The naming of a car is often the most overlooked part of any vehicle manufacturing. The right name really can make all the difference between a hit and a flop. Think of how the Hugo, Pinto, and Edsel all suffered thanks in part to some bad names. Sure, some names are easier than others but too often, cars carry monikers that lack imagination or can have unfortunate connotations (see the Avalanche quickly becoming a recall-laden flop).
What’s amazing is that car companies, packed with hundreds of millions of dollars for advertising, can come up with some of the stupidest names imaginable. They can sometimes be names that just don’t translate from one culture to another. But other times, they can be from some truly stupid things and astounding someone thought they were great for a car. Here are 20 of the most notable cars named after dumb things to show these marketing guys are being paid way too much for so little.
20 Maserati Quattroporte
Car companies quite often really need a translation department. The problem is so many names really are lost in translation from one culture to another. Usually, it’s for Asian markets but this proves it can work for European as well. Here, Maserati put together a very nice luxury sports sedan, a car that could benefit from any number of cool names. Instead, they gave it a title that literally translates as “four doors.” This lack of imagination for a name almost impossible to pronounce mars an otherwise fine car.
19 Daihatsu Scat
All one can say is “really?” As in “really, no one in Daihatsu considered the name for a second?” To be fair, it didn’t start off too bad as the Taft or “'Tough and Almighty Four-wheel Touring Vehicle". For who knows what reason, the company decided to change it to “Scat.” Which means that, at best, they were naming it after the word used to make an unruly cat go away. At worst, it’s the name for what said cats leave behind. Either way, this car has a name that belongs in the litter box.
18 Mazda Carol Me Lady
Was someone at Mazda seriously into musicals at the time this was created? It was made in 1962 and ended in 1970 but revived in 1989. The first generation had some unique body work while later versions were pretty standard. The Carol part is already a bit off as not quite sounding right for most car buyers. The “Me Lady” makes it sound like it’s a Broadway show and little wonder this model never quite took off in the U.S.
17 Great Wall Wingle
Say the name out loud. It sounds like some sort of weird Chinese boy band or the latest dance craze from the country. Instead, it’s the main product of Great Wall Motors A powerful truck based on the iconic landmark isn’t a bad idea as it does sound imposing. It’s the “wingle” part that makes it sound sillier and more like a dirty limerick. The company still produces their “Wingles” despite how it’s not the toughest name for the truck.
16 Mitsubishi Minica Lettuce
Food is serious business in Japan. They have major cooking shows and even competitions so it’s a huge deal. Yet actually naming an automobile after an item of food seems pretty silly. Even sillier is having it be, of all things, lettuce. It’s fine for salads and some sandwiches but not for a car made during the “Bubble Era” when Japanese auto making exploded to prominence. Believe it or not, this car was actually sold in supermarkets in Tokyo just so solidify its wacky name.
15 Mitsubishi Toppo Guppy
Japan is well known for its history of terrific animation. So when one hears “Toppo Guppy,” the first thing that comes to mind is some sort of animated fish toy. But no it was a name for a line of Mitsubishi RVs in the mid-2000s. They actually got worse with the “Town Bee” line that sounds like a DreamWorks animated TV show. A lot of people may love anime but those types of names don’t lend themselves well for automobiles.
14 Toyota Deliboy
This is one of those names clearly lost in translation. The idea wasn’t bad, to create a compact van in the early 1990s to handle fast deliveries in cities. It didn’t have a good engine and its cargo space turned out to be more cramped than needed. But the name was always off. Maybe it was different in Japan but it came out as “Deliboy” in the U.S. That this was used by anything but a deli just shows how not all names fit across cultures.
13 Subaru Brat
It’s always tricky trying to make an acronym work. Often, folks will pick out a name then comes up with the words to use to spell it out. In this case, Subaru putting out a “Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter” wasn’t a bad idea and its other name of the Brumby wasn’t too terrible. The issue being that having it called the “Brat” just made it sound way too juvenile. It’s a car that doesn’t impress at all and even by Subaru standards, the name helps make it a wretched car.
12 Mazda Laputa
One has to wonder sometimes just where car manufacturers get names they think are great for cars. In this case, the Laputa was an attempt to latch onto the growing kei car market with an odd mix of an SUV and wagon. The name comes from the flying island in the classic novel Gulliver’s Travels. The problem is the name can also be the slang term for a “lady of the night.” Either way, it’s a very bad title that shows how poor translations can be.
