By on May 25, 2014


TTAC’s post by J. Emerson on how so-called Millennials’ automotive tastes have been shaped by their coming of automotive age in an era when their parents embraced body on frame sport utility vehicles brought forth a lot of thoughtful comment. One comment that caught my eye, though, had little to do with the topic of the post but rather was a complaint about the use of the acronym BOF. To most of us that means “body on frame” but to manga or Korean sitcom fans it might mean Boys Over Flowers and when you’re using abbreviations you have to be sure your audience recognizes them. In an earlier life I did IT support and we would make a recursive joke about the proliferation of TLA’s, three letter acronyms. Such acronyms, abbreviations, and jargon serve a useful purpose to those in the know, but can also function as a mark of group identification, a shibboleth, if you will. Sometimes the use of jargon can function as a barrier to others, which can be contrary to how inclusive we want TTAC to be.


As a writer I have to realize that not everyone knows all the lingo of being a car enthusiast or industry watcher but at the same time I don’t want to condescend and assume that our readers don’t know about what we’re talking. Partly it’s a matter of following a style manual but it’s also an issue of respecting the readers. When discussion suspensions at a car site is it really necessary to say “independent rear suspension” the first time in a post before switching to IRS? When I’m reading about possible government targeting of tax-exempt groups for political purposes does a site have to write out “Internal Revenue Service” for me to know that in that context IRS has nothing to do with the Porsche 928’s Weissach axle?


Offhand I can think of a few automotive TLAs besides BOF and IRS. There’s the CAN bus I recently discussed, and SLA, short long arm, another suspension term. Getting back to the post that spurred this one, there’s SUV and CUV.

front suspension

Sometimes, instead of exporting fully assembled cars or setting up full overseas assembly operations with a body shop and local suppliers, a lot of automakers will ship CKD, completely knocked down, kits that are then put together in their foreign markets with local labor (though some sources say that the abbreviation stands for “cars knocked down”).


While researching this post I discovered another related TLA, those fully assembled exported cars are referred to as CBUs, completely built units.

2003 Land Rover CKD

What other automotive acronyms can you think of? Which do you think most car enthusiasts should recognize without explanation? Which do you particularly like to use? Which do you find annoying?

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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63 Comments on “BOF, IRS, CKD, SUV… Automotive TLAs, What Are Your Most (and Least) Favorite Acronyms?...”

  • avatar


    • 0 avatar

      Least favorite?

      CLK, SLR, CTS, LF-A, etc…

      Why can’t they give cars actual names anymore?

      • 0 avatar

        Zee Germans

      • 0 avatar

        A combination of the need to sell the same car in very different markets with very different languages (remember the Mitsu Pajero in Spain?) and the desire to be politically correct (the only reason the Cherokee name can be used today is because of the grandfather clause).

        And hey, “Amarok” is a cool name in any country.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    IRS gives a bad name to independent rear suspension.

    There usually isn’t much “sport” in SUVs – seems like a misnomer.

    An awkward one is Li-Ion, but that’s not really an acronym.

    OBD-II requires several sentences to explain, but at least it rolls off the tongue. Unfortunately, though, too many people mix up the letters.

  • avatar

    LTD (Limited) This designation should indicate some kind of exclusivity or short supply, but it really means that the car is “Limited to however many we sell”

  • avatar

    For a moment I thought Bertel had returned.

    HDC – Hill Decent Control, oh wait Toyota calls it DAC – Downhill Assist Control. (I’m sure other automakers have their own acronyms I just don’t know them off the top of my head.)

    I’m more consistently annoyed by package names that mean nothing or slowly evolve to mean next to nothing. SXT, Z71, (short lived) Z66 “on road package”, SE, Sport, Limited, SL, SLE, SLT, LT, LS, STX, etc..

    • 0 avatar

      This reminds me of DCTs. Every manufacturer has a different name for them. Ford, for example, calls them a “PowerShift Transmission” and never mentions they’re a DCT. VAG’s names for them all turn into DSG. Someone calls them a TCT. It’s just completely confusing. For some reason DSG is the generic term here even though DCT would probably make more sense.

      The ones I have a really hard time with are all the BMW and M-B platform designations. Unlike the domestic manufacturers that built platforms that lasted for decades and became household names, they create so many of these and they seem to be issued serially so they tell you almost nothing.

