Car Names: The Good, the Bad and the…What?!?


The Volkswagen Tiguan is a perfect example of it.

I’m not talking about utility or design or even precise German engineering. I’m talking about the fine art of automotive naming.

Never heard the word Tiguan before? That’s kind of the point. Making up words is a strategy some carmakers occasionally use so they can attach whatever image they want to a new vehicle.

In Volkswagen’s case, the word Tiguan is a combination of “tiger” and “iguana,” though it’s not entirely clear yet what image they hope to achieve with that odd combo. (I’m guessing it has nothing to do with hunting tigers or lounging in the sun on a rock.)

Sometimes a carmaker aspires to connect their vehicle to an exotic location, such as Malibu, Riviera, Outback, Aspen, Tundra, or Tahoe. Toyota apparently has a thing for the third-biggest city in Washington: Tacoma.

The makers of the Taurus, Equinox, Eclipse, and Solstice might be trying to connect with the whimsical astrology set.

Then there are names that go after Mr. Tough Guy: Titan, Pathfinder, Fury, Charger.

Isuzu Mysterious Utility Wizard

Isuzu Mysterious Utility Wizard

These are all fine names that serve their purpose well. But what about names that should have never been plastered on the back end of a car? The Probe (though perhaps appropriate on a rear end), the Gremlin, the Pinto, the Vibe… not exactly words that conjure up images of efficiency, safety, or performance.

One of my favorite things about car names is their sometimes unfortunate translations into foreign languages, including the Toyota Deliboy, Isuzu Mysterious Utility Wizard, Honda Life Dunk, and Daihatsu Naked.

What do you think are the best and worst car names ever?


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  1. What about the Diahatsu Charade? Or the Alfa MiTo (sounds like they’re being knockoffs, “me, too”).
    I think that if you add enough letters to a car, the car will magically become faster, like the “SVT M-power RS4 AMG WRX STI SpecV Z-tune Nur Midnight Edition XV”

  2. A lot of my feelings about car names have to do with the car itself, so I’m not sure this is totally fair, but I think Toronado is one of the best car names ever and Escalade is probably the worst. How and why did Cadillac decide to stick a foreign-sounding and kind of fruity name on their first-ever SUV? It strikes me as very odd that the Escalade has become so popular in the hip-hop world, but I believe strongly that it’s done so *despite* its name, not because of it.

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