What’s in a Name?

Opel Cascada

Ford chose big cat names before a cougar became known as a predatory older female. Volkswagen chose a wind theme to name some of their legendary models. The names of all Italian cars sound sexy. What’s in a name? 

Manufacturers may spend years developing a new model, excruciating over things like driving dynamics and fuel economy. Then after years of toil comes the moment when they unveil the car to the world.

What about the name? First impressions count. A name can conjure up all sorts of imagery. Give a supercar a dull name and it won’t matter if it has a monster engine or more curves than Kim Kardashian – no one will want to drive it.

Some car manufacturers sensibly opt out of the name game and use numbers or letters or combinations of these to identify their cars instead. Premium marques like BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes, Volvo and Audi tend to use this sort of system.

Italian manufacturers are great at naming cars.  A lot of it has to do with the mother tongue. The Italian language is just kind to cars. Giulietta, Gallardo, Diablo, Maranello, Testarossa – these are sexy names for sexy cars.

Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder officially Top Gear’s Dream Car…

But an exotic sounding name won’t work on every car. Take the Opel Cascada for example, a mid-size four seater convertible due to be launched next year (but not in Ireland unfortunately). Cascada may be Spanish for waterfall but it’s a little bit too much of a show-off name for this car. And unfortunately a little too reminiscent of shocking Noughties dance act of the same name!

This year Opel have also come up with the Mokka, which may sound like a coffee but it is in fact Opel’s latest offering to the compact SUV sector. And then there is the Adam. Opel are so desperate to market this new supermini as cool, hip and funky yet they choose to call the car the Adam? It may be in homage to Opel founder, Adam Opel, but it doesn’t do the car any favours. Adam just does not seem like the right name for a car trying to be “cool”. It’s a bit boring really.

Image is powerful and good car names evoke the right image for the car they have been slapped on. Rolls-Royce went for ethereal names like Silver Cloud, Silver Shadow and Azure which seem perfect for their luxurious and opulent cars.

When it comes to naming new models, it is no surprise that brands which produce run of the mill hatchbacks and saloons choose solid and inoffensive names. Honda have the Civic and Accord. Volkswagen chose a wind theme: Jetta, Bora, Passat, Polo, Corrado, Vento, Scirocco and Golf.  They won’t set the heart racing like a Diablo or a Giulietta but they are not offensive either.

Volkswagen have had a few howlers all the same. A bizarre animal theme produced the Fox and the Rabbit. Sometimes animal themes work well; Mustang and Viper are widely accepted as great car names, evoking the right image Ford and Dodge wished to create for these cars. But it does depend on the animal. Panda may be a perfectly acceptable name for a compact, city car but it would not be so good for a sports car!

So what makes a great name? It has to be timeless. It has to roll off the tongue. It has to “suit” the car. And if it is Italian it will most likely be good!

Most importantly it has to translate well and cross language barriers. The Mitsubishi Pajero had to be renamed for some overseas markets because it translated into something rude in Spanish (you can look that one up yourself).

Can you think of any other great car names? Which are the worst?


29th November, 2012


Author: wheelsforwomen

Ireland's only website for women on wheels - cars, motorbikes, bikes. Video/ reviews, driving tips - written by women for women.

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