By on August 2, 2012

Starting with the redesigned 2013 Accord, Honda will introduce its new, ultra-efficient/more powerful Earth Dreams engine lineup. And it’s far from the most silly moniker attached to automotive technology.

Acura, of course, had their Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive. If you’ve ever watched a Japanese market product video on Youtube (or, if you’re the at Kreindlers, pulled a dusty VHS tape off the basement bookshelf), you know that it would sound great being barked out by an overly enthusiastic Japanese-speaking narrarator, but sounds slightly absurd when processed by a North American ear.

By far the silliest is “Skyactiv”, from Mazda. The technology behind it is great; ultra efficient engines, light weight and automatic gearboxes that are actually enjoyable. But is it spelled “SKYACTIV”, “Skyactiv” or “SKYActiv”. Why the name? What does it mean? At least, on the American front, “Ecoboost” is pretty descriptive, even if its more “Boost” than “Eco”.

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66 Comments on “QOTD: What Is Up With Efficient Engine Nomenclature?...”

  • avatar

    I guess everyone will have their own opinion on this subject but if you ask me I would say the silliest by far is BlueEfficiency. Let’s see… BlueEfficiency… Is that better than PurpleEfficiency? How about TaupeEfficiency? And how is that different from BlueMotion and BluePerformance, which don’t even refer to the same manufacturer(s)? What is it about Germans and Blue anyway? I thought the German word for blue which is “blau” is a euphemism for “drunk”. Oh now I get it! DrunkEfficiency! Brilliant!

    • 0 avatar

      Adblue is the german trademark for diesel exhaust fluid, the urea solution required to reduce emissions in new diesels. Sounds nicer than UreaEfficiency, UreaMotion, UreaPerformance.

      • 0 avatar
        Mark Stevenson

        Munich, Germany, 2005

        Friedrich: “Hans, how do you zuppose ve market zis urea injection technology?”

        Hans: “Well, I do not know. How do you align our ethos of performance with zat of efficiency?”

        Friedrich: “We could zay zat we are zo excellent that we PissPerformance. What do you zink, Hans?”

        Hans: *face palm*

      • 0 avatar

        Blue Efficiency refers to more than just diesels. The tags are basically on every new MB product. It’s more of MBs Skyactiv.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    You must remember that a whole generation of potential car buyers is out there now who have been taught for the last 10-20 years that man is the worst thing to happen to green Planet earth.
    According to people such as the Australian Green political party ,the homosapien species has killed the earth and made it hot,raised it’s ocean levels and killed all the sweet harmless polar bears. Cars of course are the biggest earth killer known (followed by iranian nuclear weapons,but only iranian mind)
    So ,if your name is Honda, Toyoda et al, you must join in the mind games and name your product to show that your car is not a earth killer and project out to potential buyers that… by buying this proactively efficient machine you will actually save whales and reduce the ozone depleting effects that using a Visa, M/C etc produce.

    And by using the word proactive,I am showing I am savvy to the thoughts that young people have,after all they only need that one word dont they…?

    • 0 avatar

      When it comes to pragmatic thought about environmental issues, the Australian Green Party is not exactly a standout. They should probably be more appropriately renamed as the very left, anti-development neo-luddite movement of Australia.

    • 0 avatar

      @Ron B.: “And by using the word proactive,I am showing I am savvy to the thoughts that young people have,after all they only need that one word dont they…?”

      That’s the kind of thinking that lead to Malibu Hybrid. The thinking was that, by slapping the “Hybrid” moniker on a Malibu, that all them eco-hippies would line up around the block to buy the car.

      The problem was that the Malibu hybrid system wasn’t a real hybrid system (it was a 36V belt-alternator-starter system), and only saved about 2MPG. With any hybrid system, you’ve got to start with an efficient car in order to get anywhere — and the the Malibu just wasn’t a good starting point.

      Efficiency-minded buyers (the real demographic) looked at the sticker in the windows and decided that mileage in the 30s wasn’t efficiency — when Toyota was selling a 50MPG car down the street.

      It also helps that the Prius is a wonderful car in other respects. Yeah, it drives like an appliance — but it’s reliable and has really good use of interior space. So, once the green halo wears off, you’re left with a really solid AtoB daily driver with low fuel and maintenance costs. In other words, there’s a lot more to the success of the Prius than you’re assuming — the green label does help to sell the car, but it doesn’t explain why Prius owners are so reluctant to sell their car. The truth is that the Prius is both efficient AND an extraordinarily good transportation appliance.

