The Truth About Cars » Names The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 18 Jul 2014 20:52:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Names The Name Doesn’t Fit The Car Fri, 10 May 2013 16:02:39 +0000 monte

Naming a car is tricky business. We know this because after years of challenging design work, engineering efforts, focus groups, and meetings that probably involved colorful PowerPoint presentations, Subaru named its first midsize SUV “B9 Tribeca.” Speaking of which: designing a car is tricky business.

While some car names are bad, others just don’t fit. Allow me to share with you some of the car names I think are least appropriate for their vehicles. As always, feel free to suggest your own.

Chevrolet Malibu


When the Chevy Malibu first came out, its name was highly appropriate, largely because it was cool. Also, back in the ‘60s, Malibu wasn’t the high-dollar celebrity retreat of today, but rather a sleepy surf town so far from LA that visitors probably thought: Who the hell would live all the way up there? This is documented by a website I visited called “Malibu Complete,” which says the most notable Malibu business that opened in 1968 was a Shell gas station on the Pacific Coast Highway.

But while Malibu’s star continues to rise, the Chevrolet Malibu suffered a tremendous fall from grace, almost in direct inverse proportion. These days, the only Malibus you’ll find in Malibu are tourists in rentals from LAX who drive through the town thinking: I wish I could live all the way up here!

Chevrolet Monte Carlo


I’ve been to Monte Carlo. And when I say that, what I really mean is: I dragged my girlfriend to Monte Carlo several times, and once ran from a restaurant as we were eating to photograph a passing Ferrari F40. By this point, I had completely stopped photographing other Ferrari models, since they’re the Monaco equivalent of the Nissan Altima. (The Porsche 911, meanwhile, is the Monaco Toyota Camry.)

While exotic cars are common in Monte Carlo, the most exotic of all would be the Chevrolet Monte Carlo. That’s because no one in Monaco would ever drive one. Fortunately, they wouldn’t have the chance, since the Monte Carlo would never fit down the narrow roads required to enter the world’s wealthiest nation.

Chrysler Aspen


Aspen, Colorado, is home to precisely one type of vehicle: the Range Rover. Admittedly, there are one or two others. For example, some people have Land Rover Defenders. And the police force is saddled with the lowly Volvo XC90. (Apparently, they’ve switched to the Highlander Hybrid. Still, it’s no Panther.) Regardless, no one drives the Chrysler Aspen, which – for those of you who have forgotten – is a Dodge Durango twin with a slightly nicer interior. Also, chrome wheels. Those aren’t acceptable in Aspen either.

Dodge Intrepid


“Intrepid” is defined by Webster’s as “fearless” and “adventurous.” Meanwhile, “journalist” is defined as “someone who still thinks quoting Webster’s is a clever opening sentence.”

For all its merits (and I will remember one – just give me a few hours), the Intrepid wasn’t fearless or adventurous. Sure, maybe it was neat when it came out because it wasn’t styled like an IKEA dresser, as the Dodge Dynasty had been. Also, it had a center-mounted backup light that illuminated the word “Intrepid” when in reverse. But the Intrepid wasn’t fearless or adventurous, unlike its drivers, who never knew exactly what problem was going to crop up next.

Hyundai Excel


The Excel’s inclusion on this list is obvious to anyone who ever drove one: it didn’t excel at anything, except possibly being terrible. Performance is an obvious issue, since it used a 68-horsepower four-cylinder mated to an available three-speed automatic. It was also rather unreliable, which later forced Hyundai to change its reputation by offering extremely long warranties. But most importantly, it was just really ugly.

Mercury Monterey


Monterey, California, is a tremendously expensive northern California town that commands unbelievably high property values despite being covered, year-round, in dense fog. Actually, fog isn’t the only weather in Monterey: sometimes, it gives way to a slight drizzle. Really, it’s a beautiful place to spend time.

Sensing this, Mercury decided to name a rather awful minivan after the area. I assume this is because Ford had an edict requiring alliteration for model names, and Mercury had already wasted the similarly unsuitable Montego and Milan on dull sedans.

Nissan Rogue


Honda and Toyota invented the “tiny SUVs for women” segment with the CR-V and RAV4 respectively. Other models quickly joined the party, like the Ford Escape and Hyundai Tucson. Years later, Nissan came out with the Rogue, which used the exact same formula as the CR-V and RAV4. Rogue would’ve been a more appropriate name for the Juke, which is actually roguish since it looks like a fish that divers might discover when searching for an ancient shipwreck.

Pontiac Parisienne


The Pontiac Parisienne started this whole article idea, on the theory that you could never actually drive one in Paris. Here’s why: Paris streets were laid out to accommodate people on bicycles and possibly the occasional Citroen 2CV, which may actually be smaller. A vehicle the size of the Parisienne probably never even crossed the minds of the initial city planners, whose planning method probably consisted of: “Put a street over there! And don’t make it go too far, or we’ll fall off the edge of the Earth!”

Beyond its size, the Parisienne is also way too uncool for Paris, a highly cultured city filled with beautiful artwork, impressive architecture, and lots of people who smoke. Even Americans weren’t having it, and Pontiac eventually renamed the Parisienne before dropping it altogether.

So, Best and Brightest: what other cars are totally unsuited for their names?

