5 linguistic car naming failures


In the last article we have shared with you five interesting naming stories of some famous car models. But life does not have successful stories. Even huge companies can make big naming mistakes due to:

  • Leaving the important task of naming a future car model in the hands of the wrong people
  • Considering that a name must sound well in their native language (usually in English) and ignoring all the other languages even if their target audience is spread at a worldwide level
  • Ignoring completely the linguistic screening task which must be done before releasing on the market the new car model

Let’s see how bad corporations can fail in terms on naming:

  1. Mazda Laputa 

It seems that most of the car manufacturers are neglecting Latin languages in terms of naming. In Spanish “La” means “The” and “Puta” is a word used for women who sell sexual favors. It seems that the origin of the name comes from “Gulliver’s Travels”. Laputa is the name of an island described by Jonathan Swift in his book. Spanish is one of the most spoken languages on Earth. Making a linguistic research on Latin connotations is a must!

        2. Hyundai Kona and Opel Ascona


Two big companies make the same linguistic naming mistake in the same country. It seems impossible. Not really. In Portuguese, the word “cona” represents a vulgar expression for a woman’s vagina. Hyundai has come with a naming alternative used only in Portugal: Kauai.

The curious case is that Opel has made the exact naming mistake. They have decided to keep the name even in Portugal despite its vulgar connotation. Result? Ascona is a very well sold car model all over the world, except in Portugal. Not hard to imagine why is that.

        3. Mitsubishi Pajero


Again, a huge problem with Spanish language. Pajero is a Spanish adjective meaning “male self-satisfaction” which has caused some street problems in Spain. If you have this car, people are making certain hand gestures when you get stuck in traffic. Mitsubishi has decided to correct this naming mistake and that’s why this car has been renamed as Montero in Spanish speaking areas. What’s with the Spanish, folks?

         4. Volkswagen Jetta/Vento

Double naming mistake with the same car model?

In Italian, the word “Jetta” has a similar sound with the word “ietta” which means “streak of bad luck”. In Europe, the Vento was introduced in 1992 as the successor to the Jetta. Volkswagen wanted to change the image of this car model, but they have mistaken again! “Vento” means indeed “wind” in Italian (Volkswagen has an entire naming architecture based on winds), but it is also the word used for “fart”. So basically, from bad luck, we got to fart:) 

              5. Ford Escort


Ford has started to use the name Escort as a renaming for the model Squire in the 1950s. Squire meant “to have a romantic relationship with a woman” and squires were known to be the male equivalent of an…escort. So they have dropped a naming mistake and have chosen to extend it.

A professional linguistic screening will protect you from making this kind of huge naming mistakes and we assure you that it’s a lot cheaper to pay this screening than to save the damaged image and to start a renaming process.

Need to name a new product in a professional way? Drop us a line.

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