      P.S. Yes, there are people out there who haven’t thought the issues through and who just try to tow the party line. But environmentalists hardly have a monopoly on that!

  • avatar

    “Earth Dreams” sounds so utterly pandering it alone will cause me to cross those models off any future shopping list.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    One of the Japanese auto industy’s more endearing qualities is its ability to come up with wacky and corny names for otherwise brilliant products.

    There is a story in “The Reckoning”, where the the famous Nissan 240Z had actually been named My Fairlady in Japan, out of a whim from its president, who loved the movie.

  • avatar

    I understand the manufacturers falling for the greenie cool aid, but do they realize there is a backlash? What Honda has done with this utterly offensive garbage in addition to turning away people is increase the spotlight on Mazda’s equally stoopid engine name and turn more people off Mazda too.

    The be clear, the backlash is against offensive marketing, which insults our intelligence, not against more efficient engines.

  • avatar
    Mark Stevenson

    While not completely connected to the topic at hand, one thing that always stands out for me are technologies from Mercedes-Benz.

    In press releases, MB always puts their trademarked technologies in all caps, as illustrated in the text for the new GL 63 AMG: “Power is transmitted to all four permanently driven wheels by the AMG SPEEDSHIFT PLUS 7G-TRONIC transmission.”

    As someone who reads a hell of a lot of press releases, whenever I read one from Mercedes-Benz I immediately switch to the suave German engineer accent voice in my head. But, as soon as I see one of these all caps technologies written, the accent immediately turns to angry Hitler.

  • avatar

    Woooo! Mainstream Direct Injection for Honda! That’ll be the last major manufacturer along with Toyota to make it’s announcement. Funny it’s news when every manufacturer already has DI.

    Who is going to the first to present mainstream turbos, Honda or Toyota?

  • avatar

    Let’s see:
    Honda – Earth Dreams. …what?
    Mazda – Skyactiv. Whatever.
    Ford – EcoBoost. Sounds more pleasant than “twin-turbo V6”
    VW – BlueMotion. Here we go again, jamming two unrelated words together.
    BMW – Efficient Dynamics. Probably the least flaky description of them all.
    GM – Eco. Relatively honest like BMW.
    Mercedes-Benz – BlueTEC. What’s with the “Blue” again? AdBlue urea injection?
    Toyota – Hybrid Synergy Drive. Sounds cool I guess.

  • avatar

    “By far the silliest is “Skyactiv”, from Mazda”

    Yes, but this is from the company that sold the “Bongo Friendee” with a straight face.

  • avatar

    I miss the Cadillac Northstar “system” a time when silly names weren’t about efficiency but how much unneeded technology you could cram into a bad car…

  • avatar

    What about Fiat-Chrysler’s “Multiair”? Interesting technology, but how on earth is anyone supposed to understand what it means?

    • 0 avatar

      It means “we found a cool new name for variable valve timing that we took forever to implement, and now we can distract you from the fact that our engines don’t have direct injection.”

  • avatar

    Remember Ford Zetec and GM’s Ecotec engines which had to be named similarly to Honda’s variable valve timed gems.

  • avatar
    Freddy M

    I don’t know. I personally think “Earth Dreams” is the corniest of the bunch, speaking from a North-American perspective.

    “SkyActiv” or however it’s spelled doesn’t sound bad to me, but I could do without the fancy spelling.

    Not that I’m knocking the tech, but I always felt that Honda’s VTEC acronym although UTTERLY AWESOME sounding was a little bit of a stretch. Variable valve Timing and lift Electronic Control… shouldn’t that be VVTLEC?

    • 0 avatar

      I have to agree, “Earth Dreams” is the worst of the bunch. Why not build on their success and call it VTEC-2, or maybe VTEC Reloaded for the kids?

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I agree. “Earth Dreams” = this is going to suck. I was already resistant to efforts to sell me an oversize Accord, but now with a CVT and direct injection to make maintenance more expensive and electric power steering to remove any remaining driving enjoyment. Adding “Earth Dreams” just reminds me how much I hate the direction of the changes. The reason to buy a Honda used to be that you received a good reliable car that was somewhat fun to drive, with good resale value because they didn’t cost a fortune to keep on the road as they aged. Even the Honda weak automatic transmissions were at least a simple design that’s easy to rebuild. Haven’t found anyone who rebuilds CVTs.