  • avatar

    For context, I work as a software engineer heavily involved in control of electromechanical assemblies and double as an IT person from time-to-time. Not only is there a general jargon and set of TLAs for engineering departments that design and document for manufacturing, but there are specific ones used in software departments that work in my field, IT-specific ones, and for that matter even ones that are specific to businesses in manufacturing.

    There are some conflicts in TLAs I’ve seen here, but I can’t recall them all.

    I come from a long line of shade tree mechanics and engineers. I also play with model cars (with geometry adjustments akin to race cars), so the rest of this is from a somewhat unusual perspective for someone in my age group:
    – BOF threw me when I saw it mentioned without reference to SUV. With the two together, I knew exactly what they were talking about. Of course, I’ve owned a BOF car and most of what my parents own is BOF.
    – IRS was easier. I had the knee-jerk, but the context was wrong, so I thought about it a couple seconds and said, “ahh, independent rear suspension”.
    – CAN was instant, as I was familiar with the bus and protocol even though I don’t work with them.
    – CKD? CBU? SLA? Nothing, at all, until I read this article. The only SLA hit I have is that it sounds like an M-B model.
    – B&B? Bed and Breakfast? Best & Brightest? Bread & Butter? Biggest & Best? Beer & Brats? I still don’t know what this actually means.

    My favorites are mainstream enough to be understood by just about anyone. Realistically, the first three on my list should be fine to use in context. The latter three seem like things you should spell out.

    It’d be a great idea to create a glossary of acronyms and terminology, then develop a style guide from that for which acronyms should be spelled out and which are sufficiently-mainstream to not confuse a casual reader. Just a thought.

  • avatar
    Jeff Weimer

    Least favorite? NIH – Not Invented Here. Caused a lot of automakers, especially the Detroit Three, to forego useful innovations and stick with outdated technology simply because they were to proud to use something they didn’t come up with.

  • avatar

    CUV, XUV. They are 4wd station wagons.

    Embrace the suck, do not hide from it.

    • 0 avatar

      Most aren’t even AWD. CUVs are just station wagons or minivans with “aggressive” inefficient body styles. What they’re closest to of these will vary depending on the model/manufacturer.

      • 0 avatar

        You must live in the South. Here in the Northwest, good luck finding a single CUV or SUV without the AWD option on a dealer lot. Even sedans can be hard to find without AWD if the option is offered.

        • 0 avatar

          I see quite a few without AWD and I live in the PNW. I saw far more when I lived in SoCal, though.

          Trucks without 4WD up here are rare, though, that’s for sure. It’s the exact opposite of SoCal where almost every truck was 2WD. Not that I could see why you’d want a 2WD here…

  • avatar

    Two acronyms bug me:

    RMS – Rear Main Seal, known to leak on Porsche 911s. Coming from a scientific education, RMS always means Root Mean Square to me, so during discussions of 911s I’m always having to figure out what they are going on about.

    CAI – Cold Air Intake. Popular with the tuner/import crowd to replace. I don’t know why “cold” is part of that acronym as the external air can be quite hot, particularly in Arizona.

    • 0 avatar

      “CAI – Cold Air Intake. Popular with the tuner/import crowd to replace. I don’t know why “cold” is part of that acronym as the external air can be quite hot, particularly in Arizona.”

      Its called a CAI being the idea that the intake draws air exclusively outside the engine compartment ergo the air is not drawn from the heated space from around the engine.

      Unfortunately most cold air intakes fail in this regard as they do not seal correctly or in some cases are simply an open element attached to a tube in the engine compartment.

      CAI is an evolution of the “ram-air” intakes of the past. I’m not sure if people finally realized you cannot ram or compress air into an engine at sub-sonic speeds or product marketers wanted to differentiate their product from the luddite “ram-air” systems that were on the market but that’s what they evolved from.

      Interestingly more and more people are coming to realize that the bulk of the power offered by todays cold air intakes (even if properly designed) is more due to the tuning required (or in the case of some systems the way they interact with the mass-air meter causing the engine to lean out and generate more power that way – the so called no tune required CAIs).

      I know on my car formerly fitted with Ford’s cold air intake box the hood blanket is designed to allow the engine to draw of some degree of air from the hood and fender gap on the drivers side though still mostly through the front.

      It was a nice piece although unfortunately it wouldn’t allow fitment of my current air filter which was part of a JLT Big Air kit. The new CAI still draws some air from the hood blanket designed to work with Ford’s CAI but only acts a shield to the engine proper as the bottom is open to the engine compartment requiring that the vehicle be moving to get any semblance of cold air (I easily see a 40 degree swing in discharge temps when the car is idling in traffic compared to when its moving down the road).