11 Chevrolet Nova
In the annals of dumb car names, this ranks among the most famous. Indeed, an urban myth is that the car failed in South American markets. The reason is that Chevy thought of Nova as the name for a sun exploding, indicating power. But in Spanish, it translates a “no go.” It’s still astonishing no one at GM caught this before the car went to market. As it happens, the Nova was a success down south but the name remains the most famous part of its backstory.
10 Mitsubishi Mini Active Urban Sandal
Naming cars after shoes is not a good idea in the first place. A sandal is worse as it’s barely a shoe, just a flip-flop you slip on when you’re lounging at the house or hitting the pool. Urban sandals are crazier as most folks in urban setting prefer regular shoes. The “mini active” moniker just adds another level to it with the question is the activation is the mini part or if it’s a mini-sandal. Even in the summertime, this is a goofy label for a car.
9 Nissan Cedric
Aside from the comic known as “The Entertainer,” one can’t think of many people named Cedric. As it happened, then-Nissan CEO Katsuji Kawamata took the name from one of the characters of the novel Little Lord Fauntleroy. Yes, a major CEO named a new car from a 19th century children’s novel. Incredibly, Nissan kept the line going for 55 years despite how few enjoyed the name. This Cedric may be more famous than any other.
8 Volkswagen Golf
Many can agree that when one thinks of excitement and thrills, golf is not what comes to mind. Sure, it can be a relaxing way to spend an afternoon but it can also be one of the most boring sports known to man. That didn’t stop Volkswagen from putting out this hatchback bearing that moniker. To its credit, it’s a well-made car that’s even won awards and inspired several other successful models. That doesn’t make up for the fact it’s named after a sport that tends to put most viewers to sleep.
7 Daihatsu Naked
Imagine you’ve broken down and have to call AAA. When asked what car you have, you reply “Oh, I’m in a Naked.” Ten to one, the response is the operator hanging up on you. This kei car was an early attempt to use off-roader styling features on a regular road car. It was rough as one can see with the sculpting and a rather bulky size and didn’t live up to its name with heavy plating. Why it got a name to imply nudity as well is beyond anyone.
6 Geely PU Rural Nanny
It’s three bad names rolled into one! First “Geely” which is one of those words in Chinese that doesn’t translate well for Americans. Then “PU” which should stand for “pick up” but those initials automatically making any car smell bad. Finally, “Rural Nanny” which brings up images of Mary Poppins doing work on a farm. Put it all together and this car never had a chance as who wants to own something with such a combination of horrible names?
5 Studebaker Dictator
The name is bad enough but it’s the time period that makes this such a horrible moniker. You have to be a bold person to ask for a car that carries the name of a tyrant who crushes the freedom of his people. What’s crazier is that the car was made in the 1930s and ‘40s where various real-life dictators plunged the world into war. It looks like Studebaker didn’t have much of a public relations department in that time to put this car out.
4 Homy Super Long
You really have to wonder what car companies in Japan are thinking sometimes. First, you have a van capable of carrying ten people which is basically a bus. It already has a rough shape to it and looks rather compact. Calling it a “super long” is already silly without adding in the “Homy” name. It sounds like it was inspired by the clown from In Living Color and adds to how this would look goofy as an airport transfer let alone a regular car.
3 Pontiac Parisienne
Paris is a wonderful city and the very name conjures images of romance and art. Yet trying to add it to a car can be a bit tricky. Pontiac found that out when they named the Parisienne which simply translates as “lady from Paris.” Not even an exotic lady of some sort, just “grammatically female.” So drivers are going around in a car named after any random French lady. That doesn’t quite make it as alluring as Pontiac would have wanted.
2 Detroit Fish
No, this is not an attempt to create a car for Spongebob Squarepants. This was developed in 2008 by a Japanese group who actually tried to sell a copy to former President George H. Bush. Not surprisingly, he turned them down. This crazy amphibious crossover car looks to be a wreck on both land and sea and the open doors don’t help. True, it would be horrible under any name but a fish from the Motor City is the icing on the cake of this laughable presentation.
Sure it sounds like something exotic. But think about it. “Charade” is defined as “an absurd pretense intended to create a pleasant or respectable appearance.” Oddly, this may fit this bizarre attempt to create a larger compact car by making it look better than it really was. It never seems a good idea to have your car be named after, basically, a huge fake act. This was a poor move to showcase a rough car.
Sources: Jalopnik, motorco.uk, wikipedia