What's In A Name?

Automotive Appellations that Appal

by David McG. Squire (squizz@cs.curtin.edu.au)
written 28 Oct 1994

This article is classified "Real"

I have decided that they have gone mad. The folks in the marketing
divisions have finally lost it.  I have no idea who they are or how they
do it, but the folks who decide the names of cars have flipped.  They
have put their foot to the floor and ploughed headlong into the brick
wall of utter, utter lunacy.  What has brought me to this conclusion?
The Ford "Probe."

What were they thinking of? How could this be a good thing to call a car?
It is not a strong name.  It does not evoke images of glamour, safety,
power or sexual prowess.  I can only conclude that it is the result of a
bunch of twits taking a simple idea far, far further than they should
have.  For decades motor cars have been phallic (Or at least so we have
been told).  The thrusting, powerful red sportscar is a supposed to
symbolize a latent sexual potential, or at least to indicate that the
owner has a pretty impressive drive shaft.  Now some fool at Ford has
taken hold of this notion, completely failed to grasp it properly (a
common problem), and named the latest model after a gynecological
instrument.  As they say, "close, but no cigar."  What are we to expect
next?  The Ford "Speculum"?

It was not this incident alone that caused me to despair of the sanity
of the car christeners.  It has been a cumulative process.  Car names
used to be simple, easy to understand.  Subtlety was not a factor.
Predatory animals were big.  "Jaguar," "Falcon;" names to impress.  Not
only could this vehicle move the family about at speed, it could eat the
neighbours.  Try keeping up now, Mr. Jones.

Another popular one was the names of European towns.  "Cortina," "Capri,"
"Calais."  No doubt these are supposed to sound glamorous, and possibly
to subconsciously invoke the word "Ferrari," and its concomitant
associations.  "Eldorado" got a run too (though not a European town),
with its obvious overtones of opulence.  Unfortunately this now seems
to have degenerated into nothing more than an industry-wide belief that,
where possible, car names should end with a vowel sound.  Now we have
"Camira," "Camry," "Cressida," "Barina," "Lantra," and "Verada."  I mean
one sounds like an insect, another like an ice-creams flavour, and the
last one sounds very much like a dry biscuit.  Can you imagine the
marketing gurus sitting around the table deciding on these?  How do they
choose?  "Verruca? ... No," "Extruda? ... No.  Sounds like crap," "Polenta?
... Yes!  Nice ring to it!  The "Mazda Polenta."  I like it! ... Oh, No.
It's some sort of food.," "How about Verada? ... Isn't that something
around a house?  No?  Great! ..."  The mind boggles.

I would like now to draw your attention to the Mitsubishi stable, and I
use the word advisedly.  A few years ago Mitsubishi released a small car
called the "Colt."  Nothing wrong with that.  A cute name for a small
car, suggestive of latent strength and potential even.  Just recently a
much larger Mitsubishi model hit the market -- the "Lancer."  Now that's
really cute!  A theme of names running through the models.  That's right,
"Lancer" is the name of a really big horse (big enough to carry a knight
in armour, and his lance).  Those clever fellows at Mitsubishi!  It even
sounds like a car name (echoes of "Charger"), and has a hint of penetration
which, as we have seen, is always good.  Unfortunately, it did not all go
well for those well-meaning marketing folk in Japan.  What is the name of
their middle-sized model?  The "Starion."  Think about it.  Those sirry,
sirry buggers.

There is one recently released model that I think sums this entire trend
up very nicely indeed.  The Daihatsu "Charade."  I mean really.  I guess
it sort of has the right sound for a car name, but did they give the
slightest thought to what the word means?  What next?

The Toyota "Facade"?

The Nissan "Farce"?


(c) Copyright David Squire, 1994.  Permission is given for this article to
be distributed as part of the Project Galactic Guide archives.  It may NOT
be distributed in any other form, or published in any newspaper, book, or
magazine anywhere without the express permission of the author.

Go to [Root page | Title list | Author list | Date list | Index]