  • avatar

    AWD: All Wheel Drive.

    But in this case, I wished all manufacturers would use it. Instead, we have market-speak AWD in the form of:

    Symmetrical All Wheel Drive
    All Weather Drive
    Instinctive All Wheel Drive
    Intelligent All Wheel Drive

    What else am I missing?

    • 0 avatar

      Trying to find options for AWD and 4WD/4X4 vehicles is complete insanity when searching in online classifieds. There are so many terms that you know you are not seeing all of them, plus in some parts of the country (SoCal) nobody know which anything is. A 4×4 truck with locking hubs and a transfer case will be listed as AWD.

      Not a problem here, though.

    • 0 avatar

      The biggest issue with AWD is that in most cases its almost impossible to find out how the system itself actually functions, if that sort of stuff interests you. Which it does me.

  • avatar

    Favorite? LSD of course

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Acura’s PAWS (Precision All-Wheel Steer).

  • avatar

    PDK = heresy

    IRS = car should have this without mentioning or an offroad vehicle has been ruined

    Always had a soft spot for VDO (Vereinigte DEUTA-OTA), since it was on the MkII VW gauge cluster. VDO is just a component supplier.

  • avatar

    NVH — Noise Vibration and Harshness. Can’t make it through most new car reviews without this one.

    CHMSL – Center High Mounted Stop Lamps. Never understood why that one needed an abbreviation, as I can’t see it ever being spoken about enough to warrant one.

  • avatar
    GS 455

    I’m pretty sure most Milennials wouldn’t know a BOF from a BFF. TTAC often uses the acronym PSA which always makes me think of prostate-specific antigen rather than an automobile manufacturer.

  • avatar


    I hear they go like the clappers though.

  • avatar

    Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, properly pronounced SHHH-AWWWWWW-DUH.

    And Lincoln’s bad Abbot & Costello routine of naming.

    You also can’t have BMW’s withOUT X-Drive go badgeless for they may become sad at their lack of badging, so – S-DRIVE.

    I wish Mercedes would’ve followed its own naming convention and called the GLK the MLK. The urban marketing and special edition potentials are endless.

    4MATIC is great because it sounds like a 4-speed automatic.

    GS = Gran Sport = base Eclipse apparently

    Remember when Cadillac called it SIRS instead of SRS?

    The Element SC which did NOT stand for ‘supercharged,’ but instead for…nothing?

    Auctions are fun, too, because you’ll have a BMW listed as having the following equipment…

  • avatar

    My car was recently recalled for a RECAL


  • avatar

    I support capital punishment for pluralizing mpg and rpm. As for other auto acronyms I hate, VAG is up there. More respectable publications use VWAG, which not only doesn’t risk offense, but also is more descriptive for newbies. There are some terms bandied about in automotive text that rub me the wrong way: livery, bespoke, marque, Mk. It seems many people who use these terms don’t even really know what they mean. Rather, it comes across more as “I’m a car guy, and I use car guy words!” To everyone else, it comes across more like:

    “The marque’s MkMark market livery marked Marc’s livery marketing.”
    “Markedly bespoke.”

    As a general rule, I greatly dislike acronyms and jargon for anything professional. I disapprove of reusing acronyms that already exist in the public’s lexicon. IRS = Internal Revenue Service, and thus is cannot be used to mean something else without confusion, even if you define it. This has run rampant throughout my company. Usually those who do it are just trying to make themselves sound smart and ‘in the know,’ but instead they come across as blithering idiot-posers.

    When acronyms are necessary, I feel the best rule is to write the full term out the first time it is used, then include the acronym in parentheses, and then use the acronym for the rest of the article.

    • 0 avatar

      I hate reading an article with an over abundance of acronyms. The writer is assuming we know everything they do, we don’t. I always thought it was considered good writing to spell the acronym out the first time to make sure your reader knows what you’re talking about

      • 0 avatar

        Government intel jargon is a hoot. The newbie goes diving for acronym meanings only to find that the exact same acro is used six different ways by as many different agencies. And since we all hate each other it’ll stay that way. Fusion, indeed.

    • 0 avatar

      “livery, bespoke, marque, Mk.”

