (now on the Polish-Slovak border).
During World War II Tatra was instrumental in the production of trucks and tank engines for the German war effort. Production of passenger cars ceased in 1999, but the company still produces a range of primarily all-wheel-drive trucks, from 4×4 to 18x18. The brand is also known as a result of Czech truck racer Karel Loprais: in 1988–2001 he won the off-road race Dakar Rally six times with a Tatra 815.
Ignaz Schustala (1822–1891), founder of the company "Ignatz Schustala & Comp" in Kopřivnice, Moravia, started the production of horse-drawn vehicles in 1850. In 1891 it branched out into railroad car manufacture, naming the company "Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau-Fabriksgesellschaft", and employed Hugo Fischer von Röslerstamm as technical director in 1890. After the death of Schustala, von Röslerstamm took over running the company and in 1897 he bought a Benz automobile. Using this for inspiration, the company made its first car, the Präsident, under the direction of engineers Hans Ledwinka and Edmund Rumpler, which was exhibited in 1897 in Vienna. Orders were obtained for more cars, and until 1900, nine improved cars based on Präsident were made.
The first car to be totally designed by Ledwinka came in 1900 with the Type A with rear-mounted 2714 cc engine and top speed of 40 kilometres per hour (25 mph), 22 units were built. This was followed by the Type B with central engine in 1902 but then Ledwinka left the company to concentrate on steam engine development. He returned in 1905 and designed a completely new car, the Type S with 3308 cc 4-cylinder engine. Production was badly hit in 1912 with a 23-week strike and Hugo Fischer von Röslerstamm left the company.
In 1921 the company was renamed to "Kopřivnická vozovka", and in 1919 the name Tatra was given to the car range. Leopold Pasching took over control and in 1921 Hans Ledwinka returned again to develop the revolutionary Tatra 11. The new car, launched in 1923 featured a rigid backbone tube with swinging semi-axles at the rear giving independent suspension. The engine, front-mounted, was an air-cooled two-cylinder unit of 1056 cc. In 1924 the company was renamed to "Závody Tatra".
The Tatra 11 was replaced in 1926 by the similar Tatra 12 which had four-wheel brakes. A further development was the 1926 Tatra 17 with a 1,930 cc water-cooled six-cylinder engine and fully independent suspension. In 1927 the company was renamed "Ringhoffer-Tatra".