Some were unfortunate for some reason or another. And, there were some that have been lost in translation.
What makes the automotive industry fascinating is the machinations of it. From the development of new technologies to the branding, the automobile continues to yield many stories for its owners.
Granted, some things did not transpire the way the product developers had in mind. There had been names of vehicles that went completely over consumer’s heads. Some were unfortunate for some reason or another. And, there were some that have been lost in translation.
They could be mechanically sound, well designed and engineered. Just that someone picked the wrong name to give it.
What I wanted to do was to call out certain vehicles over the past century or so that were sold in the USA whose names that made me go “huh"…or simply spit out “what the f***!”
My favorites of these kinds of vehicles are…
STUDEBAKER DICTATOR: The South Bend, Indiana purveyor of horse-drawn wagons turned to manufacturing automobiles after the turn io the 1900s. By the mid-1920s, the company felt the need to rename their lineup to reflect some form of aspirational want for their wares. In 1927, Studebaker named one of their models that name. At first, Studebaker explained that it meant that model “dictated the standard” for other automobiles to follow. That was before world events began to unfold in Europe. Offered in both six- and eight-cylinder models, these Studebakers were equipped quite well for the price point. The last of that name was sold in 1937 – replaced by the Commander model.
ISUZU I-MARK: The Japanese diesel engine specialist was controlled partially by General Motors. In the 1970s, they became part of a global vehicle program, called the T-Body. This compact architecture would spawn the likes of the Chevrolet Chevette and Pontiac 1000. The West German arm of GM, Opel, used to supply smaller imports to Buick dealers in the USA. When the Opel became too expensive to sell, Buick turned to Isuzu to import the more affordable Gemini to our shoes. That car went through a few names until it was dropped from Buick showrooms in 1980. That was when Isuzu began importing vehicles into the USA. They brought their own version of the Gemini and renamed it I-Mark. Funny thing, Apple Computer was just getting started around that time and eventually they would rename everything with the letter “I” in front of it. Sorry, Woz and Jobs, but Isuzu beat you to it. The car would continue to be a part of the brand’s lineup through two generations until 1989. The third-generation model would get a new name: Stylus.
MITSUBISHI TREDIA: In order for the three-diamond brand to establish themselves in this country back in 1982, they had to have a starting lineup that showed where the company was heading. Alongside the iconic Starion sports coupe and the smaller Cordia was the Tredia. I understand that Japanese automakers love to play with model nomenclatures. But, “Tredia” What’s a bloody Tredia? Whatever it might be, it was quite uninspiring. Then again, American consumers needed basic transportation with some features. The Tredia supplied that need decently. Needless to say, that it was the not the hot selling model in the lineup and would be replaced by second generation Mirage sedan for 1989.
FORD ASPIRE: The early 1990s prompted a wave of lower priced vehicles to offset the rise in price of certain imported vehicles. It’s all Hyundai and Malcolm Bricklin’s fault. Through Mazda, Ford had a stake in an automaker based in the Republic of Korea – Kia. Ford already sold their competitor to the Geo Metro, the Festiva. In turn, that was known as the Kia Pride back in its home market. The second-generation subcompact was introduced in 1993 with a new name: Avella. When it came to these shores, they called the little inexpensive Ford the Aspire. So, what does one aspire to own one of these things? Basic transportation. Honestly, it was a decent vehicle that did the job as intended. It would be dropped in this market in 1997.
PLYMOUTH BREEZE: The Cab Forward design movement at Chrysler arrived for its midsize products. They employed a naming convention for its Dodge and Chrysler versions with cloud structures. What goes well with clouds? Wind. For 1996, the Plymouth brand received a lower priced version of the Dodge Stratus and Chrysler Cirrus – the Breeze. While it looked cool – with its specific grille texture, lighting texture, wheel covers, and blue-tinged badging – it did not drive like a breeze. The same 2.0-liter engine found under the hood of the smaller Neon powered most Breezes. It was practically underpowered and underwhelming. It’s too bad, because its underpinnings made for a good midsized sedan for the company.
SUZUKI ESTEEM: In a time when mental/emotional health was only talked about, this compact sedan and wagon showed up alongside the brand’s small off-roaders. Known as Baleno is several markets, the Esteem showed up to fill the space above the Swift from 1995. It was a decent car for the size and price…nothing to write home about. Perhaps, uninspiring? However, that name did not help matters. If you have high self esteem, would you drive this car? You’d be driving something better. That’s the Suzuki Esteem in a nutshell.
Hopefully, the automotive industry had learned their lesson from these unfortunate model names. Or, have they? Do you know of any unfortunate model names out there in the marketplace? Comment below…
Cover photo by Randy Stern