      It gets boring writing “paint scheme”, “custom”, and “brand”. Also, I’ve owned a few Brit cars and I grew up reading Leonard Setright so I’ve incorporated some Britishisms in my carspeak. As for Mk, I generally use it when it’s part of the actual name of the car, or in the case of the Lotus Cortina, it’s used today to distinguish it from a different generation of the same model. Normally in those cases I’d use generation or gen.

    • 0 avatar
      GS 455

      I always hated Marky Mark. What a poseur!

  • avatar

    The phrase that I think irritates me the most fortunately doesn’t seem to have been acronymized: Ran when parked.

    When I worked in IT (well, almost – I was a LIMS sysad in a government chemistry lab) The acronym RSN (Real Soon Now) was used frequently.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    In the same vein; the German-iron owning douche waffles who get into arguments while just using the vehicle’s model number. “Oh the e40 is far superior to the e36, or the 997 is a vastly different car the 457 or the w123 is hands down a Derek-type game changer compared to the w146. If I cared; I’d know what the numbers mean. Since I don’t; just give me the car’s number and letter or name; 325e, Boxster, E350. Or perhaps they wear their Thomas Pink shirts untucked and bring undo attention to the inserts. In closing; I’m not criticizing those who own/fans of German iron. I’m criticizing those who only speak in model numbers and think they’re too clever by half. They are douche waffles.

    • 0 avatar

      I know what you mean and I think I know why. BMW’s VP of Confusion dictated that from now on, all two door cars would be EVEN numbers and all ODD numbered cars would have 4 doors, *with certain exceptions.* When talking BMW you can use this little mental exercise, it always helps me in remembering the different models.

      the 1 Series – which only offered 2 doors, became the 2 Series but has returned as a 4 door hatch. The 3 Series would be only sedans, so The 4 series was created for 3 Series buyers who want 2 doors. The 5 Series and 7 Series remained 4 doors as they had, but the 6 Series now has both 2 and 4 Doors with the addition of a Grand Coupe, which itself by definition is a two-door, but in reality has four doors.

      Now, that’s not so hard, is it?

    • 0 avatar

      I’m just going to go stow my Bosch waffle iron. I don’t want to be judged.

  • avatar

    I don’t know if it counts, but not being a BMW or Porsche fanboi I get semi-irritated when people refer to specific models as E30 or 996. I understand it’s easier this way to refer to a generation or model, but by not being a fanboi I always have to Google it.

    EDIT: Oh, and I’m sure this counts. Everybody’s favorite automotive TLA: DMV.

  • avatar

    My favorite almost-TLA is ETLA. TTAC is a good example.

    ETLA = Extended Three-Letter Acronym.

  • avatar

    ALL three letter model names bug me, because models should have names. I can put up with TDI, but every time I see DSG, I read it as di-sodium glutamate.

  • avatar

    ‘ABS’ should be familiar to us enthusiasts.

  • avatar

    Pet peeve: Incorrectly making certain acronyms plural, i.e. “rpm’s” (revolutions per minute), “mpg’s” (miles per gallon)

    • 0 avatar

      I also hate when people use apostrophes for pluralizing acronyms, but it’s a pet peeve and not a hard and fast grammatical rule, so I just let it go.

      • 0 avatar

        Forgive me for inserting commas, since I only use rpm and mpg. Sometimes we never forget grammatical rules that were drilled into us! LOL! :-)

  • avatar

    Even as, you know, a paid automotive guy, I had no idea what a DLO was and why TTAC writers are obsessed with them. I think I’ve figured it out (day light opening?) just based on context clues.

    • 0 avatar

      Crap, I’ve been reading that Doesn’t Line Up fail. Now I have no idea at all.

    • 0 avatar

      Yup, “Day-Light Opening”, a particular bug-bear of resident TTaC design critic Sajeev Mehta. Defined here: , but first critizised here: . Also mentioned here and there throughout his Vellum Venom series.

  • avatar

    My personal gripe? That automakers can’t decide on a standard acronym for electronic stability control.

    ESC, ESP, DSC, VSA, VDC, PCS, VDC, DSTC are listed on Wikipedia, in addition to others.

  • avatar

    The interpretation of “BOF” that I’ve seen most is from conferences in the IT business, where it connotes sessions for those with a special interest in the same sub-area or otherwise like-minded people: “Birds Of a Feather”.

  • avatar

    One of my clients recognises the extent to which their over-use of acronyms has become a barrier to communication and has an “Acropedia” hosted on the company intranet.

    It helps, up to a point, but discerning the correct translation between 3 or 4 different entries that may make little to no sense can be frustrating.

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