By on September 25, 2017

2018 Kia Stonic, Image: Kia

It’s not a secret most of us at TTAC are not, to put it charitably, overly enamored with the current crop of alphabet soup adorning the trunk lids of most new cars today. The market has endured alphanumeric model names for years, but at least, say, in the ‘80s and 90s there was a very good chance the numbers stood for engine displacement. Not anymore.

This is why I am glad Kia has chosen to simply make up words for its new product. The Stonic is allegedly a portmanteau of ‘speedy’ and ‘tonic’. All right, then. At least it’s not the 6000SUX or something.

Automotive history is littered with many great and bizarre names. Here’s a few:


I’ll open the bidding with this, the Isuzu Mysterious Utility Wizard. It, of course, was known here in the States by the much more mundane name of Rodeo.


Let’s use this Mazda Bongo Friendee (with Auto Free Top!) as a chaser to the Isuzu’s weirdness.

1978 Chevrolet Blazer

Sometimes, a vehicle’s name gains legendary status simply because it captures its personality to a tee, such as this handsome Chevy Blazer.

What’s your all-time favorite vehicle name? It could be because it sounds ridiculous (Honda Life Dunk) or because it simply works with the car (the mighty Ford Mustang). Sure, we all talk about Save the Manuals … but maybe it’s time for TTAC to lead the crusade to Save the Car Names.

[Images: Kia Motors, Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0),

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51 Comments on “QOTD: Is It Time to ‘Save the Car Names’?...”

  • avatar

    I like names, but I don’t hate alphanumeric…provided it actually means something.

    To me, Acura’s use of alphabet soup is the saddest. They went from Vigor and Legend and Integra — to RDX which, as my dad pointed out, is a type of Allied explosive used in WWII. The Acura Zyklon B-spec would also be terrible.

    • 0 avatar

      Their reasoning was a bit silly, they didn’t like that people were calling their cars by model over “Acura”, so very good names like “Legend” became “RL”, or “Real Life” as we say on the net.

      • 0 avatar

        That was de Nyschen’s logic for changing to the new CT/XT naming strategy, and for Infiniti, as well. “It’s all about the brand”….

        I know that we are all–myself included–naturally inclined to minimize effort in all things, whenever possible. Sometimes this is efficient; as often, it isn’t, and is just stupid, instead. Relying on brand name, instead of actually examining the merit of the many-10’s-of-thousands-of-dollars-product purchase you’re about to make is very, very stupid.

      • 0 avatar

        One of the dumber rationalizations I had ever heard when and since, I wondered at the time what survey tabulated the number of people who had mistakenly wandered into a Plymouth dealer looking for an Integra. Probably zero.

    • 0 avatar

      Acura’s problem is that their alphabet soup has no logic to it. Before Lexus kind of screwed it up with the IS, you could tell the progression from ES to GS to LS. Very Mercedes-like.

      Instead, where is the TL in relation to the RL–or is it the TLX now. Wait, shouldn’t a three-letter ‘X’ designation indicate that it’s an SUV, like RDX? Oh, but wait, there’s the NSX that started the whole thing.

      Acura could do worse than admit it made a mistake and reboot the lineup with a new ‘Legend’ and ‘Integra’ leading the way.

  • avatar

    I’m a fan of actual names for cars vs passwords, even a stupid made up name. I’ll remember Stonic for the rest of my life but I couldn’t name a single Cadillac besides Escalade. I’m biased but Roadmaster is my favorite. At least Buicks still have names. Start with E and decide how large a potato you want to drive.

    • 0 avatar

      On the other hand, I’m driving a Leaf now. Terrible name for a car. I cringe a little every time I tell someone what I drive.

      • 0 avatar

        When I first read about the Leaf, I thought of the minor character from Poppy Z. Brite’s ‘Drawing Blood’… a young convenience-store employee who smokes a joint with one of the protagonists before fellating him.

        Difficult association to break, as it turns out. Makes me smile more than the truth, that Nissan named their ‘green’ car after nature’s solar panels.

  • avatar

    Suzuki has some weird names, a couple of which are uncomfortably close to other, non-automotive products:

    – To me, “Kizashi” evokes the name of breakfast cereal brand Kashi.

    – Similarly, “Vitara” reminds me of the drug Viagra.

    And am I the only one who thinks “killed in action” when he reads the word “KIA?”

  • avatar

    It seems that the great car names, like great guitar riffs and pop chord progressions, were used up by the early eighties. Names like Legend, Cobra, Spitfire, Charger, Mustang, and Stingray, and maybe Voyager and Thunderbird, seem perfect and obvious, but great new names are in such short supply that words either have to be made up or the alphabet soup has to be applied.

    Great-sounding names give the car built-in marketing power while new, complicated or unfamiliar names may never become known. It’s tragic that manufacturers squandered many great names on short runs or substandard cars and then abandoned them.

