Mustang, Challenger, Corvette, Jaguar, Roadmaster – when you’re naming a car it’s a good idea to go with a name that evokes a deep feeling and points to an experience like no other. A great car name does that. But what about the not-so-great car names? Somewhere, a group of car execs and marketers got together and signed off on some downright crazy monikers. What, we wonder, were they thinking? Here are a few all-time doozies.
Dodge Swinger (shown above). It was touted as the newest member of the Dodge Scat Pack—itself a terrible play on words presumably meant to associate the car with the popularity of the hippest bunch around at the time, the Rat Pack. The Dodge ads said, “When you decide to swing, let us know.” The public said, “No, thanks.”
Ford Probe. We think it had something to do with outer space, as in “space probe.” Still, it’s the kind of word that doesn’t really translate to anything remotely exciting. Ask a room full of people if anyone would like a free Probe and see if you get any takers. The only thing less appealing than a new Probe? A used Probe.
Suzuki Esteem. It’s a shrimpy, under-designed sub-compact. Perhaps they thought they could make up for that by giving it a name that was the exact opposite of how the car made you feel. Reverse psychology perhaps?
Ford Festiva. Designed by Mazda for Ford, this cramped compact was anything but festive. To drive it was to know what it must feel like to travel in a tin can. It looked like something that might have fallen out of a busted piñata.
Volkswagen Thing. At least they were honest. What else would you call a weird, super lightweight military vehicle repurposed for street use? Whatchamacallit? We’re guessing they went with the abbreviated version of Thingamajigger.
Daihatsu Scat. Also known as the Tough Almighty Fourwheeldrive Transport (TAFT) this little utility vehicle was sold in some markets as the Scat. Daihatsu went 2 for 2 on this one proving that one bad name deserves another.
Chevrolet Nova. Here we have the time-honored example of not doing your research. Imagine Chevy’s surprise when they marketed this vehicle in Mexico, only to discover that Nova means “no go” in Spanish.
Renault Le Car. Know as the Renault 5 in its native land, the French manufacturer decided to rename this little sub-compact “Le Car,” presumably to class it up for the American market. Somehow, a vehicle called “The Car” failed to generate much excitement. Go figure.
AMC Gremlin. The original design for this little hatchback was supposedly sketched on an airsickness bag. Makes sense, considering that the car is named after mythical little creatures that cause mechanical breakdowns on WWII aircraft.
Volkswagon Touareg. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the Touareg are a Berber-speaking indigenous people who inhabit parts of Algeria, Libya, Nigeria and Mali. Makes complete sense to use that name for a U.S.-market CUV—not!