A bad wound may heal, but a bad name will kill–Scottish Proverb

How do automotive manufacturers pick names for their new models? Is there some random name-generating algorithm out there? Do they perform extensive market research and still come up with names like Daihatsu Charade (is it just pretending to be a car?) Or does an auto executive occasionally just say, “screw the marketing department” and name a car after his / her favorite Muppet?

stupid car names

My top choice for stupidity has got to be the Suzuki Grand Vitara. Apart from its rather close resemblance to the name of a certain little blue pill (guys, there is no way in hell this car is going to um, enhance anything you’d like to enhance), it just sounds waaaay too nerdy. Like something only a Trekkie could love. “Glarbon, we found these intruders in the Troglyte mines. Shall I kill them?” “No, Narvios, don’t kill them yet. I will take them to the Grand Vitara for questioning.”

And the Asian automakers don’t have the monopoly on dumbness–one of my old homegrown cars is a case in point. What’s loud, garish, tacky, and cheap? You’ve got it–Neon. Dodge also came up with the Swinger–and that one writes its own punch line….

Mitsubishi has sent up a slew of models with dubious monikers–not all destined for the US market. Mini Active Urban Sandal is the real name of one of their vehicles and even the acronym sucks–do you pronounce MAUS “mouse” or “moss”?

In the US, you’ve got to snicker a little at the Ford people who would name their tiny econobox the Aspire. Aspire (the word) has two meanings according to Merriam Webster–this auto either has some goal in mind (like becoming a car?) or it is breathing. I can visualize the unfortunate little thing gasping for air, trying to catch up to the real cars on the freeway, and getting really, really, tired. Poor baby.

And then there’s the singular / plural controversy. Some cars are easy–one Mustang, two Mustangs, end of story. But what about the Ford Focus? Or any form of Lexus? I did extensive research and found this issue unresolved. Apparently, no one has ever been able to afford more than one Lexus at the same time, and no one who bought one Focus ever wanted another…..

So what makes a good car name? The same thing that makes a good drug name–lots of “S”s, “Z”s and “X”s. Fast-acting and effective. And I can see why guys like ‘vettes–Corvette sounds kind of like a girlfriend. Animals are good too, as long as they are cool animals and not dorky animals. But who knows? Somewhere in Moldova or India, management may be pitching an SUV called the Great Northern Owl, or a sporty little number called a Snail Darter.

It’s a matter of taste.