Thursday, August 07, 2008

Ridiculous Car Names

Chevrolet El CaminoDo you ever see a commercial for a new car and wonder who on earth ever let that name clear marketing? Plenty of times I've heard some strange new name and wondered why the car powers that be would think it could compel me to investigate their product.

Maybe I'm a traditionalist but names like Corvette, Aston Martin, Barracuda, Phantom, Jaguar and Viper snap out at you and say "I'm cool--look at me!" while the others on this list . . . don't. Oh, and being a minivan is no excuse for having a dumb name--we moms like to have cool car names as much as the guy driving the Ferrari. We just have trunk space.

1. Chevrolet El Camino. Maybe I'm influenced by this possibly being the ugliest car ever created--no really, the ugliest--but that's another list for another day. However, correct me if I'm wrong but "El camino" in Spanish means "The walk." Is it just me or does that seem to be a downright marketing BOMB? And being that Andrew is fluent in Spanish I have been informed that camino can also mean "road" so perhaps they were focusing on the other meaning rather than an alternative form of transportation. Because to me it's like slapping a big sticker on a car that says "Be prepared to use your feet."

Ford Festiva2. Ford Festiva. Perhaps American car companies should shy away from trying to sound too South of the Border because it just isn't working for me. Does Festiva really mean anything? I know it's supposed to sound like something festive but given the size and power of the car in question I'm not really thinking that the gimmick is working too well. It's like naming the shortest, tiniest guy on the team "Killer McGraw" or something. False advertising I think is what that's called. The British came up with a good name for a small car--Mini Cooper. Diminutive, simple, cute but not stupid.

Toyota Avalon3. Toyota Avalon. Okay follow the thought process here with me for just a moment. If you're a car company what kind of values would you try to convey? Perhaps solidity, dependability, sex appeal, speed? So it would make perfect sense to call your new car "Avalon" which basically is a mythical place that has become a metaphor for transient and unrealized hopes--a place that cannot be found which will remain forever undiscovered.

Sounds to me that it means I'm going to have a hard time remembering where I parked my vehicle at Walmart. Now that would be a good commercial! A woman wandering around and around the parking lot, groceries in her hand, just looking and looking for her lost car. "What are you seeking ma'am?" "I'm looking for my Avalon!" "Well good luck, I don't expect you'll ever find it!" Apparently Toyota thinks Australians feel as I do because there they call it the Aurion down there. Not that that's much better.

Ford Aspire4. Ford Aspire. You know it's occurred to me that maybe those years in English classes reading Derida have backfired on me--perhaps I'm reading too much into the language and need to get a life instead of deconstructing car names but have you ever thought about why on earth they named a car the "Aspire"? Because it's trying to be a better car? It "aspires" to be something you'd actually like to buy? Because it's an inferior product and it's really feeling bad about it and wants to be something better? Or are they talking "aspire" as a biological function? Either way it lacks.

Sometimes I think they must have only got past the first entry in the dictionary when they looked the word up. Words carry so much more meaning than the average car producer would expect.

Acura MDX5. Acura MDX. So maybe going for the robot name is the route to take? You don't get mocked on anyone's blog for naming a car with just some meaningless numbers or letters right?

Well . . . that probably depends on whose blog it is. Oh, and which letters or numbers you pick. Because I think the Audi TT is a hot little name--short and sweet and I'm always in the mood to buy me one of those.

But an MDX?? I can hardly remember what random series of letters it is and it kind of sticks in the throat like a bad batch of sushi. So if you need a quick tutorial: FJ Cruiser: good, Cadillac STS or (Holy Hannah!) the BMW X3 SAV: bad. Very very bad. It's not a car it's a computer language. No, I take that back because binary code would probably be easier to remember than the combination of letters and numbers coming out of Stuttgart.

6. Ford Focus. Ah yes, I've come to the Ford Focus which begs the question "What is one focusing on?" The road? The gas gauge? The speed limit? What? Does it mean that the car's identity is rather blurry and undefined? Does it mean it's hard to see? Does it mean that Ford thinks we're all misdirected and need to realign our values with theirs? I'm not quite sure what the point of it all is, all I know is that it's a silly, silly name drawn up by men in an office who most undoubtedly do not drive their own product. I'd bet you money on that. Ford's got some geniuses working in their Auto Naming Division, they've made the list more than any other manufacturer.

