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Model Names

Am I the only one who is irritated and baffled by the proliferation of models designated by initials and numbers? Examples abound: all Lexus models,
all Acura models, Lincoln MKZ, Volkswagen Eos Chrysler 300, Honda CR-V, to name just a few. Even the names of many other current models are less than stirring: Chevrolet Cruze, Buick Verano, Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris are names only a mother would love. A few stalwart model names are holding out: Ford
Mustang, Dodge Charger and Nissan Maxima still stir the blood, but they are a dying breed. What does the Community consider the best model names, past or present? Some of my favorites are Buick Roadmaster, Lincold Continental, Plymouth Fury and Chevrolet Corvette.

I think back in 1959 Buick retired the names Special, Century, Super and Roadmaster because these sounded like names of passenger trains and trains were losing popularity. These were replaced by names that reminded one of aircraft–LeSabre, Invicta, and Electra. Unfortunately, the Electra aircraft did have some defects and several of them crashed, so it didn’t inspire confidence in this Buick model. Pontiac had its Streamliner in the 1940s and 1950s as well as the Silver Streak.

The manufacturers did go through some animal names–the Ford Mustang, the Chevrolet Impala, the Studebaker Hawk, the Studebaker Lark, the Ford Pinto, and the Dodge Ram.

There were the chemical names such as the Saturn Ion, Chevrolet Cobalt, Dodge Nitro and of course the Mercury, and musical names–Hyundai Sonata, Ford Tempo.

The trend now seems to be for western names for trucks–the Chevrolet Silverado, the Chevrolet Colorado, the GMC Canyon, and the Dodge Durango.

Let’s not forget government official names–the Studebaker President and the Studebaker Dictator, the Nash Ambassador and the Nash Statesman. There were military officer names as well–the Studebaker Commander and the Hudson Commodore. Perhaps Chevrolet might have used this in naming its cars–the low priced Chevrolet Aveo could have been the Chevrolet Second Lieutenant, the Chevrolet Cruze could have been named the Chevrolet Captain, Chevrolet Malbu becomes the Chevrolet Major and so on.

Maybe it’s an attempt to avoid past problems with names that actually mean something, either in English or in some other language. We all had a nice chuckle about the Gremlin (“you named a car after a creature that sabotages machinery?”), the Reliant (“you do realize that means ‘helpless’, don’t you?”), the Probe (“activate Beavis mode!”).

But even going to initials doesn’t ensure safety. The French pronunciation of MR-2 was almost identical to their word for “crappy”.

(I once tried to make up a bunch of plausible but imaginary model names. Started telling people I had traded in my Plymouth Miasma for a Toyota Plethora.)

Many of the names attached to cars now make me think they should be the names mentioned in a B grade Japanese monster movie; Godzilla vs Altima, Corolla Attacks, or something of that nature.

The Corvette badge has been around forever and denotes sleek, downsized, and fast so I kind of like that one but there are many others I think are kind of cool. Most current ones are embarassingly bad or flat cheesey; the Cruze and Prius being a couple of them.

Japanese car companies had a difficult time getting a feel for what Americans liked in car names. In the past they revered all things British, so Nissan ended up with the Cedric, the Lancer, the Gloria, the Sonny, the Fairlady (240Z). Here they ended up renaming them all. Toyota had the Crown, the Toyopet, the Corona, before the first permanent name, the Corolla, came along. The Crown is still sold in Japan; it’s limo and company car.

Ford of England took the lazy way out with their Fiesta, Focus and Escort. These are very popular girlie magazines.

Different names mean different things in in another culture. The Matador (killer) was not a big seller in Puerto Rico, especially since the capital, San Juan has one of the world’s worst traffic fatalities.

In many countries some local geographic reference goes over well. In Canada, Chrysler has the Windsor (Saratoga), the Dodge Cranbrook, Ford sold a Mercury version called the Monarch Richelieu, Ford had a Meteor, Pontiac had the Laurentian (Catalina) and the Parisienne (Bonneville) models.

Panasonic neatly solve this problem by calling all their products in developing countries “National”. My room in Nigeria had a “National” air conditioner, as had our apartment in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

"Japanese car companies had a difficult time getting a feel for what Americans liked in car names. In the past they revered all things British, so Nissan ended up with the Cedric, the Lancer, the Gloria, the Sonny, the Fairlady (240Z). "

To the best of my recollection, Nissan/Datsun never used the name Lancer. Aside from Dodge, I believe that only Mitsubishi has used that model name.

