It's called what?

It's called what?

30th Oct 2013 11:40 pm

The twists and turns of successfully naming a car.


The car industry is facing a serious crisis. And there doesn’t seem to be any way out. They’ve done everything possible to rectify the situation. They’ve called in consultants, they’ve hired experts and they’ve even brainstormed for several days. But no, it all seems hopeless. There’s little doubt, not only are we running out of fossil fuels (the Arabs have been telling us that since the ’70s), we are now running out of names. It’s a crisis of Biblical proportions.

Of course, one way out is to play it safe. Can’t think of a good enough new name? Not to worry – you could always use the FIA-mandated word ‘Grand’ to differentiate your new model. And there’ve been several Grands, several. Hyundai’s Grand i10 may be the most recent ‘Grand’ offender, but there have been scores of others who’ve used the word to re-name a product. Let’s see. There’s the Armada Grand, the Sumo Grande, the Grande Punto, the Grand Vitara, the Grand Cherokee, and last but not the least, the Ambassador Grand. Why no one has registered the name Grande or Grand is, however, beyond me. 

But jokes apart, it is daunting to name a car. You have everything to lose and almost nothing to gain. And once you’ve named a car, there’s no pulling back. “Err, sorry guys, we’ve had a change of heart. We’re changing the name of the car next week” – you just can’t do that. So manufacturers sometimes get stuck with names that they know are somewhat rude or inappropriate. Mazda’s version of the Suzuki K-car, for example, was called the Laputa, which in Spanish translates to ‘lady of the night’. Pajero is even ruder, and Daihatsu even called one of its best cars a Charade.  

Some companies, however, have got away with it by the skin of their teeth. Audi’s strategically located hyphen in e-tron prevented it from meaning ‘natural manure’ in French, and Honda almost named its large hatch Fitta. It was shortened to Fit in the nick of time; this is yet another very rude word in French and Swedish. We’ve had our own naming disaster here too. Skoda infamously named its Octavia replacement the Laura: how?

For names that are simply hilarious, look no further than the Chinese car industry. Here are a few random gems – Gonow,  Great Wall Wingle, Huanghai Landscape, Jiangsu Golden Lake Continental, Jonway A380 and Golden Dragon Righto: yes, these are all cars. It’s impossible to make this up.

In contrast, Indian manufacturers haven’t done too badly. While both Tata and M&M have used Grande or Grand, they’ve managed to be distinctive and original in recent times. This can’t be said of Maruti though, especially when it comes to special editions. It’s been trawling names of successful cars of late; how can you explain Swift RS and, and God help us, Wagon R Stingray? Isn’t anything holy? And what is an AltoK10 Knightracer and a Swift Alpha?  And what of Royal Enfield’s Bentley-like Continental GT, the confusing McLaren MP4-12C and the distinctly odd LaFerrari?

So if you’re responsible for naming a car, remember to avoid already successful names, stay away from the word Grand or Grande, and try not to name the car after random bits of genitalia.



Shapur Kotwal

  • 398 Articles

Deputy editor at Autocar India.

Shapur is at the forefront of the magazine's extensive road testing activities and oversees the test instrumentation and data acquisition. Shapur has possibly the most experience among all road testers in the country.

What others think?