Chrysler LeBaron7. Toyota Solara, Buick Alero, Buick LeSabre, Buick Reatta and Chrysler LeBaron. And any other ridiculously made up name that sounds like the latest NBA Allstar or Hip Hop queen. I should Google Sentra to see if it really means anything at all--sometimes car companies can surprise you and names like Pontiac, Corvette or Impala actually do mean something. Do you know what an impala is? Or who Pontiac was? Maybe that's what I need around here--to get a car named after me because that would be the greatest PR move of all blogging history. Would you buy a Scribbit?

Okay maybe not. Forget that I ever mentioned it.

Chevrolet Celebrity8. Dodge Diplomat, Pontiac Parisienne, Chevrolet Celebrity, Ford Crown Victoria, Lincoln Versailles. The cars that grasp so ridiculously at poshness that they embarrass themselves in the process. Has there been any owner of any Crown Victoria anywhere that has the remotest delusion that British royalty find their car attractive? Is there anyone brainless enough to feel more like a Parisienne by driving a PONTIAC? I think the French have actually outlawed the word "Pontiac" from their language.

Chevy Luv9. Pontiac Aztek and Chevy Luv. This is the group of misspelled names that are orthographically offensive. Who was it who first said "What this here SUV needs is a big ol' K on the end--forget that whimpy C!" Because Aztecs are more fearsome with a K. Why stop there and just shoot for that bloodthirsty X? AzteX. Now that's a dangerous vehicle.

And even more ridiculous is the notion that the words "love" and "truck" go together--because last time I checked issues such as torque and engine size and towing capacity were not typically influenced by romance. Unless perhaps it's one's love for one's truck? Maybe?

I guess I'm just having a hard time seeing any cowboy jumping out of his Chevy Luv truck to go rope him some cattle. It's the truck sponsored by Brokeback Mountain.

Chevrolet Nova10. Chevrolet Nova. Okay this one is just hilarious. You might know what "nova" means in English--especially if you're any kind of a PBS fan. A rebirth, a new beginning, etc. Fair enough and that would typically stand fine as a car name I suppose. But translate it into Spanish and suddenly your "no-va" doesn't run. Oops! And they wondered why South American sales were down. Who wouldn't run to buy a car named the "No Go"?

Saturn Vue11. Saturn Vue. I think Saturn prides themselves on pithy, hip names. As if that means their cars emit fewer toxic gases if the names are shorter. They got away with the Ion, Aura and Sky--those sound more eco-friendly than any car on the road right? But then we've got the Vue. Is it Voo or View? Not sure and I wouldn't try pronouncing it without coaching first--but then it could be worse. I could be driving the Astra which sounds like it ought to be the name of the Jetson's new robotic maid. Or the Touareg which (though being a car I would love to own) is absolutely unintelligible. Farfegnugen!

12. Daewoo. I own a Korean car, love it all the way but I have to say that Hyundai isn't the most consumer-friendly name. It's too close to Honda and the first time I saw it I was slightly confused and then I've heard people pronouncing it different ways. At least with "Honda" there's only one way to say it and it's pretty solid in name recognition. Which is why I don't understand "Daewoo." All I can figure is that "Daewoo" must mean something pretty darn cool in Korean. Maybe "great forks of lightning streaking across the sky at high noon" or something like that.

Either that or there's a Mrs. Daewoo who insisted on having the company named after her, which is probably the more obvious choice. I kind of want to giggle when I say this name because it sounds like you're talking with a lisp.

13. Oldsmobile. The granddaddy of bad car names--it's so bad they couldn't just stop with one model they had to name the WHOLE COMPANY this ridiculous name. I don't care that it's named after Mr. Olds if the man had had any kind of vision he would have fired the first person who suggested calling his cars Oldsmobiles.

