The naming of cars

I HAVE a friend who’s looking to buy a new car to replace her Toyota Corolla Conquest, and she has decided she wants another Toyota and her finances have decided that it must be a small one. The smallest one. But there is a problem: the name, Yaris.

Would she, she asked herself, be happy owning a car called a Yaris? No. It is, she feels, a silly, meaningless name that slights the car and the owner, and I’d imagine the silliness of it is pronounced for someone who drives a Conquest. But if she’d feel silly and meaningless driving a Yaris, does she feel triumphant driving a Conquest?

For many people there is more to owning a car than owning a means of transport and I’m quite prepared to believe that a car’s model name can be important. And I suppose that manufacturers go to a great deal of trouble choosing a model name, that they don’t just pluck one out of a dictionary. Not that they’d find Yaris in an English dictionary, or any dictionary according to my online searching.

Interestingly, Yaris is from a manufacturer that has given previous models such names as Ascent, Starlet and Crown, and Conquest, and it does seem to have changed its criteria for choosing a name. Just a few days ago I was behind a Toyota with the spectacularly ugly model name Rukus. Why not Catfight? Or Brawl, Hullabaloo or Uproar?

A few years ago when my wife and I were looking to buy a new car we looked at the Yaris and the Honda Jazz, and while I was not conscious of an impact I wouldn’t be surprised if the liveliness and fun suggested by the word jazz contributed to our decision to get the Honda. Jazz suits it perfectly, and I am pleased it is not a Honda Yaris. My wife’s other car is a LandCruiser, so named probably because it was a challenger to Land Rover and a name that describes its capabilities so much better than Prado, Pajero and Cherokee. Cherokee! How would we go with an Awabakal?

Alliteration seems to be as effective as anything else in enhancing a car, and evidence of that is Ford’s decision to use the name Fiesta for its current small car. Ford must see a value in the alliteration and perhaps a confusion with the former small car model, the Ford Festiva. At least both fiesta and festiva call up happy times.

When we were buying the Jazz our youngest son was very keen for us to buy a Ford Focus because he had a fascination for the name, and it does roll nicely, Ford Focus. Perhaps it’s just the genes we share. More Ford alliteration, Ford Falcon.

I can see the purpose in naming a car after an animal, as in a mustang, gazelle or falcon, but why not cat, hound or hare? And in acclaim and applause but why not cheer? Commodore but why not admiral? And how about thrust, success, surge, crest? Must be better than Yaris. And what are we supposed to do with VW’s Touareg? I can’t begin to pronounce it.

What are your best and worst names for car models? Can you suggest a few?

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