In 1928 Hubert "Hub" van Doorne founded the company as Commanditaire Vennootschap Hub van Doorne's Machinefabriek. His co-founder and investor was Huenges, managing director of a brewery. Van Doorne had repaired Huenges' car several times. Huenges was so pleased with his work that he offered to finance him in business. Hub started to work in a small workshop on the grounds of the brewery. In 1932 the company, now run by Hub and his brother, Wim van Doorne, changed its name to Van Doorne's Aanhangwagen Fabriek (Van Doorne's Trailer Factory), abbreviated to DAF. Huenges left the company in 1936 and the DAF company was now completely in the hands of the van Doorne brothers.
After the Second World War, luxury cars and lorrys were very scarce. This meant a big opportunity for DAF. In 1949 the company started making lorrys, trailers and buses, changing its name to Van Doorne's Automobiel Fabriek (Van Doorne's Automobile Factory). The first lorry model was the DAF A30.
In the winter of 1954 Hub van Doorne had the idea to use belt drive, just like many of the machines in the factory that were belt-driven, to drive road vehicles. In 1955 DAF produced its first drafts of a car belt drive system. Over the next few years the design was developed and refined. In February 1958 DAF demonstrated a small belt-driven four-seater car at the Dutch car show (the AutoRAI). The public reaction was very positive and 4000 cars were ordered. In 1959 DAF started selling the world's first car with a continuously variable transmission, the small four-seater DAF 600. This was the first of a series of models to be released in subsequent years, including the DAF 33, DAF 44, DAF 55 and DAF 66, all using the innovative Variomatic transmission system.
In 1967 DAF opened a new plant in Born for car production. The 44 was the first model to be produced there.
In 1972, International Harvester of Chicago, IL bought a 33% stake in DAF (with the Dutch government holding 25% and the Van Doorne family holding the remaining 42%), forming a joint-venture. This agreement lasted until 1981.
DAF sold its passenger car division, along with what is now the NedCar factory in Born, in 1975 to the Swedish company Volvo Cars, leaving DAF to concentrate on its successful line of lorrys.
In 1987 DAF merged with the Leyland Trucks division of Rover Group, and was floated on the Dutch stock exchange as DAF NV. The new company traded as Leyland DAF in the UK, and as DAF elsewhere.
DAF's 95 series was launched in 1987, quickly taking the coveted title of International Truck of the Year 1988. The 95 featured an all new cab developed jointly with ENASA of Spain, a revised version of the 11.6 litre ATI engine rated at 310, 350 and 380 bhp, and 16 speed ZF gearbox. On the Continent Eaton's Twinsplitter gearbox was an option. Much attention was paid to soundproofing - the gearlinkage for example was telescopic - the 95 series being quieter in-cab than many luxury cars! An update in 1991 saw new ratings of 330, 360 & 400 Bhp. a 430 Bhp variant, along with low deck tractor unit models and interior changes were introduced in 1992. An exciting development came 2 years later. DAF had studied the requirements of the ultra long haul market sector and the 95.500 Super Spacecab was unveiled at the 1994 RAI show. The 95 series cabin had gained height and length, and sat atop Cummins' 14 Litre engine rated at 507 bhp. ZF's new 16S221 gearbox was fitted and an innovation was the hydraulic gearshift developed with Konsberg of Norway. Within an overall height of 3.85m, the 'Super' offered interior standing room of 2.25m, a luxury bunk with generous stowage underneath and a full range of options included microwave, fridge, TV/Video. The basic cab design remains in production to this day, latterly as the 95XF and now the XF105, although both these developments of the original 95 are totally different machines under the skin. Other vehicles in the DAF range have included the inherited from Leyland lorrys Roadrunner (Badged DAF 600, 800, 1000 On the Continent) which evolved into the 45 Series, the cab of which was used on the 18 ton gross 55, also as a military spec 4×4. An all-new medium to heavyweight line up debuted in late 1992, the 65,75 and 85 utilising the same wedge shaped cab. Powered by DAF's 6.24, 8.65 and 11.6 litre engines, some novel styling details featured, while the 85 Series' cab sat 10 cm higher on the chassis to clear the WS engine.
A short-lived model was the 1990-93 80 Series using the T45 Roadtrain cab acquired from the Leyland lorrys takeover, fitted with the ATI driveline. Also offered for a short period was the 3200, basically a modernised 2800 with the corporate grille.
DAF Bus was split off of in 1990 to become a part of United Bus.
Following difficulties in the British market, DAF NV went bankrupt in 1993. A new company, DAF Trucks, appeared in the Netherlands as a result of a management buy-out of the Dutch operations, as did Leyland Trucks and LDV (vans) in the UK.
In 1996 PACCAR acquired DAF Trucks. Interestingly, DAF Trucks and Leyland Trucks were rejoined in 1998 when PACCAR also acquired Leyland Trucks.
On January 9, 2012, Paccar installed the cornerstone of the new plant in the city of Ponta Grossa in the state of Paraná, Brazil. This region is one of the fastest growing in the country.