My grandparents drive one which pretty much says it all. In fact it was kind of funny, after living through the World War II years I doubt they'd ever consider buying a German or Japanese car--it would smack of treason to them--and when they were in the market for a new sedan and I was talking to them about their future purchase I jokingly said "Oh I bet you'll get an Oldsmobile!" but the blink-blink-blink I got from Grandma soon showed it was no joking matter. And sure enough, they drove home with a nice, gently-used Oldsmobile--tan in color. And in defense of Oldsmobiles everywhere they've loved every minute of their sweet ride.

Sometimes it's all in the name--I've never touched a Lambourghini Countach but I still speak the name with reverence. Has anyone ever felt that way about an Oldsmobile? It's the car that comes with it's own oxygen tank and support hose.

Pictures via Wikipedia

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64 comments:

jchevais said...

The Pontiac Parisienne is hilarious. Especially since a real Parisienne is more likely to have a scooter or a bicycle. Most of the ones I know don't even have a driver's license!

jchevais said...

OMG! I just looked at a photo of the Parisienne! You'd never be able to park that in Paris.

KarenDV said...

I always thought Renault's "Le Car" was a pretty silly name, too.

calicobebop said...

Yes, the completely "make-up" names always stump me. What kind of a think-tank came up with those?

Jthemilker said...

The El Camino... my family refers to as a "Catruck" - LOL i.e. "Look, that guy's driving a catruck!"

Lilibeth said...

Once I drove a Matador, and I always wondered who it would kill--an innocent pedestrian or me. (Spanish again)I now drive a LaSabre and it's hard for me to remember from day to day what it is called. Anyway, I always rename all my cars. My LaSabre is "Wuggins". My Villager was "Vilya" after the rings of power. (At the time we had in the family a red truck , white car, and my blue van..so Narya, Nenya, and Vilya came naturally.)

Heather said...

I'll never look at a Chevy Luv in the same way again after that mental image.
I have to admit that my FIL has an old Nova and I never thought of the Spanish translation of it. His is more like a "No va mucho" though. He drives his Ford more than the Nova.
I drive a Caravan. Care to join in?

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

I learned to drive in an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme (there's a weird name for you - is it a sword? or an ice cream?). It was a 2-door, and that door was so long and heavy, and I was so small, I had to get out of the car and stand up to start closing it.

Wild Parenting said...

LOL! My dad bought my sister a Ford Festiva for her sixteenth birthday in 1990. The poor guy thought it would make a big impact to have her NAME written in rainbow cursive writing along the driver's side of the car. Can you picture it? A bright blue Festiva with "LISA". Awful.

Marie N. said...

Remember Studabakers? I thought that was rather a stuffy sort of name too.

At one point in my life I owned a Reliant K. It was reliable. Whatever was that K for?

Babystepper said...

I'm pretty sure Le Sabre means "the sword" in French. One does wonder what on earth that has to do with driving. Does it "cut" the road. If so, that would explain the state of I-40 between our side of the state and OKC.

I kind of like to say "BMW Z3" because it makes me feel like I know something about cars. You know, "If I one the lottery, I'd buy a BMW Z3." People know they're talking to a real road queen.

Or not.

Babystepper said...

Oh, dear. That should be "won". Yes, I am literate. I think.

ames said...

I've always like the Volkswagon Thing. So unassuming :)

You must be in my brain again. Literally just yesterday I overheard something on tv about the el camino such-and-such which they said translates to the such-and-such road, and I blurted out "wait, el camino means the road? What a ridiculous car name!"

I just passed a Nova on the road this morning and giggled a lot. I think they're even made in Mexico, which is that much funnier.

Maddy said...

Cars mystify me, especially their name. Why would anyone call a car after a potato? I'd certainly aspire to just about any other vegetable than an Idaho.
Cheers

MommyTime said...

My best friend's parents had a sage green Oldmobile when we were in high school. It was so big that we used to call it the Oldsmobubble.

Monkey's Momma said...

The funniest car name ever is the Dodge Dart. Sounds like a cartoon character! When I was a teen, I drove an AMC Spirit. Everyone called it a Sprint! They also made the Gremlin, ya know.

Doll Clothes Gal said...

Love the cars - the Nova story always tickles me.

gretchen from lifenut said...

The Gremlin is probably the most aptly-named car: Small, ugly, and could possibly cause your death.

