Road to Confusion


In simpler times I could, at a glance, identify any passing vehicle. But that was when vehicle names were easy to remember. Today’s automotive naming trend is to force letters and numbers together in a fashion once considered by many as unnatural, and well, I’m confused (more so than usual).


A long, long time ago (when the world was black and white and everything was accompanied by a vaudeville piano), Henry Ford realized he could avoid the ridicule he generated by naming his child Edsel (a boy) by simply naming his first production car the Model T (and, no doubt, dreamt of a world teeming with cars named after other famous letters of the alphabet).


But one spring afternoon, while Mr. Ford was in the paint shop deliberating shades of black, a gentleman by the name of Carroll Shelby thought it would be a hoot to replace the Model T’s nameplate with his daughter’s toy mustang. When a young marketing executive, by the name of Lee Iacocca, went down to the assembly line to see what all the fuss was about, he quickly realized that Shelby’s shenanigans might be just what the automotive industry needed to boost sales. (NOTE TO EDITOR: In my haste to meet the submission deadline, some facts may be misrepresented.)


News of the discovery spread and marketing departments everywhere began rolling out car names like there was no tomorrow. And though they occasionally misfired with names like Yeoman, Chieftain, and Gastropod, they were soon hitting on all cylinders with names like Cougar, Charger, and Barracuda. These cars didn’t need brochures, or even salesmen for that matter; they sold themselves by fueling the consumer’s imagination. In fact, inspirational names were so abundant; they even bestowed them on economy cars too (“economy” was fancy marketing talk for “disposable”). Consequently, today’s consumers no longer associate Maverick or Colt with unbridled potential, but rather unbridled calamity.


Inevitably, the auto industry exhausted their supply of inspirational car names. So, in an act of desperation (or, as the marketing department would say, brilliance) they decided to revive Henry Ford’s old alphabet naming scheme and, I suspect, mix in a few numbers to justify their day’s pay. Hence, the consumers are subjected to alphanumeric vehicle names like Q7, XJ5, RAV4, and AVEO5 – names that only stir the imagination of an accountant.


Well, here’s a thought (or a headache, it’s hard to tell), rather than pulling names out of a hat, the auto industry ought to use this opportunity to alert their consumers (the real victims here) about what they’re actually buying. So when you sign a contract for the “Faulty Transmission Sport Coupe”, you’ll know beforehand that both you and your wallet are in for a wild ride. Or, if you’ve got your eye on “The Unquenchable Fuel Guzzler”, there’s no excuse for declining the optional refueling tanker.


Perhaps it’s high time I drive my “Unreachable Oil Filter” to the dealer and pitch my idea.