The lawsuits, filed on Wednesday, said that greenhouse gases produced by their vehicles have caused billions of dollars of environmental damage.
The lawsuit is the first of its kind to seek to hold manufacturers liable for the damages caused by their vehicles' emissions, Bill Lockyer, the state attorney general, said.
The move comes less than a month after California adopted the nation's first global warming law which mandates a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Car manufacturers have also held up California state rules to force cuts in exhaust emissions from cars and trucks by embarking on legal action of their own.
Environmentalists have praised California's decision to issue the lawsuit.
"[California] just passed a new law to cut global warming emissions by 25 per cent and that's a good start and this lawsuit is a good next step," said Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club's global warming program.
Wednesday's lawsuit names General Motors, Ford Motor, Toyota Motor, the Chrysler Motors; US arm of Germany's DaimlerChrysler,the North American units of Japan's Honda and Nissan Motor.
Lockyer said that he would seek tens or hundreds of millions of dollars from the automakers in the lawsuit filed in the US District Court in, Sacramento, northern California.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for past and ongoing contributions to global warming and asks that the companies be held liable for future damages to California.
It also highlighted that California is spending millions to deal with the consequences of global warming such as reduced snowfall, beach erosion, ozone pollution and the impact on endangered animals and fish.
Los Angeles skyline is covered
"The injuries have caused the people to suffer billions of dollars in damages, including millions of dollars of funds expended to determine the extent, location and nature of future harm and to prepare for and mitigate those harms, and billions of dollars of current harm to the value of flood control infrastructure and natural resources," it said.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturer, a car manufacturer's trade group, described the recent lawsuit as a "nuisance".
"Automakers will need time to review this legal complaint, however, a similar nuisance suit that was brought against utilities was dismissed by a federal court in New York," the industry group said on Wednesday.
David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, a nonprofit organization that provides public research and forecasts into the industry, said it would be tough for the industry to immediately meet demands from some critics.
Adoption of diesel engine emissions technology or hybrids comes at great cost and improving gas mileage also likely means smaller lighter vehicles, trade-offs that are not attractive to consumers, he said.
"These are not free technologies, they are very expensive. "Most people are price sensitive."