Even worse that the El Camino is Subaru's version. Remember the Brat? It's like a compact El Camino, like a VW Rabbit with a pickup bed. Then again, maybe Brat is a good name for a car like that?

Lissete said...

The first car I thought about, although I would be dating myself, was the AMC Gremlin. Why not just start a freaky trend like Honda Hobbit or GMC Gargoyle.

My grandfather drove a Barracuda way into the 80's. Even then, kids thought his car was oh, so cool!

Anonymous said...

You left out the most "uncomfortable" car name ever - the Ford Probe - just proving your Ford naming theory! I'm sorry - it just conjures up all kinds of icky thoughts!

Joan in Mississippi

The Bee said...

OOOO. Do NOT make fun of my Olds! (It's the closest I'll ever come to being in love with a vehicle!)

Janelle said...

Regarding anything Chevrolet: their names all stink. Except I do like Impala. Re: #1...I have to disagree with you on the ugliness factor. The ugliest care ever created is the smart car. Re: #7...I like the name Alero. It sounds cool, but not necessarily like a sports hero. And on #10, I have to disagree because of a personal difference. I have a cousin named Nova, and her parents bought her a '69 Nova for her 16th birthday. Also, the whole thing with Spanish-market sales down is urban legend. Definite ditto, though, on Oldsmobile and Daewoo. Is Daewoo pronounced day-woo or die-woo? I think the Chevy Aveo is a weird name.

Brillig said...

Scribbit, you are absolutely brilliant. I was laughing so hard as I read through these. And yeah, I'm fluent in Spanish and lived in South America for a while, so the Nova's always made me snicker a bit. Haha.

Oh, and I would TOTALLY drive a "Scribbit." :-D

Lori said...

I always think (of the Ford Focus) "Focus on being a car." Cute post.

Janet said...

This made me laugh, especially the Chevy Luv truck. I learned to drive on a Chevy Impala station wagon (a lovely caramel color). Don't you know *I* was the popular one? And I know what an impala is and who Pontiac was. At various times my mother had a Chevrolet Chevelle (now that's clever) and Citation (it should have been cited for ugly), and a Dodge Omni (which I think must have been short for ominous). My first car was a Mercury Lynx, which was promptly nicknamed the Jinx because it followed the Ford parent company nickname of "Fix or Repair Daily" and finally actually dropped its engine, rendering it "Found on Road Dead." After that I had a Chevrolet Cavalier, Beretta, Geo Prizm (again with the deliberate misspelling) and now a Jeep Cherokee. Ridiculous names all.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it is just me, but that doesn't look like a Ford Festiva in the photo.....and I should know, we just got rid of our 1988 Festiva (that we purchased new) last year. Yes, that baby ran for 19 years, with very little trouble at all.

Granted, it didn't have much pick-up, but I did drive it through the Rockies. Oh, and I remember making a 450 mile car trip with friends on $15 of gas. And you would be shocked at how much cargo area such a tiny car could hold.

Anyway, maybe the photo is of a newer model of Festiva, but it is definitely not the one I remember. They were much taller on top and sort of squarish. Our's was silver.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane (or should I say memory road).

Melanie

Used to be fluent said...

Hyundai (pronounced hyun-day) actually means "modern" in Korean. Daewoo (pronounced day-oo - same "oo" as in moon) isn't a real word but based on the meaning of the Chinese characters it can be interpreted as "big world" or "big universe".

JanMary said...

From UK - only one I recognise that we have here is the Ford Focus.

We have our own totally inappropriate names too.

Munchkins and Music said...

How about Ford Pinto?

Mandy said...

This post made me laugh. Ever so clever!

Kacie said...

Lol I drive a car on your list. I won't say which, because I don't want to be embarrassed :)

Anyway, I love my car and have named her Shirley.

One Mom said...

Do you think the car companies actually pay someone to dream up these names? I'll take a good ole' Explorer, Expedition or Trail Blazer over a bunch of numbers I don't understand any day!

Scribbit said...

Well don't feel too badly kacie, we're just talking names here not performance :)

And speaking as someone whose owned a Civic, Sentra, Escort, Windstar and Sedona I haven't exactly hit any star names myself.