      SkyActiv is much better. Mazda is basically promising to make incremental efficiency improvements without destroying Mazda’s fun to drive character. Their high compression direct injection engines may prove to be maintenance nightmares, but SkyActiv reminds me that Mazda is at least trying to build a car I would like.

      • 0 avatar
        Freddy M


        It breaks my heart that Mazda is struggling just to make ends meet while steadfastly continuing their mission to ensure that the driving experience comes first no matter what.

  • avatar

    Skyactive is the worst? You’re kidding.

    BlueEFFICIENCY is worse, and there is worse.

  • avatar

    EcoBoost, EcoTech and even Multi-Air, like DuraTech before them, are all pretty simple and straightforward names. SkyActiv, the various ‘blue’ themed names, and even Northstar are tailored to create an emotion. The best example I can think for comparison would be the original Honda names: Accord, Civic and Prelude.

    It’s just a different philosophy of what you want a name to signify and how you want someone to relate it to the brand.

  • avatar

    Sorry, you are wrong about this one. Earth Dreams is far worse than SKYActiv. Earth Dreams sounds like a hippie got into some marketing/engineering meeting and came up with the name. Hippies might like Hondas (according to the latest and terrible Civic commercials), so I guess it is a fit.

    • 0 avatar

      I can imagine a hippie naming a line of mystical new-age aromatherapy products Earth Dreams, but not applying that name to a direct-injection diesel engine. Only an highly sophisticated modern marketing team could do that.

      • 0 avatar

        Is that sarcasm or do you honestly think that? Interwebs suck sometimes and my sarcasm detector seems to be busted.

        What does it say when the name sounds more like aromatherapy products than it does engine technology?

    • 0 avatar

      “so I guess it is a fit.”
      I see what you did there!

  • avatar

    These are all marketing, and marketing is necessary. “Twin turbo direct injection with a DCT transmission” doesn’t fit on a billboard, but “EcoBoost” does. “High compression low friction direct injection with an advanced hybrid 6 speed automatic” doesn’t sound as compelling as “SkyActiv” does. “We finally added DI to our outdated engines and added a 6th cog to our trannies,” while truthful, doesn’t sound as warm and cuddly as “EarthDreams.” “MultiAir” sounds cooler than “We were one of the last manufacturers to implement CVVT.”

    And nothing on this earth will make Toyota and GM sound more appealing. ;)

  • avatar

    What’s up with efficient engine nomenclature?

    Product branding is limited to what companies can actually trademark. As you can imagine, the pool of product names that can be used are getting smaller and smaller as time goes on.

    This is particularly difficult when you are trying to trademark something globally (trademarks are regional, you need to buy the trademark in every region you plan on selling your car). Only Apple, with a stockpile of cash larger than the US treasury ($76 billion), can afford to name their products whatever they want and buy the trademark out from the original trademark holders.

    This is why companies often use phonetic sounds on common words. Mazda is using “SkyActiv” because “SkyActive” was likely taken or was harder to trademark. Other examples are: “Netflix”, its not tradmarked as “Netflicks”, Toyota couldn’t trademark the “iGo” in Eukrope so they called their car the Aygo instead. You also have to trademark every variable spelling difference, “iPhone”, ‘IPhone”,”i Phone”, and “I Phone” are different trademarks.

    Also trademark law specifies that trademark is only kept if you protect it. So companies are obligated to sue similar sounding names or names that can cause confusion. Trademarks are very litigious by nature. You sue just to be safe. You don’t want to name a product which you’ll lose in court a couple years down the line forcing you to change your product name.

  • avatar

    Personally – the best suggestion so far is:
    “Call it “Nice Dreams” and import it from Mexico.”
    Loved that Cheech & Chong stuff!

  • avatar

    I was working for Acura back in 2004 when the first SH-AWD RLs started showing up and a guy I worked with stated “If the word ‘dooper’ appears in any new Honda technology names I’m changin brands\'”.

    Personally I always thought the emissions levels were getting a little outa control.

    low emissions vehicle–not bad. makes sense
    ultra low emissions vehicle–also good. clearly lower than LEV
    super ultra low emissions vehicle–hang on now…gettin kinda silly

    I’m glad they just decided going beyond that was getting damn near zero and so I believe the next step would be Subaru’s PZEV’s.

    • 0 avatar

      I was just going to bring PZEV up but you beat me to it. I chuckle every time I see that in traffic, and always want to ask the driver: “What’s that mean? Is it the same as being half-way pregnant?” Must be our new math . . .

