Marketing arms of the world’s automakers are often saddled with the unenviable task of finding an appropriate name for a new car before it goes to market. In many cases, a number of titles are bandied about prior to its public release – for example, did you know that Ford mulled the names Allegro, Torino, and Cougar? The mind reels.
Sometimes, a car company saddles its new whip with an inscrutable and spellcheck vexing moniker, one which causes editors to weep and Microsoft Word to self-implode (not that the latter often needs much help doing so). We’ve selected a range of names from the pages of history, concentrating on ones which include infuriating punctuation and a few which have bizarre capitalization. Unfathomable alphanumerics, such as the dunderhead CT/XT system foisted upon Cadillac by former exec Johan de Nysschen, are not included but could be the subject of derision in a future article.
And who knows? Maybe – just maybe – this post will serve as required reading for future marketing classes in the halls of academia.
We will start with a model not offered on this side of the pond but one which is well known thanks to its tenure as the Reasonably Priced Car given to visiting celebrities for hot laps on the Clarkson-Hammond-May era of Top Gear. Often intentionally mispronounced as the “Cee Apostrophe Dee” when being spoken of on the show, the car went on to spawn a performance version called the Pro_Cee’d, thereby providing a double whammy of errant punctuation with its underscore and apostrophe. These days, it has dropped that nonsense in favour of a simpler Ceed and ProCeed labels.
Chrysler’s TC by Maserati
Before anyone gets their knickers in a knot, an apostrophe was absolutely part of this ill-fated convertible’s official name. Said to have been the brainchild of a conversation between Lee Iacocca and pals who were in Maserati corner offices, the intent was for this car to compete with the Cadillac Allanté and snazzy European convertibles. Unfortunately, the TC ended up bearing far too much of a resemblance to the much cheaper LeBaron convertible, even if it shared very little with that model in terms of parts and pieces; a steering wheel and radio from the Chrysler parts bin didn’t help matters in the cabin.
All of which dovetails nicely into our next entrant. Also a convertible, this machine was envisioned by top brass at General Motors as having the chutzpah to take on expensive droptops like the mighty Mercedes SL. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. Contributing to its towering price tag (well over six figures, adjusted for inflation) was the mystifying decision to design and manufacture the car’s body in Italy, load the shells onto specially equipped Boeing 747s, and ship them to Michigan for mating with a domestically manufactured chassis and engine, touted by GM marketers as “the world’s longest assembly line”. This beautiful, if star-crossed, convertible ceased production in 1993, wayward punctuation and all.
While the Big T has built a huge name for itself in the hybrid market with the Prius family and now vehicles such as its popular RAV4 Prime, it has been slower out of the gate in terms of all-electric cars and SUVs. The new bZ4X seeks to correct that, claiming an all-electric range of over 400 kilometres and a price which is friendly to federal rebates. Sounds pretty good – but why they chose to give it an unfathomable name with both upper- and lowercase consonants defies all logic.
This little scamp manages the dual sin of including a punctuation mark at the end of its name, which is highly inconvenient when writing a story in which the model is mentioned in the middle of a sentence, and officially using a lowercase character as its first letter. We understand Volkswagen’s desire to excitedly promote this little city runabout which isn’t available in our market but hammering an exclamation point onto the end of its name simply makes most human beings arch their eyebrows while uttering this model name, as if in a perpetual state of surprise. Or perhaps we should say … surprise! No. Actually, we shouldn’t.
It appears Honda’s marketing department enforced a moratorium on letters when selecting a name for their retro-future EV hatchback. Its name is simply “e”. Nothing else, just “e”. This has the effect of producing a model whose full name looks like Hondae, a word whose phonetic twin is often used in corners of this country to describe a successful South Korean brand hawking cars with real names like Tucson and Santa Fe.
Ok, maybe not everything from Seoul passes the punctuation test. This concept car, which went on to become the frankly superb Ioniq 5 EV, mystifyingly incorporated a pair of weird brackets around its model name, a pair of digits meant to mark the number of years since the debut of a notable concept car from Hyundai’s past. Some writers speculated those strange punctuation marks were a double form of a Japanese or Korean quotation mark, but an official explanation never surfaced. Predictably, almost everyone simply called it the “45”.
Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 / ZR1
We’ll complete our list with a track weapon from Chevy. It’s not the hyphen in this powerful Corvette trim which rankles; after all, that type of dash pops up on popular rigs like the Ford F-150 or Honda CR-V plus entire brands like Mercedes-Benz or Rolls-Royce and no one bats an eye. No, this author is simply perplexed with the bowtie brigade’s decision to oscillate between hyphen and hyphenless for this trim over the years. At present, it is stylized as the latter. Will it make a return when the gearheads at Chevrolet unleash the inevitable variant on the current car’s mid-engine platform? May-be.