Doug DeMuro operates He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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What’s In A Name? Mon, 08 Aug 2011 18:21:22 +0000

When should a redesigned car get a new name? Whenever the old one wasn’t a success? Or virtually never? Can car companies count on the excellence of a new car to reverse whatever damage was done to the public perception of the model name in the past?

GM, as Paul Niedermeyer noted a few years ago, has a tendency to give a redesigned car a new name when the old one fared poorly in public perception. Which has been every time with its compact cars: Corvair, Vega, Monza, Cavalier, Cobalt, Cruze. Most recently, GM opted to abandon the Aveo name in North America in favor of “Sonic.”

Ford started to replace the names of many of its cars a few years ago. Not because the cars hadn’t sold well, but because someone had the brilliant idea that all Ford car names should start with the letter F. The Windstar became the Freestar, partly in an attempt to escape the minivan’s bad reputation. And there was also a Freestyle crossover. My wife wondered if they might replace “Thunderbird” with “Freebird.” After all, there was already a song to serve as the car’s theme. Then new CEO Alan Mulally, an outsider with virtually no knowledge of the auto industry, decreed that the “F” fixation was stupid. (Though for some reason he let the even more confusing MK_ mess continue at Lincoln.) Despite the damage Ford had done to the old names, they retained broad recognition by car buyers and thus equity. The Taurus name, after being reduced to fleet queen status, was returned to Ford’s current large sedan, from which it progressed to the current semi-premium car. And Ford’s redesigned compact remains a Focus despite a huge upgrade in both its specification and price.

I’ve always possessed a visceral dislike for GM’s willingness to flit from nameplate to nameplate. But this is because (apparently unlike GM) I refuse to admit defeat and give up. I also don’t like to throw anything away (luckily I have a wife to counterbalance the latter). But these reasons aren’t rational. Perhaps giving up on a nameplate when a model has failed in public perception and starting over with a new one is the smart thing to do?

Thanks to Ford, we have an answer. Until recently, Dearborn didn’t think it could sell a Euro-spec car at profitable prices in the U.S. So while Europe received better and better C-segment cars, the North American Focus soldiered on with minimal updates, and with even these focused on taking cost out of the car more often than they improved it. Then Mulally decreed that Ford would make and sell the same cars in Europe and North America. So the next Focus (a 2012 model which arrived earlier this year) would have to command much higher prices from American car buyers. A challenge in itself, retaining the Focus name for the new car should have made this even more difficult. Americans had learned to think of the Focus as a cheap car for people who couldn’t afford a better one, right? Would those seeking a premium small car even consider one with this tarnished nameplate attached?

As much as I don’t believe it replacing nameplates, I don’t think I’d have made this bet. But Ford did, and they’ve won. The Focus’s average transaction price year-to-date in 2010 was $15,424. This year, despite a few months with the old model, it’s $20,684. Despite this massive jump in the car’s price, in percentage the largest I’m aware of, the cars have been in short supply. They’ve been attracting an entirely different group of buyers, people who could afford a larger car or any direct competitor, but who are choosing the Focus because they like it the best, not because of “the deal.” Six percent of those sold are even the Titanium trim, which can list for over $27,000.

Conversely, look at GM’s experience. Many of the new cars gifted with new nameplates were mediocre, so it’s not clear how blame for lackluster sales should be apportioned. The Cobalt and G6 were significantly better than the Cavalier and Grand Am, but perhaps not good enough to sell without heavy incentives even if the old names with their broader public awareness had been retained. But what about the G8? Might it have sold better, and perhaps saved Pontiac in the process, if it had been labeled a Bonneville or Grand Prix? One possible exception: the Cadillac CTS, though it likely would have done just as well if the Catera nameplate had been retained. Then there’s the height of stupidity: scrapping a strong nameplate. Acura replaced “Integra” and “Legend” with “RSX” and “RL.” Today the former is gone and the latter might as well be.

Judging from the success of the 2012 Ford Focus, when the car is good people quickly forget any negative associations attached to a nameplate by the previous generation. On the other hand, GM has rarely if ever benefited from scrapping old nameplates in favor of new ones. The upcoming Chevrolet Sonic might well succeed—initial media reports have been positive—but this will be despite rather than because of its new name.

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Wild-Ass Rumor Of The Day: GM Likes “Sonic” Better Than “Aveo” Tue, 07 Dec 2010 18:56:00 +0000

When we asked TTAC’s Best And Brightest whether Chevy should stick with the “Aveo” nameplate for its new subcompact offering or move in a new direction, only a few seemed to believe that “Aveo” carries much equity at this point. But then, it’s not like Chevy has a lot of small-car “heritage” to draw on… Sprint, Vega, Monza and Citation all have their obvious limitations. The B&B’s debate was typically dynamic, but it seems that this discussion has gone back and forth at the RenCen as well. GMI reports:

GM has struggled with the Aveo’s name for the last two years. According to sources former U.S. marketing chief Mark LaNeve originally wanted to rename the Aveo to “Viva.” Then–following GM’s bankruptcy filing last year–Bob Lutz ordered the Aveo name to stay put…

The lackluster image of the current Aveo has left GM’s new marketing chief, Joel Ewanick, to conclude that the car needs to be renamed. Although GM has not formally announced the new name, GMI sources are stating that GM has signed off on the name “Chevrolet Sonic.”

According to U.S. Trademark records General Motors LLC filed for a trademark on the name “Chevrolet Sonic” on October 5th.

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