So how did they get those names?
There are entire departments within each car firm tasked with choosing the right name for the right model in the right market. Getting it wrong can turn an otherwise competitive car into a hilariously costly flop.
The nameplate also plays a role in forging a car’s image. The next Volkswagen Golf won’t sell as well as its predecessors if the marketing department gives it a name that sounds like a vulgar insult when said in English. Similarly, we’d have a difficult time imagining BMW releasing a model called Charlotte to replace the 4 Series. And yet, heritage aside, Giulia undoubtedly fits Alfa Romeo’s 3 Series-fighter much better than G20t4D would. Join us as we explore the meaning (or, in some cases, the lack of meaning) behind some of the industry’s enigmatic nameplates.
- Alfa Romeo chose the name MiTo for two reasons. First, it signals that the hatchback was developed in Milan and assembled in Turin, a city Italians call Torino. Second, the word mitomeans myth in Italian. Clearly, Alfa Romeo had high hopes for its Mini-fighting entry-level model.
- Audi named the TT after the Tourist Trophymotorcycle race held annually on the Isle of Man. The German firm has never mass-produced a motorcycle, let alone raced one in the TT, but the event is nonetheless part of its heritage. DKW, one of the companies that merged to form Audi, made racing motorcycles during the 1930s. One of its bikes won the TT in 1938. NSU motorcycles captured the first four spots in the 250cc category during the 1954 TT. The initials appeared on a moped in 1960 and on a sportier evolution of the Prinz in 1965. The Prinz TT and TTS enjoyed a long and successful racing career which Audi paid tribute to when it introduced the TT concept at the 1995 Frankfurt auto show.
- Bentley named its first SUV after a peak in the Canary Islands.Roque Bentaygaoverlooks the village of Tejeda on the Gran Canaria island. The British firm offered little indication as to why it chose this particular rock formation but it’s likely because the name Bentley Bentayga has a nice ring to it. Everest was already taken by Ford and Bentley Kanchenjunga wouldn’t have quite the same effect. In 2018, the Bentayga faces competition from the Cullinan, the new Rolls-Royce SUV named after a giant diamond discovered in South Africa in 1905.
- When Chevrolet released the Camaro in 1967, most of its cars wore a name that started with the letter C. The branding team in charge of finding a name for Project Pantherallegedly made a list of 2000 wordsthat start with a C, including a few that they made up. Camaro was one of them. Though it has a Spanish ring to it, the name Camaro doesn’t mean anything in any language. Chevrolet famously told journalists who attended the car’s launch that a Camaro is a small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs.
- Historians disagree on the meaning of the PT Cruiser’s name and Chrysler has never shed light on the matter. Some argue PT stands for personal transport while others believe it represents Plymouth truck. Both are credible; the PT Cruiser was inarguably a form of personal transportation and it was set to join the Plymouth line-up until Chrysler axed the brand. Regardless of what it means, PT was also the internal designation of the platform the model was built on.
- Not content with having a badge that features a raging bull, Lamborghini also has a long history of naming its cars after them too. Aventador was a bull which earned an award for its outstanding courage in 1993. And, while Huracan sounds like the Spanish word for a hurricane, it’s also the name of a fighting bull. This one fought in 1879. The Urus never competed in a ring; it was an impressively large species of bull that became extinct in the 17th century. Ford likes bulls, too. Taurus, the second sign of the zodiac, is represented by a bull.
- Toyota designed the original RAV4 before the term SUV became widely known so it had to come up with its own name. RAV4 means recreational active vehiclewith four-wheel drive, though the model comes standard with front-wheel drive in most markets.
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