There was, of course, the Nissan Sunny (not Sonny).
As to the Fairlady, my recollection is that this was the alternate model name for the SPL-310/311 of the late '60s. It is possible, however, that they later carried that model name over to the 240Z.

In the '90s, outside of the US, Nissan marketed a really awful minivan, named the Serena. According to most folks who have driven one, it was anything but a serene experience, as 0-60 took an astonishing 34 seconds. It was the slowest vehicle marketed in Europe, and rightfully qualified as a traffic hazard.

And, let us not forget the “best” Datsun model name of all–the Cherry!

Nissan/Datsun did carry that Fairlady name over to the 240Z cars. A guy I used to do service work for owned one that had exported from Japan to the U.S. back in the 80s. It looked like a normal 240 except for the Fairlady badges and right hand drive, was low miles, and very slick.

Eventually he asked my opinion about trading it off for an 80s era Oldsmobile Cutlass; a front drive slug. My answer was NO, NO, NO! He did it anyway and lived to regret it.

The Plymouth Duster of the 70s was not a bad name (Dodge Demon was better) but the version called the Feather Duster was a bit embarassing when it comes to nomeclature.

I think it may be recent proliferation, but the practice itsels dates back half a century or more. Chevrolet models below the Bel-Air were the 150 and 210. The Chrysler 300 began in 1955 (I think), Oldsmobile had the Ninety-Eight and Eighty-Eight models by then, and Cadillac had Series 60, 61, 62. The 60’s brought us the GTO, LTD, AMX, F-85.

While I agree that many of the car names of the past–Jetstar, Starfire, Dynamic, Star Chief, and Galaxie are my favorites–sound great, some of them are just quaint today. Special, Super, Deluxe, and Custom just lack imagination.

Maybe the Ford Ensign would have done better than the Edsel.

The human mind can only take so much. Numbers are easier to keep track of and some take on just as much air as any “name”. Plus, they give a car company a much easier way to denote improvement or up grade. Like, Ford F150 and the Ford F250. It’s easy to see why many prefer numbers and letter designates.

@VDCDriver

I stand corrected. The Lancer was a Mitsubishi or Dodge Colt, but the Sonny name was used in Europe for an number of years. My brother-in-law had one.

Agree, the Cherry was an unusable name in North America. The Toyota “Starlet” did not make it over here either.

@Docnick

The Starlet did make it over here in the 80’s, 1981-84. Seems to me all of them were yellow, or maybe those were the only ones that stood out.

In 1999, some honcho at Ford went out of his way to announce that they were not going to bring back a classic model name from the past for Y2K. Too bad. I know a lot of people who would have liked to say they bought a Millennium Falcon.

I think back in 1959 Buick retired the names Special, Century,

Triedaq, they must have resurrected the Century later on then because they were popular for some time. Although, like most only a shadow of the former incarnation (e.g. Nova).

OK, the lesser of two evils; I’d drive a Feather Duster before a Fairlady!!

Seen a blue starlet-Kevin

Mitsubishi also had a car with the name GTO. It was the 3000GT here in the states

GM didn’t think the name “Lacrosse” through very well before trying to sell it in Canada. It was quickly changed to “Allure” for sale there. The Chevy Nova couldn’t be sold in Spanish speaking countries because “No va” literally means “it doesn’t go” in Spanish.

“GM didn’t think the name “Lacrosse” through very well before trying to sell it in Canada. It was quickly changed to “Allure” for sale there. The Chevy Nova couldn’t be sold in Spanish speaking countries because “No va” literally means “it doesn’t go” in Spanish.”

Mark–
Can we please put that “No va” urban legend to rest permanently?
Take a look at the following explanation from the Snopes website, which contains at least 4 reasons why that old chestnut is…just not true:

And, according to Wikipedia, the Buick LaCrosse was originally sold in Canada under the Allure name, and that name was subsequently changed to LaCrosse for Canadian consumers, just like in the US. Yes, most of us know about the double-entendre regarding the word “LaCrosse” in Canadian French slang, but it appears that you have the sequence of model names backwards.

If you don’t believe me about the fact that the current model name in Canada is “LaCrosse”, rather than “Allure”, take a look at GM Canada’s website!
http://www.gm.ca/gm/english/vehicles/buick/

That’s an urban myth about the Nova.