As the 2007 North American International Auto Show gets under way, let's consider the one automotive feature over which consumers have absolutely no control: car names.
Highlights from the press preview, which concluded yesterday, included the Mercedes Ocean Drive (a "droptop"--that's "convertible" to you and me--concept car), the Nissan Bevel (another concept car, designed with "massive asymmetry," according to automotive blog Jalopnik), and, from China, the Changfeng Black Giant (which company chairman Li JianXin said "never makes you disappointed"--what a charmingly modest assertion!).
Naming a car after a "drive" sounds to me like the Department of Redundancy Department. "Bevel" is one of those words with a beautiful meaning and a difficult pronunciation for much of the world's population. And I'm going to give "Black Giant" the widest possible berth, keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn't run over me.
Meanwhile, last month Forbes.com published its roundup of the best, the worst, and the weirdest car names. The "best" examples all sound to me like little boys going "vroom-vroom" in their room-rooms: reporter Dan Lienert loves Viper, Ram, Thunderbird, Corvette. He thinks Aztek is "fake" (I dunno, honoring a lost civilization of human sacrificers and chocolate-drinkers sounds pretty authentic to me, no matter how you spell it) and the poor old Dodge Diplomat is "overreaching" (but isn't that what the auto industry is built on?). The real fun is in the list of European and Asian auto marks, namely (ha!):
Invicta Black Prince Wentworth
Honda Life Dunk
Honda That's (extra points for surrealism! bonus points for the apostrophe!)
Isuzu GIGA 20 Light Dump
Isuzu Mysterious Utility
Mitsubishi Delica Space Gear
Rickman Space Ranger
I was reminded of the famous list of car names created by the American poet Marianne Moore in the 1950s for Ford Motor Company, a list that included Resilient Bullet, Utopian Turtletop, Pastelogram, Mongoose Civique, Andante con Moto, Varsity Stroke 3, Silver Sword, Intelligent Whale, Chaparral, and Thundercrest. In the end, Ms. Moore got a polite "no thanks," the boss's son son got a posthumous tribute, and the world got the Edsel. But not for long.
(Hat tip to Brandnama.)