Tara said...

We had a Neon once... and I figure the least they could have done is painted it a NEON colour... of course then I would never have owned it. But it was such a randomly stupid name since there was absolutely nothing NEON about it and NEON only reminds me of the dreadful styles of the 80's... but perhaps that is what they were going for "drive a neon so you can relive those not-so-glorious days of your youth".

lovely.

Scribbit said...

Let's see if I can catch up with comments here:

Le Car is ridiculous--absolutely. And how did I miss the Gremlin??

And Lilibeth you are a true LOTR geek :) I love you with all my heart now.

I can't think of Studebakers without conjuring up the Muppet Movie.

Dart and Sprint are odd too--kind of like El Camino in terms of logic.

As for the photo of the FEstiva, as I mentioned I got the pics from Wikipedia and they say it's also an Aspire so maybe they have a photo of the Aspire and called it a Festiva-who knows, I don't know that much about cars.

The bee--I will humbly retract my mockery of the Oldsmobile solely in your honor :)

And the PROBE?? How did I miss that? The car only a doctor would drive. Maybe not.

And Nova is an urban legend? Go figure!

Heather said...

My husband calls the Probe "Anal probe" every time.

Susan (5 Minutes For Mom) said...

That is too funny. You're right Oldsmobile has got to be the DUMBEST name for a car. I can't believe that it survived.

Janelle said...

To "one mom": Yes, they do pay people to come up with them. My mom knows someone in fact who does research on what the translations mean in other languages so as to avoid "Nova" type issues.

And people say they can't find a good job...

Laurie said...

El Camino can mean "The way" too. Like in a religious sense... However, I agree with other comments that the Ford Pinto is even more ridiculous. Pinto beans are way overrated, as well as the ugly cheap car that took that name.

carrie said...

Hilarious!

My husband and I were just discussing this the other night while we were supposed to be falling asleep and we got a really bad case of the giggles. Especially over the Pinto (bean in Spanish) and the Citation (which I had as a kid at one point)

Really? A Citation? Like you're going to get one in that car? Odd thing is, my stepdad drove that car drunk for many a beer run and should've gotten a citation or something!

Lara said...

Hey now...I've always wanted to buy a Solara. And I plan on putting Sojoel on the vanity plate. Unfortunately, I won't be out of minivan stage for a while, and it will probably be even longer before I'm in 2-door stage.

:)

all over the map said...

I don't know, but something about the "El Camino" that screams Americana to me and I quite like it! Even if the name is Spanish. I think you are way too harsh on the ol' Camino.:)But I'm also laughing. Did you see The Mexican where Brad Pitt exercises his Spanish skills by pronouncing "Ell Caameeennooo". It's still funny when I think about it.
I'm with you on the pronunciation of some of these darn names. If you think that's confusing, Aussies have a totally different way of pronouncing Nissan, Mazda and Hyundai and it has nothing to do with an accent. They also pronounce fillet, "fill-it" and I'm not kidding!

Daisy said...

Ah, and poor Mr. and Mrs. Ford -- however did they explain to their son Edsel that his namesake flopped? Totally, completely failed?

Jennifer said...

Always love to think about how names for things came about.

Imagine a nice cushy job naming OPI's fingernail polish??

And love the word of the day from your blog "orthographically ??"

Nice!

PJ said...

Maybe the names are coming from our esteemed Hollywood Stars who name even their children strange things like River Phoenix, Apple, Summer, Autum, and other such things. I can see the emails to the stars now: name this new model and win a new car!

Lei said...

Oh you just crack me up... funny thing about daewoo...when we lived in Hawaii we often shopped at a market calle Daie. I'm sure I've just misspelled it, it's such an awkward grouping of letters not to mention pronuciation. Anyway, the first few weeks we were there I kept wanting to call it Daewoo, like the car. Which is also awkward...

Marketing Mama said...

LOL - it's funny you even thought of this! :) I have a VUE - pronounced "view" and I really like it...

Damselfly said...

I think I just might buy a Scribbit.

The Chevrolet Celebrity was my second car. I got it used. Let me tell you, there's nothing about this car that says celebrity.

