When marketing misses the mark.
We recently looked at some of the best car model names ever, those instantly recognisable nameplates that have not only stood the test of time, but also speak to our inner selves, tapping into a well of emotion that only a true car lover will understand.
Nameplates like Mustang and Viper, Defender and Roadmaster, Countach and Testarossa – the list could be endless – all mange to convey meaning, a sense of purpose beyond mere alpha numeric badging.
And then there are these, those glorious mishaps of marketing that leave the public scratching and puzzling as to what exactly was going through the minds of their creators. We can’t state equivocally these are the oddest or worst car names ever, but they do give the idea a good shake.
And let’s start with one from Maranello – Ferrari LaFerrari. The limited-run LaFerrari is no doubt a great car, its 6.3-litre mid-mounted V12 and 708kW enough to send anyone weak-kneed, but naming it LaFerrari is fraught in more ways than one.
Firstly, the obvious. LaFerrari is literally The Ferrari, giving it a full make and model name of Ferrari The Ferrari. Stupid.
Secondly, by calling it LaFerrari or The Ferrari, Maranello is saying, whether subliminally or otherwise, that this is the definitive Ferrari. And maybe it is. But, does that mean the definitive Ferrari went out of production in 2018 and everything since is somehow, not as Ferrari as LaFerrari? You see the problem here…
It’s not a problem ever likely to trouble the AMC Gremlin. Its quirky hatchback styling married to a choice of 3.3-, 3.8- and even a 5.0-litre V8, made for an interesting sub-compact.
Contemporary reports suggest it wasn’t a terrible car, despite its visual curiosity. That striking styling did little to hinder sales. And neither did its name, a word that means only one thing – “an imaginary mischievous sprite regarded as responsible for an unexplained mechanical or electronic problem or fault”.
Its origins as a word – and a concept – date back to the Royal Air Force in the 1920s, a time when planes suffered mechanical maladies with alarming frequency. Those RAF chappies coined a term for the minor malfunctions that afflicted their magnificent flying machines – gremlins.
AMC sold over 600,000 of the notchy hatchback over the course of its production run. Clearly, the buying public were undeterred by a name that meant, ‘suffer from mechanical malfunctions’.
And then there’s the Kia Pro_cee’D which suffered from a lot of things. There’s a convoluted and complicated reason why the Kia Cee’D and subsequently Pro_Cee’D are named the way they are.
Try this on for size, courtesy of Wikipedia: “It is the first Kia vehicle to be designed entirely in Europe and tailored to European customers. To mark the occasion, Kia took the initials of the European Economic Community, EEC or CEE in several languages and added ED for European Design. Realising that ‘CEEED’ had too many Es, they replaced the last 'E' with an apostrophe, with ‘Cee’D’ being the end result. Since 2018, the Ceed name does not include an apostrophe. The initials now mean ‘Community of Europe, with European Design’.”
From this we can deduce the Pro_Cee’D, the company’s first warm hatch was intended for professionals? Or that it was moving the model forward? Who the hell knows.
What we do know is the Pro_Cee’D lost its underscore, apostrophe and hatchback styling, instead morphing into a wagon, or as Kia styled the second generation Proceed, a shooting brake.
And speaking of car names with apostrophes in them, who could forget the Honda That’s? The Honda what? The That’s, that’s what.
Designed and built for the Japanese domestic market, the Honda That’s neatly fit into that country’s Kei car regulations. A tall five-door hatchback-wagon-thingy, the That’s was available in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive with power coming from Honda’s E07Z 656cc three-cylinder engine.
That’s shared its platform and powertrain with the Honda Life, giving us the delicious prospect of the two models parked side-by-side in dealerships spelling out That’s Life.
There’s was also a Honda Zest in the same family, but as we far as we can tell, no Honda For so the idea of Zest For Life as part of the Japanese brand’s Kei car line-up will have to remain exactly that. Or That’s.
And finally, the Renault 5. Nothing actually wrong with that numeric nameplate, coming as it did after the venerable Renault 4. It was also hugely successful in Europe, with Reggie shifting over 5.5 million of the humble little hatchback over its life cycle from 1972-86.
But, in the US, the Renault 5 was marketed and sold as Renault Le Car, literally, Renault The Car. And much like Ferrari suggesting the The Ferrari is the definitive expression of Ferrari, the Renault The Car is hinting that the humble little 5 is the definitive car. Which it’s not.
Which car model names do you think deserve a place on this list of oddities? Let us know in the comments below.