By Paul Williams
Finding a name for a new car must be getting more difficult. After all, we’ve had over 100 years of cars, each with a distinctive name, and maybe the good ones are running out. Let’s not forget that cars are not people, so it’s not like you can just copy someone else’s name that you like. Auto manufacturer’s can’t say, “Oh, Mustang, I love that name,” and give it to their newest model.
No, everything has to be unique, which is maybe why we’re getting a lot of numbers and letters lately. Like CSX, CTS, STS, CR-V, 330i, TL, HHR, SRT, WRX, XL-7, ES 330, CLK (see, there’s quite a few), CLS, TT, RSX, SRX (no, wait, that’s a jet ski), SVX, MDX, TSX (they sure like “x,” don’t they), NSX, 9-2x, G35x, XC70, XJ, SEX (just kidding), XLR, G6, LS, DTS and LT. And that’s not even the trim levels.
However, some manufacturers are persisting with actual names, and good for them. Volkswagen, for instance, introduced its Touareg SUV, named after an African nomadic people of the Saharan desert. Now, of course, if you google “Touareg,” whatever is left of these people’s identity has been superceded by Volkswagen and its big SUV. As far as today’s Internet is concerned, a Touareg is a German.
The Korean manufacturers like names, too, although Kia’s “Magentis” is a strange word in any language. But Hyundai likes place names (Santa Fe, Tuscon, Tiburon). I used to call the Tiburon a Tie-byoor-on, but now I know it’s Ti-ber-on. That’s in California, by the way.
I made the same mistake with Kia Sportage. Being Canadian, I refer to it as a Sport-aaazh (like triage, or menage). Of course, in the U.S. they call it a Sport-idge.
Hyundai has a new model called an Azera. It’s a luxury Hyundai. Maybe they should have used the French “zh”). Azhera. In any event, this is way better than the previous XG-350.
Kia’s also got a Sedona (another place name). You can’t really go wrong with an evocative place name: Monte Carlo, Malibu, Riviera, Daytona. Good names, those.
Acura used to have some really good names –Integra, Legend, Vigor — but following most of the other luxury brands, they’ve gone letters, and especially love the letter “X.” MDX, RSX, TSX, etc.
Everything Infiniti makes is a “35” or a “45” (it’s got to do with the engine size). Preface those numbers with a G, M, Q, QX or FX and that’s the Infiniti line-up. Nissan has an attack vessel called an Armada, but Nissan also got Titan for their new pickup truck. Who knew “Titan” was just sitting around? Great name for a truck, yes? I bet the other manufacturers are kicking themselves about that.
Cadillac’s gone all letters, too, and that’s a brand with a treasure of fabulous names at their disposal: Biarritz, Calais, Coupe de Ville, Eldorado, Fleetwood, d’Elegance. Other manufactures would kill for names like those, wouldn’t they?
At least Cadillac has an Escalade – that’s more like it. Other than that, it’s all STS and XLR, with the sporty models adding a “V.” For velocity, apparently.
Some names are obviously getting copied. I think the Land Rover Freelander was the first “lander” (as long as you don’t count NASA’s Lunar Lander from 1969). Then we had the Outlander from Mitsubishi, and the Uplander from Chevrolet. I think that’s enough “landers.”
Jeep’s going military. They started with the Liberty, then came the Commander. There is actually a Patriot scheduled, and as you know we Canadians have a TJ rather than a Wrangler because Wranglers are jeans here.
Suzuki has little cars with names like “Swift” and “Aerio” but Suzuki Grand Vitara is pushing the limits of credibility. Maybe if it was a Cadillac. The Cadillac Grand Vitara. Sorry, Suzuki.
One of the oddest names for the 2006 model year is from Subaru. It must be said that “Subaru” itself pretty much explodes off the tongue. But when you add “B9 Tribeca” it creates the sensation that you are actually chewing when you fully enunciate each of the eight syllables. Sooo – bah -roo – bee – nieen – try – beck – ah. It makes as much sense when you say it backwards, and may even end on a more interesting note. Ah – beck – try – nieen – bee – roo – bah – sooo!
Bee – roo – bah – soo. You gotta love that.
The Ford Motor Company has had its share of interesting names, most of which begin with the letter “F.” There’s Futura, Fairlane, Falcon, Festiva, Fiesta, Five Hundred, Freestar, Freestyle, Focus, Frontenac, Fusion. Yes, Ford loves the F-word.
But it’s the duty of automotive writers to remind people of the Edsel, and how Ford considered 16,000 (or was it nine million?) names before ending up with the name of Henry Ford’s son, Edsel, for the company’s new car for 1957. Which of course begs the question, “Where did the Fords get the name, “Edsel” from anyway?” I mean, would you name your child, “Edsel?”
Nonetheless, in 1957 Ford had what they believed (or convinced themselves) was a revolutionary car that would be marketed in a revolutionary way. It was such a secret (sort of), and it was kept under wraps from the public while snippets of information “leaked” to the media created what we now call “buzz” about the car.
When the wraps finally did come off the Edsel, it created about as much excitement as a dog scratching itself, but what I really wanted to talk about is how Ford commissioned a famous poet called Marianne Moore to presumably come up with artistic, modern, consumer-friendly names for the car (before they settled on “Edsel,” that is).
Now Marianne Moore was not some flunky, no-name poet who happened to live near Dearborn. She was a New York-based, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet held in high regard throughout the world (of poetry).
Ms. Moore came up with 19 names, and I’ve got to tell you, Subaru might have jumped at them.
The “Pastelogram” and the “Turcotingo” are perhaps two of the more surprising, and they certainly do bounce around in the mouth. In comparison, the “Silver Sword,” and “Magigravue” seem somewhat conventional.
If Ford wanted something really different, Ms. Moore’s “Utopian Turtletop,” and “Intelligent Bullet” are definitely that. But the crème de la crème, in my view, is her “Mongoose Civique.” It just oozes sophistication, don’t you think? Just say it out loud: The Mongoose Civique. That woman was way ahead of her time, for sure.
And in her honour, I’ve come up with some suggestions for manufacturers to consider when naming their new vehicles. Why pay expensive consultants or poets, when you can get it right here on Autos for free (well, maybe not for free if you use one�). Here they are, in no particular order:
The Global Steed
I know, you like the Barjume. Bah-zhume, as we say here in Canada.