What a hysterical list!

charrette said...

Hahahaha! I laughed out loud at some of these!

El Camino truly is the ugliest car ever. My friend and I used to joyride in her grandpa's. We'd go over speedbumps and it felt like you were riding on a big, bouncy mattress!

Did you remember the unfortunate Edsel? Named after a member of the ford family, I think. Most unsuccessful car ever.

Hilarious post idea!

Jenna Consolo said...

With all that you do, HOW do you have time to think this much?

stefanie said...

So funny!

We were Escorted all the way from 1988 til 2003. We bought it new, but we couldn't even sell it in the end. No one wanted it. We donated it to a veterans group. I hope they weren't mad at us.

We also had a Dodge Spirit that I called the Evil Spirit because some days it just decided not to start. No one could figure out what was wrong.

You got my 'wheels' turning! What about the Volare? My parents' friends had a Volare station wagon complete with wood panels on the doors. I just felt so ITALIAN when I looked at it. Now I feel like bursting into song!

Sonja said...

We're still trying to wrap our minds around the name of our Dodge "Caravan". As if a family of 6 needed any more help feeling their largeness. :)

Funny. Very funny.

AlaneM said...

I always liked the name Hyundai just cos you can say it all fast like you're going to go all samauri on someone.

I must say in defense of the nova - dumb name now that I think about it - seriously cool muscle car. One of my pals in HS had one, she was a teeny tiny girl in this huge bright yellow car - we called it the banana boat - va-room!

MoziEsmé said...

I love this list! And Oldsmobile is at the top of mine . . .

jubilee said...

"orthographically offensive" -- ha! brilliant!

(can I use that sometime?)BG

Karen B said...

"Oldsmobile? It's the car that comes with it's own oxygen tank and support hose." My grandparents always had an Olds and I loved driving them back in the 50s and 60s but your description just cracked me up! Grandpa would have been offended - but it's still a stitch.

Alice Wills Gold said...

We had an old baraccuda...it was a piece...who knew that we were driving a showpiece waiting to happen. We were always embarassed by it.

And, I won't even go into how much it costed to fill that thing up.

Andrea said...

My husband owns a Ford Aspire. We say it "aspires" to be a car! Hey but no joke it gets fabulous gas mileage. He named the car Moebes. If I remember right he named it that because the horn says, "moebe, moebe" and I don't think it would scare even a bird from its path!

Andrea said...

It was really funny until you started ragging on the Oldsmobile. I drive an Olds...yes, me the not yet 30 year old drives an Olds...and yes, my husband does call it my oldpeoples mobile but...I think the Aleros are nice - but I have no idea what Alero means!

planetnomad said...

HA! I love this list, because I am always making fun of car names! Like the Touareg, who are this really fierce Saharan tribe of raiders where the men cover their faces...they are actually kind of scary people, and we didn't go to Mali once because they were making trouble on the border. So name a mini-van after them! uh, yeah. Logical.
You forgot a few of my favs...

the Dodge Intrepid! Makes me think of Maxwell Smart, actually.

the Ford Probe. Uh, named for his fav protologist?

and my fav? the Vigor! We call it the Libido, Donn and I, and always make fun of its male drivers.

DMo said...

This post reminds me of a clean comedian Scott Wood's little 2minute skit on Car names (on YouTube)...how the name explains everything about the car.

"...have you seen the new Infinity? ...They name that thing after the car payments."

"I'm driving down the street; I hit some guy...[BOOM]...I didn't see him,...he was in a Mirage. I told him, 'you should have been in a Dodge!'"

Of course it's funnier to hear his own presentation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdVWNLBZMws

Polina said...

I have never payed attention to car names before - many of them are really funny or ridiculous... What you post has made me wish is - to find out what car names you do like. after reading this articles all of them start looking suspicious to me:)))

Zukiru said...

Oldladiesmobile!

I often wonder if my 86 Subaru XT
might have been more popular if they had used the Japanese name "Alcyone"

oh well.. I rather dislike the alphabet soup approach myself.

The RX was popular
the XT wasn't! I wonder why!

auto parts addict said...

Those car names were not given for no reason at all. i think that's part of an effective marketing strategy.