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 ds.dial.pipex.com/dberridge/names 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 http://www.howardwfrench.com – 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.