      Regarding blue vs. green, apparently blue is the German equivalent of our green. It’s already pretty green over there anyways . . .

      • 0 avatar
        Carl in NH

        Well, I get the “regulatory” meaning of PZEV (“Partial” zero emission vehicle) category, indicating that the vehicle meets one of the regulatory goals of zero emissions : zero *fuel* emissions.

        That said, it has clearly become a marketing gimmick, and is annoying to me personally in that my company has designated parking slots for “low emissions” vehicles which are defined as being on a certain list. My ULEV Cal-spec Outback is not on the list, but PZEV Subarus are.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Doesn’t Acura make a SH-AWD Overdrive On-Board Injected Electronic…

    (Shawdoobie..I’m Shattered!)

  • avatar

    While SKYACTIV is a silly name, it is a very clever way to roll a series of very complicated power train technologies into a single marketable word. At least they continue to advertise by touting how much fun the vehicle is to drive as opposed to Toyota and Honda which seem to be selling suffering an appliance grade car for the good of mother earth.

  • avatar

    Can I get with a Hydramatic of TorqueFlite?

  • avatar

    Complicated powertrain technologies? You mean catching up with the rest of the industry. It’s too late to rename stuff if you are the LAST company to the table..

    I don’t think Audi has renamed jack – and they used some of the first direct injection engines and had the 7 speed trannies..

    Earth dreams is really stupid – seriously. Slight engine efficency improvements do not warrant new names. No one called DOHC engines anything other then DOHC..

  • avatar

    I rather like how SKYACTIV sounds, the only thing I don’t like about it is that if you mention it to me, I can’t *point* to what it is on the car.

    I also think that “MultiAir” sounds nice, and that it has the advantage of the fact that you can identify it as the engine part of the car.

    “Earth Dreams” (Chikyuu no yume?)sounds goofy in English, but from my *very* limited understanding of Japanese, I think it sounds more evocative in Japanese. Sort of like ow “Rifle-cheeseburger-football” sounds like in American.

    • 0 avatar

      SM, I hear GM has an opening for a marketing honcho. Can’t wait for the rifle-cheeseburger-football edition Camaro.

    • 0 avatar

      I had guessed it’s one of those silly Japanese-English (Engrish?) names. Like the Mazda Bongo Friendee. It sounded good to the Japanese executives that approved them, but silly to English speakers.

  • avatar

    Earth dream sounds pretty good to me. Frankly I don’t really mind the proliferation of silly names because the current crop of 40mpg gasoline cars are very impressive indeed.

  • avatar

    The same technology in their marine engines will be called Wet Dreams.

    All true!

  • avatar

    Eco Pro is the most efficient (only six letters!) as it blends the ambiguity of ‘ecology’ and ‘economy’ with the hardcore seriousness of ‘pro’ AND provides a button on the dash labeled ECO PRO to continuously remind the buyer that he’s saving humanity. WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN.

  • avatar

    Yeah, the names are dumb, but as long as it works and they don’t slap a ton of badges on the vehicles, I should care less what they call it.

  • avatar

    “Skyactiv” is a great moniker.

    First, remember that “blue” is Japan’s “green.” That’s why the Lexus CT200h uses a blue dash tint for the eco mode. It’s why Mazda uses blue engine covers. But why do they associate “blue” with the environment when “green” obviously relates to healthy plants? The SKY!

    But the sky has more connotations than merely being blue when the air is clean & clear. It is a universal symbol of the limitless. It is great expanse without end. Man dreams of flight. Ever since Icarus (and undoubtedly before), the theme of reaching the sky is equated to overcoming all human limitations. The imagery is ubiquitous. Even Terminator’s “Skynet” plays on the symbolism.

    “Active” is more obvious. It’s “Zoom-soom,” or the emotion of motion. It isn’t stationary or lethargic. It’s going places, doing things.

    Put those two messages together, and it boldly & concisely conveys Mazda’s vision.

  • avatar

    Besides, we can shorten Earth Dreams to ED. Wait, that conjures up images of a little blue pill, not blue technology.

  • avatar

    I’ve been driving a Mazda3 for a month and I’ve already gotten a few “What the hell is a Skyactiv?” questions. My JDM side wants to pop off the badges and slap an “Axela” badge on the back of it.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Somewhere in a gray room with the window shades drawn, Panther cultists are wondering where their Twinforce Town Car is.

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