A Bad Case of Wind

Renault Wind

Daft car names are all too common says Martin Gurdon.

One of the trickier aspects of launching a new car is finding a name for it that won’t be the cause of unintended comedy.

Take the Vauxhall Nova, a once common, 1980s-era small hatchback, which in due course was replaced by the Corsa, a name its makers still use today. Why? Well, in Spanish ‘No va’ apparently means ‘it doesn’t go.’ Mind you, the Nova was a first car favourite, and many ended their days on lowered suspensions and ‘big bore’ exhausts, wrapped round solid objects, after which, presumably, they didn’t go.

You’ll probably be familiar with the Mitsubishi Shogun, which in many other markets goes under the name ‘Pajero,’ but again, the Spanish translation of this word has decidedly unfortunate connotations, because, and I need to be careful how I put this, ‘Pajero,’ is a Spanish slang term connected to self abuse.

It’s also rumoured that Rolls Royce nearly named one of its cars with a word that for Germans had a connection with flatulence. I’m not sure that this is true, but very much hope that it is.

Daft car names are more common than you would imagine. For a brief period about five years ago Renault sold a little two-seater sportscar called the Wind. Despite its fun, folding electric roof, the car was not a conspicuous success in Britain, where the word ‘wind’ has snigger-worthy, gastric connotations. I’m told the person who sanctioned this silly moniker was English, and could not be shifted from his decision.

Back in the 1970s a now long-defunct car company called AMC (short for American Motors Corporation) launched a physically challenged hatchback called the Gremlin. Given that if your car suffered from gremlins, it had problems, the name was, putting it mildly, dumb. At the really knuckle-sucking end of the spectrum, we have the Dodge Swinger, presumably aimed at American suburbanites who enjoyed going to parties where car keys were dropped in fruit bowls when they arrived.

Chinese vehicle maker Great Wall has begun selling a pick up truck in Britain called the Steed, wisely choosing not to call it the Great Wall Wingle, which apparently sounds perfectly OK at home.

I’ve been told that the male sense of humour doesn’t advance beyond the age of ten, which is perhaps why I find the idea of a Japanese pick up truck called the Isuzu 20 Giga Light Dump endlessly funny. Bear in mind, though, that the Isuzu 20 Giga Light Dump is part of a range that also includes the Isuzu Mysterious Utility Wizard, which begs the question: what is mysterious about utility and where does a wizard fit in with all this?

Actually, Japanese car makers have a lot of form coming up with names that don’t translate well outside their home market. For instance, Mazda offers a motor caravan with an electric raised roof called the Bongo Friendee, and who could resist the charms of the Daihatsu Rugger Field Sports Resin Top? For extreme brevity there’s also the Daihatsu Naked.

Japan is pretty crowded, and there’s a thriving market for very tiny city cars and dinky little delivery vans, which are often given names that appear to be a collection of words slammed together at random. Take Mitsubishi’s Mini Active Urban Sandal and Delica Space Gear Cruising Active and Suzuki Every Joy Pop Turbo, and if you want a vehicle with the campest name ever, I’d nominate the Nissan Pantry Boy Supreme, a tiny little van with the profile of a duck billed platypus.

I guess all this proves that language is a complicated thing, and if you don’t know the meaning of words, the way they sound might give you an entirely erroneous idea of what they actually mean, although why anyone thought that ‘Mitsubishi Guts’ was a good name is entirely beyond me.

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