By on February 21, 2012

During the late 1980s, my future wife spent several years teaching English in northern China. Back then, many Chinese manufacturers felt that showing off Western-language brand labels indicated worldliness, and so this Chengdu passenger van got a “CD” grille ornament and some somewhat garbled lettering above. I found this photograph, which was shot during a trip to Sichuan Province, in her collection and had to share it.

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26 Comments on “Adventures In Chinese Vehicle Branding, 1988: CHEИD⅁U Van...”


  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Living overseas I saw many attempts to spice up a product with English words. Popular English words include:
    USA
    California
    Sport
    West
    Fun
    Mustang
    Surf
    Freedom
    College
    Special

    So, within a crowd, it isn’t uncommon to see a Western-styled, or US-styled foreign jacket, shirt or sweatshirt with these English words printed on them. I loved seeing them because they usually made little sense. I own a “Special California Mustang” athletic jacket.

    The English language signifies a coolness that is very attractive to most world cultures, especially among young people. America is still a very desirable place to dream about for billions of people. We are envied.

    • 0 avatar
      cheapthrills

      My favorite is the pinstripe packages available on various Euro hatches named after random US cities. I know there was the Boston edition Golf, the Atlanta package Opel Corsa, as well as ones like Memphis, St Louis, and many other not-so-lustworthy locales. It never made sense to me.

    • 0 avatar

      Adding to your list

      “American news” at a small amusement park in southern France.

      Of course, the most fun is when they garble English. There are lots of funny examples on the Japanese Engrish website (google it). My all time favorite car related one was a Nissan advert showing an SUV with the caption, “Forever and always, we can meet our best friend, Nature! Take a grip of steering. Nissan.”

      Nice photo.

    • 0 avatar

      This is common in Kenya as well. You’ll see customized minibuses (“Mutatus”) with graffiti-looking side art in semi-coherent English.

      Stuff like “Don’t Step!!”

    • 0 avatar
      dima

      You are right. This reminds me when few trips back to China in 2010 I saw shop selling tee-shirts with misspelled California, it was written “Califonia”. When I ask my translator why they selling this misspelled merchandise, he told me, no one cares, as long as it looks American, people will buy.

      • 0 avatar
        PJ McCombs

        I was in China in 2011, and actually couldn’t believe how much of the English signage *was* correct. I expected more silliness.

        Still some great word choice, though. In a Beijing park: “Caution: the slope is steep and the path is slippery.” Indeed.

  • avatar
    strafer

    Guess the flip side is all those tattoos of Chinese characters Americans love to add to their skin. Who knows if they mean something other than what the tattoo parlors list.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    The Chinese auto industry is also in love with very long alphanumerical model names – the ZYGT75C42-R, for instance, or the 9711FRMC5.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    You would probably get the same thing if you asked Americans to put Chinese characters on a vehicle. Maybe that is why no one puts on single letters like that anymore.

  • avatar
    Dynasty

    Looking at the photo, I bet the owner of the said van re-arranged the letters and turned them backwards.

    Either that, or they were using Russian letters and not English.

    • 0 avatar
      MrWhopee

      Agreed, perhaps the logos all fell out due to weak glue, and the owners are having trouble putting all of them back in the correct order, or orientation. Though it would be hard to get the N to show up like that, unless it’s mounted bottom (glue) side up.

    • 0 avatar
      dima

      Well, Russian Alphabet does not contain letters “U” and “G”, if not for these letters, I would agree with you.

  • avatar
    redseca2

    Carefully molded into the plastic above a switch on my chinese paper shredder in letters 1 CM high:

    FORWARD – STOP – REVSERE

    • 0 avatar
      cfclark

      A blender we owned (maybe we still have it), almost certainly made in China, included the option to blend up a “SMOOTIE”. To this day, any thought of patronizing an establishment such as Jamba Juice is expressed in our household as “wanna go get a smootie?”

  • avatar
    confused1096

    My favorite: Years ago I purchased a set of cheap kitchen knives that had the admonishment “Do Not Use On Children” printed in the instructions.

    Wish I hadn’t lost them in a move.

  • avatar
    infinitime

    It is equally amusing when American companies do the same… As a Chinese speaker, I got a chuckle out of Dodge’s official Chinese webpage. While not entirely garbled, there are enough grammatical errors and awkwardly phrased sentences to make one question Chrysler’s marketing department (or the translators they hired):

    http://www.dodge.cn/home/index.html

    Not to be too harsh on Chrysler, I include for your reading pleasure Chery’s English website, which is equally awkward:

    http://www.cheryinternational.com/company.php

    The sad thing is that both of these are rather large manufacturers, who clearly could have afforded to hire professional writers for the subject languages.

    • 0 avatar
      tallnikita

      that’s where the marketing “professionals” come in. you know, the ones who don’t feel comfortable dealing with “foreigners” so they hire one of their own ilk to ensure that the translation is done by non-native target language speaker.

  • avatar
    redseca2

    The original example still must be the Chevrolet Nova, which in spanish is of course “No go”.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    MZR, my daily driver has a Blaupunkt Indianapolis, a sub 100$ radio.


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