22 March 2013

Five Misleading Car Names

Few things in the development of a new car are more crucial than the name. In the case of a bland or mediocre car, it’s the last chance the marketers have to generate some buzz. That may well be why some of the most ordinary cars have wound up with some of the fiercest and flashiest names. Here are five of our favorite inappropriately named cars:

  1. Chevrolet Sprint — The Sprint was built by Suzuki for Chevrolet. Powered by a rather anemic three-cylinder engine, its acceleration off the line resembled not so much a sprint but more of a drunken stumble. Its Suzuki-badged counterpart was known by an equally inappropriate name, the Swift.
  2. Mercury Bobcat — A bobcat is a rather fierce North American wild cat. The Mercury Bobcat, on the other hand, was essentially a fancy Ford Pinto over laden with chrome trim and other options that added on additional pounds, sacrificing what little performance the Pinto possessed. While the feline Bobcat is plentiful in the wild, the Mercury version is all but extinct.
  3. Hyundai Excel — The Excel was first car sold by Hyundai in the U.S., and given the top-to-bottom excellence of the current Hyundai lineup, it’s probably a car they’d prefer to forget. Other than cheapness, the Excel essentially excelled at nothing — unless someone handed out an award for “crudest interior” or “oddest-smelling plastic.”
  4. AMC Hornet — The hornet is one pugnacious insect, and as anyone who has ever been on the wrong side of one can attest, they definitely can sting. With the exception of the rare S/C 360 version from 1971, the AMC Hornet was a pleasant-looking and practical compact sedan/wagon/hatchback without much of a sting.
  5. Hudson Jet — Jet planes were on the mind of nearly every car designer and ad man in the U.S. during the 1950s. Fins, bogus jet intakes,  jet exhausts and jet hood ornaments found their way onto countless cars from that decade. Curiously, the Hudson Jet wasn’t among them. There was nothing even slightly swoopy or jet-like about this thoroughly upright and conventional compact from a company that later became part of American Motors.

9 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Vic Delano Crystal River, FL March 24, 2013 at 18:18
    You missed one very important misnomer: THE SMART CAR! Talk about deceptive marketing.
  • 2
    Doris Coghill United States March 28, 2013 at 08:26
    Another good one is Nova. It was very popular in the US - but when GM tried to sell it in South America it was a flop. In Spanish Nova means "no go"
  • 3
    NovaResource.org Cyberspace April 10, 2013 at 14:02
    Doris, that "no go" story about the Nova is a myth and not true. Read and learn: http://spanish.about.com/cs/culture/a/chevy_nova.htm http://www.snopes.com/business/misxlate/nova.asp http://www.duetsblog.com/2012/07/articles/branding/that-story-about-the-chevy-nova-its-a-no-go/
  • 4
    C NC April 10, 2013 at 12:34
    The Nova story is entertaining but it's an urban legend.
  • 5
    CF MI April 11, 2013 at 02:04
    Yes I know the Pinto/Bobcat have had some bad reputations, but a Pinto was my first car and a great to experiment on. I was 16 and I loved tearing apart the Pinto and putting it back together. You never forget your first car. P.S. I was never hit in the rear, hence no exploding gas tank.
  • 6
    KFK Colorado Springs CO April 28, 2013 at 21:29
    Hey, I owned two Sprints - a 1985 model and a 1987 Turbo Sprint. The '85 only had 48 hp, but it had respectable acceleration because it was so light. The '87 was a pocket rocket, with 70 hp when the turbocharger kicked in. It wasn't really quick off the line, but get it up to 50 mph and then stomp on the gas, and within seconds you were doing close to 100 mph. AND it still got 40 mpg, for the whole 17 years I owned it. Later on the Sprint turned into the Geo and then the Metro, and became a completely different car, but that Turbo Sprint was the most fun I've ever had in a small car.
  • 7
    Don W United States May 1, 2013 at 16:22
    Back when I was wrenching at a GM dealership in the 70's , we always thought the Nova was the pinnacle of badge engineering. N- Nova - O-Omega - V-Ventura, A - Apollo. As far as a mis-guided name, I thought Chevette topped the list!
  • 8
    RHW SEA May 1, 2013 at 22:11
    I drove my Chevy Sprint from FBKS AK to LA and back and got 45mpg. The only thing that broke was the plastic fan when I hit OR on the way to LA and I drove there and back with no fan, no problem if you didn't stop to long. I miss it. My truck gets 16mpg. I also owned the Hyundai and it did not Execel.
  • 9
    Dave watertown May 2, 2013 at 20:26
    Let's not forget " The Thing"

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