in-car entertainment (1): 3rd naming

I think I mentioned in an earlier posting that I find doing nothing difficult. When I worked for BT and commuted between Buckingham and London, I was spending an average five and a half hours a day in the car. That’s a lot of time to fill. But I was always pretty productive with that time. I’m a massive fan of talk radio. For the first 40 minutes or so I’d devour news from 5 live, sometimes radio 4. Then I’d switch over to redneck radio to listen to whatever nonsense Alan Brazil and Mike Parry/Beaky were up to on Talksport and get their frequent sport updates. After an hour or so of radio listenning the reports were becoming repeated, unless a big story was breaking, and I’d then either make some phone calls, plan my day ahead or resort to one of my favourite pastimes – spotting naff car names. Having spent many hours queuing on the M1, M40, Holloway Rd, Hangar Lane I was forever staring up the arse-end of one car or another. So I turned that view to productive thought. Car names – how, why, but mostly what possessed that company to pick a frigging name like Getz?

I know this isn’t a unique study; there are lots of interesting books (truly) on the subject. The web has loads of stuff on this too – see links below. But it’s fascinating to think there are over 300 new models launched in the UK each year and they all require a unique naming identifier. How do the car companies come up with these? Some prefer the letter/numbering approach like Mercedes, Jaguar, Lexus, and BMW. This seems so simple and uncomplicated but even here there are problems in store. Look at Peugeot’s system – what happens when they introduce more than 9 models in their range, do they go into the 1000’s then? And what happens when the 306 evolves into the 307, then 308, 309 – then what? Do they lose the ‘0’ sequence which is so much part of their marque? See, it’s not so straightforward is it?

Then there are the companies who give cars proper names. I prefer these, not to drive, just to reflect on. Often they’ll stick with a certain initial letter across the model range. Lotus’ always seem to begin with elegant sounding ‘E’ names. Austin/Morris used to favour the M as in Mmmmm! Er not quite. Vauxhall had a pile of rustbuckets beginning with ‘V,’ then they ran out of words that weren’t part of the female anatomy and changed to ‘C’. Hmm, I think they’ve got genitalia on the brain. Vauxhall cars also all seem to end in the letter ‘a’ as in the Crappia.

There are lots of other derivatives like the wind and weather (Scirrocco), nature (Cherry), animals (Mustang), birds (Kestrel), holiday destinations (Granada), heavenly bodies (Orion), authority figures (Consul), names (Mercedes) and so on. There’s a good feature on this at and I’ve borrowed shamelessly already. It’s a little dry to begin with but hang in there. There’s a more readable piece at – well Howie likes to think he’s a bit of a marketing guru so it ought to be.

There are some classic faux pas out there; the Starrion was meant to owe its name to a Japanese mis-pronunciation for Stallion, Mitsubishi’s answer to the Mustang. I don’t know whether that’s true. But the Atos was re-christenned for the UK market as Atoz because someone realised that ‘a toss’ meant something quite specific over here. And speaking of w*nkers, who was the dipstick who designed the car that bore the brilliant name Scorpion? Great name but what an ugly sh*tbox that was, with a rear end bigger than a Scania. If ever a car didn’t match its name it was that big fat ugly lump. They should have called it the Ford Feltz and it would have become a collector’s item for the bigger lady fetishists. Now that’s marketing! (they like ‘F’s too at Ford) – small consultancy fee only Henry.

But this is all a very long intro to what is actually my specialist study area in car naming strategy. As I’ve already said, there’s lots of research on model names, numbering, lettering. I’m interested in it but it’s a well-trodden path. No my favourite area concerns the special editions. You know those bloody end of model lines that they jazz up with alloy wheels, CD player, and stripey coloured vinyls on the rear quarters. Oh there’s joy to be had finding a belting name here. The companies spend millions and millions researching a suitable name for a new model which hasn’t been used before, works throughout the world with no unfortunate local translations (eg the Kia F*ckwit) and which ends in a vowel and sounds like the esperanto word for joy and love (eg the oohlalia). It has to be a new made-up word these days because all the real words have been used, mostly by Vauxhall. And they will pay a brand company absolutely obscene amounts of lulah to come up with a name that fits these criteria, like Fellatio oops Skoda have that one already.

But, with the special editions I swear they pass the naming responsibility over to the lad in the showroom who washes the cars every sodding morning, and makes the tea. It’s always a 3rd name like Vauxhall Corsa Tablets. It’s usually associated with models that are about the Corsa size too, the little Peugeot 106, Ford Fiesta, Citroen Saxo etc. They will often come up with a name and do something snazzy with it eg Paul S came across the Honda Civic Imagine where the ‘e’ was reversed. Eh? Now that would make you buy it faster. I’ve seen little doodles around the name eg I saw a Something Something ‘Jazz’ (I know there’s a model of that name now, don’t write in) where there was a little vinyl treatment with a trumpet being played by a young Satchmo lookie likey (3 points). I’ve even seen a Something Something ‘Calypso’ with parasols on a beach scene and a Something Something ‘Mardi Gras’ with samba girls.