    • 0 avatar

      Names are memorable, for good or for ill, while alphanumerics rarely are (I’ll make exceptions for some sports cars like 240Z, TR3, MGB). But not only are there still good names available (plenty of animals not yet tapped), there are also great names to be re-used: Zephyr, Clipper, Hawk, Executive, Lark, Champion, Commander, Cougar, Montego, Monterrey, Comet, Fleetwood, Cutlass, Toronado, Silhouette, Starfire, Aurora, Intrigue, Marlin, Javelin, Hornet, Ambassador, Spirit, Firebird, Tempest, Catalina, Sunbird, Sunfire, LeMans, Safari, Chieftain, Phoenix, Ventura.

      And beyond all of these, the same firms that produce non-word names for drugs could certainly come up with names that have no baggage yet convey a feeling appropriate to the car.

  • avatar

    Names absolutely need to come back.

  • avatar
    John R

    Starion is still the greatest.

    A testament to what happens when employees can’t/won’t muster the courage to their emperor that he has no clothes.

  • avatar
    Prove Your Humanity 2+9=?

    Would a New Beetle with a diesel engine be called a Stink Bug?

  • avatar


  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    I like names more than I like alphanumerics, but I also think that all the people who claim that using a name instead will cure terrible products are simpletons. “OMG if they’d just call the RLX the Legend all of their problems would be fixed!” Umm, no, you’re a moron.

  • avatar

    I really like Barracuda. Fortunately, it’s been attached to a series of really good-looking cars starting in ’64.

    • 0 avatar

      @PeteRR: I was just thinking about the Barracuda yesterday. I liked everything about the original except for the front end. The car looked sleek as long as you were looking at the back 80%. It finally looked great all the way around in 1970.

  • avatar

    A couple that I knew had what I thought was either a Sci-Fi film title or video game; Pulsar Vs. Starion.

    My favorite, Buick Century Estate Wagon, still in the crate (“wood” panels).

  • avatar

    I’ve no gripes with our current crop of names. Naming stuff is hard…you cant please everyone but you must do your best to not alienate key parts of your consumer base. I appreciate thoughtfulness and tradition but I know lazy when I see it.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    I always liked how Ford named their BOF SUV’s.

    Explorer/Mountaineer/Aviator – Expedition/Navigator – Excursion

  • avatar

    2dr Speck.

  • avatar

    Jensen Interceptor will forever reign supreme.

    Doesn’t hurt that the car is also the very definition of “cool”.

  • avatar

    I’m all for names, but really, Kia? “Hey, let’s take “Sonic” from Chevy and stick a “t” in it! That won’t confuse anyone!” That’s branding done wrong.

    While they’re at it, they should rename the Forte Koup the Clamaro.

  • avatar

    I like the MB mix of letters and numbers. It’s elegant.

    But I really don’t care about names all that much. I’ve never looked at a car and thought wow, great car, but that name is awful.

  • avatar

    Lots of great names got wasted on terrible cars. There is no reason Cadillac couldn’t still use the Eldorado, or deVille or Seville names, but their value was trashed by their application to mediocre or worse cars for 20+ years. Same for Buick and the Riviera, LeSabre, and Roadmaster, or Ford with the T-Bird, Escort, and LTD. Funny how US makers have had so many wonderfully evocative names over the years, but have abandoned almost all of them, while rather pedestrian names such as Corolla, Camry, Civic, Accord, Golf, Beetle, and Miata are still going strong after 30 to 50+ years of continuous use.

    • 0 avatar

      Many of those names only have negative associations for people over 50 or serious gearheads. The rest of the buying public has at best a vague notion of the history of the name.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Would still love to drive something named a Riviera, a Wildcat, a Firebird, a Thunderbird, a Sedan de Ville.

        Mustang is still an evocative name and the car would not have the same cachet without that name.

        Same for the Corvette.

  • avatar

    How could one forget the Hyundai Scoupe?

    Bring back names, alphanumerics suck.

  • avatar

    Here are some of my favorites:

    Continental: it sounds big and luxurious just like a land yacht should be.

    Stingray: you get a sense of how it should look just from the name, and you just know it has to be cool.

    Legend: the car really needs to be good to live up to this name.

    Renegade: though it’s only new this is one just sounds like it has to be a Jeep.

  • avatar

    IMPALA. Duh!

    Next in line:

    Galaxie 500
    GTO – even tho’ it’s an abbreviation, no one ever spelled it out!

    That’s about it unless I forgot one or two.

  • avatar

    Alpha-numeric OK when it has meaning but manufacturers have a tendency to mix up those letters and numbers for reasons that only have meaning to them (Ex: Infiniti going from understandable to mess in naming)

    I far and away prefer names, the only “nameless” vehicle I ever owned was an “F150” but at least there was meaning. (F-series 1/2 ton)

  • avatar

    I hate alpha numeric names, I never remember them. The best I do is sum up the family in one swoop (like BMW 3 Series). By using numbers and letters the individual cars have no identity of their own. There is no emotional appeal to whatever Infiniti or Lexus character combo is available today, they all just become a blur…

    On another note, what was the deal with the Hyundai Scoupe? It was BOTH “scoop” or S Coupe depending on region??

  • avatar

    SsangYong Stavic, Musso, Kyron, Actyon, Koronado (close to Canyonero!), Rexton

  • avatar


  • avatar

    Gordon Keeble – I dropped the mic (or whatever they say).

  • avatar

    The 6000SUX

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