The Volkswagen Beetle had one from its very beginnings in the 1930s. The Chevrolet Corvair had one throughout its production run, from 1960 to 1969. Several Porsche models had one. So did the Renault 10 and the Tatra 603.
But not until Tesla came up with the Model S, in 2012, did any automaker deem it necessary to coin a word for the feature all these cars have in common: a trunk in the front. Or as Tesla chooses to call it, the frunk.
Tesla frunk, via Jalopnik.
It’s a pretty small trunk, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still a useful volume. What’s important here—and our inspirational trunk lesson of today—is how Tesla’s marketing team recast this small space.
What they did was brilliant, I think, and possibly one of the greatest trunk-volume marketing triumphs ever. Whoever was responsible for writing breathless PR copy about the car must have been a bit stymied at how to talk about the frunk. The Model S and X frunks were easy, large enough to stand on their own simple luggage-swallowing merits, but the Model 3 needed something else.
Whoever realized that the trunk volume is about the same as the size restriction for a carry-on bag deserves a raise.
The newish British “fashion and footwear label” Oscar and Hamish has seized the opportunity and created “hand made tailored luggage for your Tesla” that promises to “free your Frunk.” (The needless capitalization is Oscar and Hamish’s; there’s no trademark registration for frunk.)
“But it’s not a ‘trunk’ in British English!” I hear you protesting. “It’s a ‘boot’!” Right you are, but as far as I can tell, only in Australia and New Zealand are they calling it the Tesla feature a “froot.”
Frunk is not universally loved. Back in 2012, marketing consultant David Allen Ibsen called the word “witty and appropriate.” But in 2016, Forbes contributor Michael J. Dunne called it “awkward”: “ ‘Frunk’ sets out to be a clever combination of words, but ends up sounding kind of forced. You: ‘Here, you can just toss your bags into my frunk.’ Friend: ‘Umm, into your what?’”
Nevertheless, frunk appears to have staying power beyond its association with Tesla. Just last month I spotted two uses of frunk to describe the front trunk of a new Porsche electric sedan, the Mission E.
Frunk is a faintly ridiculous-sounding word, with echoes of funk, frump, and – oh no, not that again! – tronc. What’s more, frunk has been a sweary portmanteau for “fucking drunk” since at least 2006, according to Urban Dictionary. (There’s also the spoonerism “frunk as duck.”)
As for me, I instantly conjured up a goofy “Simpsons” character with a similar name.