The things are everywhere; yesterday I saw a Peugoet 306 Alpine and a Citroen C3 Desire. Desire! VW even dedicated a limited edition Golf as the ‘Rolling Stones’ – they were sponsoring a Stones tour at the time. A VW Golf Old Bones. Tongues out VW for stretching a brand just a little too far. I used to spot these names and write them down (very sad) but I kept pranging into the little things so now I’d like you to help me collect them. Any that you see please pass on – maybe you used to own one, respect! – and we’ll produce the definitive thesis on this: Crap Names for Crap Cars by pasta paulie and friends. Gather as ye commute.


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About Paul

Having decided on a change of life by moving home from the UK to Italy, this is the story and thoughts of a man on a personal journey from the Blackpool Tower to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, in search of la dolce vita. After several olive harvests he's now back in London but en route he shares his very personal perspectives on life.

9 thoughts on “in-car entertainment (1): 3rd naming

  1. I have one, the Nissan Micra Collette
    Not sure it was the Micra though, definitely the model before they launched the round bubbly, you can in a Nissan thing. These were always black over silver with a gold pin strip and I swear all driven by someone called Collette. Must have been the result of some fantastic market research that identified a huge gap in the market for all the 17 year olds just about to pass their driving test. I’ve got a feeling I learnt to drive in one of these things (my name’s not Collette though, honest)

  2. Are you sure Collette, er sorry Pat?
    Many thanks P, top banana of a name. That must be the Japanese marketing guy’s answewr to renault’s Nicolle. Or maybe another Starrion moment when they really meant to have something meaning right! or spot on!
    sorry, crap attempt at humour…..but that could be the next challenge.
    cheers pat – it’s in the book

  3. My journey home wasn’t that bad – you may have this one but you don’t mention it.’Citron C1 Rytham’Have a nice day love to my yummy grandsons.

  4. My journey home was not all bad.I have one you may have it but I don’t think so.’Citron C1 Rytham’Love to my two yummy grandsons. c x

  5. hi mrs l!
    excellent, will add that to the citroen C3 stop/start we saw yesterday too. Think we’re tapping a rich vein with citroen’s noddy cars.
    (talk later)

  6. just as a postscript, we spotted the following on the way up the M6 yesterday:

    – Paul S’s ealier spot – the Honda Civic Imagine with reverese ‘e’
    – Nissan Micra ‘Vibe’ in funky lettering trying very hard to look and sound cool
    – an Italian registered Peugeot 306 Corre (which i think means ‘race’ or ‘run’)
    – a Rav4 in ‘nrg’ body styling. urgh. not really good?
    – finally not really one for my collection just a ghastly name for a car – the Daihatsu Grand Move. Sounds (and looked) like something from wallace and gromit.


  7. and today we saw an N reg Ford Fiesta Frascati. Oh yes.
    Alliterative, amusing and aspirational. also a brilliant example of the naming syndrome which tries too hard to make a shitbox sound cool. in his case failing completely but what a great name…

  8. When Ford were thinking “how could we think of a replacement name for our Ford Capri”(great name by the way) with our latest model it would have to be a Yank who came up with the name Ford “Probe” though it probably was a great sounding name for the American market a projectile that flies into space(not too bad!!) did they not do their homework when they could have realised that there is a UK market over here so to name a car with a name for an implement that’s shoved up your a— could (call me old fashioned) have a bearing on the UK sales market
    Don’t see too many “Probes” on the roads do you? probably ended up where aptly intended for

  9. hi m
    thks for your comments, b.

    strange thing is that C had one of the Ford Probes for a while and I reckon she liked that just about as much as any car she’s had. i reckon Ford made a faux pas by producing a replacement for the Capri (which let’s face it was a bloke’s car and as near as most working class guys could get to a sporty looking decently performing car) with a car that really appealed to women. The styling was too curvy for guys and the performance was distinctly average. There was no edge to it at all (you can’t imagine it appearing in the Professionals or the Sweeney) and the name was just too macho for the car and its natural but untargetted market. Rank bad marketing and it’s put Ford off producing sports cars for the average uk/continental market ever since. But look at how many mazda mx5s have been sold – barmy.

    Conversely the Capri was quite a gentle-sounding name (and ironically prob more suited to the Probe car) but because of its attachment to the Dagenham equivalent of the Mustang, it’s become an iconic strong macho brand name. what’s in a name eh?

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