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Chasing The American Dream

October 04, 2005


I was talking with a consultant today and we got on the subject of company names. You know me, once I get an idea in my head, I just start going off on it and eventually my fingers hit the keyboard and out comes a post. I questioned the consultant on her company’s name, Answerthink. I thought it was a bit odd. It sounds like something a bunch of Accountants thought up. Answerthink. I told her that it was at least better than my former company’s name. We used to be called The Outsourcing Partnership, or TOP for short. Certainly nothing imaginative here, but at least you could gather what the company was all about. But the CEO thought the word “Outsourcing” had a negative connotation and so he spent upwards of $500,000 in marketing expenses shopping and hiring marketers to come up with a better company name. The results, IMHO, were disastrous.

Are you ready? Accume Partners. It’s pronounced acc-UME, not ACC-u-may, or acc-u-MAY. The powers that be explained that it’s a combination of business acumen and an accumulation of business knowledge or something like that. Horrible. They could have given me a tenth of that 500 grand and I’d have come up something better or at least understandable. I don’t know if it’s me, but it seems to me that if you have to explain to people what it means, you really didn’t get your money’s worth, did you? Accenture. Bearing Point. Two more financial/business consultant companies that sound more like country clubs.

This got me thinking too much, and that can be dangerous. I’ve always scratch my head when it comes to car names. I can only imagine how many millions of dollars are spent by major car manufacturers just to name a car. It’s amazing to me how screwed up this whole car-naming convention really is. Maybe it’s me; maybe I’m the ignorant one? Or maybe it’s a cultural thing?

Some car companies make up names. I mean, why in the world would you want to make up a name? Millions of dollars are spent and you can’t come up with a real word? Toyota and Nissan are great at this. Camry, Corolla, Celica, Maxima, Altima, Sentra, Xterra. These are like “almost words.” Chrysler Pacifica. Almost word. What about the Izuzu Impreza or the Suzuki Forenza? The Saturn Ion and Vue? Volkswagon has some strange names. Jetta, Passat, and the unforgettable Touareg. How the hell do you even pronounce that anyway? Why would you want to buy a car whose name you can’t even pronounce? A luxury car, no less?

Then you have these brilliant car companies who simply can’t think of a name at all so they go the letters and numbers route. Audi A4, A6, A8. Volvo S40, S60, S80, Infiniti G20, G35, M45, Lexus ES300, IS400, BMW 325i etc. Friggin brilliant, guys. Acura likes letters only. RL, TL, TSX, RSX. Wow, that takes brains, doesn’t it? I know Henry Ford started all this way back when with the Model T, but what did he know about marketing way back then? Mercedes has been using the number/letter convention forever. Ooh, wouldn’t you just love to own that convertible 450SL? Do you think it's a luxury car thing? How about our intelligent friends at Mazda? They used to have the 323 and the 626. But apparently, even that naming convention was too complicated. I guess they decided to make it easy for us dumbass consumers so they now go with the Mazda 3 and the Mazda 6.

And some companies actually “name” their cars, but I wonder what they were thinking when they did so. Take Honda, for example. The Accord and Civic. What pray tell do these words have to do with a car or riding in a car or anything remotely resembling a car theme? Strange, yet I think the Camry and the Accord are like the top two sellers. Oh, did you hear Honda just came out with a new pickup truck? Name? Ridgeline. Huh? Here’s one. The venerable Buick LeSabre. I’m guessing this is French for ‘sword,’ but what does it have to do with cars? How about the Volkswagon Golf? I’m clueless there. Then we have the Mercury Grand Marquis. It sure sounds elegant. What’s a Marquis anyway let alone a grand one?

Occasionally, they get it right. The name fits the image of the car. Ford Explorer, Ford Expedition, Chevy Trail Blazer, and Dodge Caravan to name a few. But it seems to me that getting it right is the exception rather than the norm. Yes, this is the kind of thing that keeps me up at night. Why is it so hard to name a car? Maybe Shakespeare’s Juliet had it right after all, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get into my C230 and drive to the store.


  • A very Andy Rooney post, good one. You should go back into work, tell the consultant their name sucks & you'll give them a better one for $1 million. When they act shocked, tell them, "Well heck, you only spent $500k & look what it got you."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:36 PM, October 04, 2005  

  • I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who thinks, in depth, about car names.

    One of the Big 3 has a car that has different names in the U.S. and Canada because the name is sexual slang in French Canada. It might be LaSabre, actually...

    By Blogger A, at 7:56 AM, October 05, 2005  

  • Too much time on your hands. Get some sleep.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:06 AM, October 05, 2005  

  • i think you're onto something with this. i could see this as some sort of andy rooney tirade. interesting how the more upscale car companies make it like a code with the numbers and letters. then you have the "Z" car. pretty cool.

    By Blogger Amanda, at 2:26 PM, October 05, 2005  

  • But it's been that way from the beginning! How much more unimaginative can you get with "Model A"? (Or T for that matter -- and what happened to Models B-S??).

    However, now -- many decades later, and Model A sounds like something. We cock our heads to look if someone calls it out.

    Think it'll be that way for my B210 from high school days?? :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:03 PM, October 05, 2005  

  • Amanda has it right about the upscale car companies using a code. The luxury companies are selling the company, not an individual car. Mercedes & BMW have always pushed this. I read that Acura dumped the Legend and Integra names because of this; now they emphasize "Acura". The downside is who will pay 50K for the RL, when the TL is only 30K?

    I think car companies trademark names years in advance, so maybe the Big 3 reserved all the good names. The Japanese & Koreans are left with making up names.

    Yeah, Ford has Explorer and Expedition (do they only get the SUVs right?), but then pick the best name of all: the Probe!

    By Anonymous buster, at 2:00 PM, October 06, 2005  

  • I've heard that men prefer cars to be 'numbered' which sounds more Indy-500 or sporty or something.

    I'm convinced that TV shows or movie can make it or break it with the name they choose. If a name is too odd, long, or hard to pronounce it won't help things, even if it is a good show.

    By Blogger Lyss, at 9:37 AM, October 07, 2005  

  • I shoudl also add that I grew up in a condo complex named 'Bon Aire'. I had no idea that this was also the name of a caribbean island until I was much older. Certainly nothing tropical about it.
    How many housing developments have you come across calling "Whispering Pines" and you look around and wonder where the pines are....?..

    By Blogger Lyss, at 9:39 AM, October 07, 2005  

  • Good observations Lyss. Development has erased much of what was the reason for the original name. I live near Walnut Creek, we call it the Ditch now. How many developments have Farm or Ranch in the name, but thirty years later you just wonder...

    By Anonymous buster, at 11:14 AM, October 07, 2005  

  • Very Dave Barry observation. I have heard that men prefer women whose names end with an A -


    For what ever reason the influction to the spoken vowel is related to a sexual drive. Nonsense I say.

    I can't figure out why my car is a
    TSX - but hey it sounds cool

    By Blogger Sass, at 3:28 PM, October 07, 2005  

  • Interesting theories, all. Sass, curious you left off Jessica from your "A" list. I love the TSX. It might be my next car if I ever get one.

    By Blogger Plantation, at 9:41 PM, October 07, 2005  

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