The auto industry has its share of bad names, and we’re not talking bad car names. No, these are bad industry names: drivetrains, technologies, or trim-naming schemes that leave car shoppers scratching their heads, rolling their eyes, or just plain laughing. Our editors racked their heads for the choicest bungles, and here are our top 10. Some are marketing missteps; others are engineer speak that marketers should have rescued.
The Worst Auto-Industry Name
Four-Door Coupe: Look up “coupe” in any leading dictionary, and you’ll read about an enclosed two-door car. Common vernacular agrees, despite the industry’s attempts to prove otherwise. Automakers from BMW (6 Series Gran Coupe) and Mercedes-Benz (CLS-Class, CLA-Class) to Acura (ZDX) and Volkswagen (CC) claim their coupes have sprung an extra two entryways without becoming sedans. Audi lowered the bar further with the A7/S7/RS7, which it calls a “five-door coupe”—a reference to the car’s rear hatch that mirrors a slew of econoboxes that are marketed under the anything-but-hatchback “five-door.” We digress. Four-door coupes are nothing of the sort. These are sedans or hatchbacks, depending where their trunks hinge. They may be svelte, and they may have coupelike rooflines. But they are not coupes.
And Nearly As Bad
BMW i3 Trim Levels: Maybe this is a preemptive call out in hopes that BMW will hard-a-starboard before hitting the iceberg. In July, the automaker debuted its new i3 electric hatchback chock-full of innovative materials and an available gasoline range extender. But when the car goes on sale in early 2014, it will come in three lifestyle-oriented trims that parallel numerical prefixes: Mega, Giga, and Tera. (You know: megabyte, gigabyte, terabyte.) Mega will be the base model, but it’s still unclear what each of those trims will include. And will we see Peta down the road? It’s especially bizarre coming from BMW, whose popular 3 Series comes in normal packages like Luxury, Sport, and M Sport. Tech geeks might appreciate the i3 trims, but we wish BMW had stuck to the names it uses elsewhere.
CarWings: Nissan introduced CarWings overseas in early 2007 as an internet-enabled system through which you could analyze your driving efficiency (or lack thereof) online. Since then it’s spread to other Nissan models, most notably the electric Leaf, where CarWings allows you to check your battery status, start or stop the charging, or fire up the climate control via smartphone. Cool, right? Yeah—except for the name, which evokes wings, flight, and all things airborne. Problem is, the Leaf, like all other cars except Terrafugia’s Transition, does not fly. The Ford Focus Electric and Chevrolet Volt have MyFord and OnStar RemoteLink apps, respectively, which offer similar functions. Either naming scheme would have been better.
Chrysler’s Trim Levels: Chrysler used to have a pretty standard alphabet soup of trim names: SE, SXT, R/T, and the like. Then in 2010, the automaker ditched most of those on its Dodge brand for bizarre monikers like Express, Heat, Mainstreet, Rush, and Uptown. Those were for the Caliber hatchback alone, by the way. The Nitro SUV had range-topping absurdities like Detonator and Shock—the latter a harbinger, perhaps, to owners’ first-time reactions to the SUV’s 16 mpg EPA city rating. Thankfully, the madness was short-lived. That’s a good thing, but the spirit lives on with Chrysler’s Fiat parent, whose 500 and 500L have trims like Lounge and Trekking. Alas, the latter does not come with a “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” DVD. Sigh.
Earth Dreams: Honda’s bid to improve gas mileage with a slate of drivetrain technology (spokesman Chris Martin calls it “a philosophy of technology development”) includes direct-injection engines, cylinder deactivation, and upgraded transmissions. We applaud the results but not the name. Oh, Earth Dreams. Phew. We feared Honda might have a case of Saturn or Mercury dreams. Our friends at GM and Ford tell us those can mean many years of therapy.
SkyActiv: Mazda’s fuel-efficiency initiative has led to higher, and sometimes class-leading, mileage for the CX-5, Mazda3, and Mazda6. Unfortunately, the name grates like a song that stops before the final note. Call us fussbudgets, but the missing “e” at the end is almost as irritating as the term itself, which suggests Delta and Dannon teamed up for in-flight yogurt. Indeed, Mazda’s chief marketing officer, Russell Wager, admitted to Forbes magazine that SkyActiv is “not easy to understand” and only becomes apparent after you see all the efficiency measures. It’s time to change the name, Mazda. EfficientDynamics (BMW) and EcoBoost (Ford) don’t exactly roll off the tongue, but at least they leave little to the imagination.Continued...