Brand names are important in the world of marketing. Corporations spend millions of dollars annually attempting to find the perfect name for products.
Some names are worth a fortune, due to high brand name recognition and positive image. Others are worth less than a pound of sand in the Sahara, thanks to being outdated, tainted, or just plain bad to begin with.
The automotive industry has plenty of long-running strong brand names. From Suburban (the longest-running brand name), Corvette and Mustang, to 911, Beetle and Accord, there are plenty of valuable ones. For every strong name, however, there are two or three that can never be used again.
Here is the Four Wheel Drift’s Top List of Unusable Car Brand and Model Names:
Edsel — Reason: Bad from the get-go, Tainted: Let’s get something straight here: even in the original market research (it was the first car to use extensive focus group testing for development), the Edsel name scored abysmally low. Still, naming the car line after Henry Ford’s son was green-lighted. If that wasn’t bad enough the brand name would go on to be synonymous with failure. It will never be used again for cars…and if I were a member of the Ford family, I’d push to stop naming so many descendants Edsel, as well.
Luckily, the Edsel name never tainted the brand’s models, which included the Ranger (later used for trucks), Corsair, Pacer, and Citation. It took AMC to ruin the Pacer name and Chevy to destroy Citation with their respective horrible little import-fighters.
Pinto – Reason: Tainted: The Pinto was a good name attached to a pretty good car. A few exploding gas tanks, though, ruined it. In terms of brand recognition for a design flaw disaster, Pinto is second only to…
Corvair – Reason: Tainted: Thanks to Ralph Nader’s Unsafe At Any Speed, the Corvair name will never be attached to another vehicle. Of course, this a moot point, since the likelihood of GM ever producing an air-cooled gas-burning car is less than those for me being drafted by the Boston Celtics this year.
Midget – Reason: Offensive: Both MG and King Midget have used this name, which is now considered a slur towards dwarves. If the Chinese-owned MG wants to build a junior model to complement its MGF, it might consider the MG Little Person to be more politically correct.
LaFemme – Reason: Bad from the get-go: In 1955 Dodge released a sub-model of its Custom Royal Lancer targeted to the growing group of female drivers. With a pink and white color scheme and a bunch of standard interior accessories like a cosmetic case, color-keyed raincoat and umbrella, the thing was inherently a marketing disaster. When Dodge picked the LaFemme name, that just solidified it as a major blunder of epic proportions. After production of less than 1000 units in ’55 and ’56 (which was lavender and white), the car and the name were killed forever. Now if you want a car targeted to women with feminine colors and accessories, you’ll have to buy a New Beetle.
Actually, come to think of it, the Lancer wasn’t a really great name, unless your garage also includes a Ford Probe and a cabinet full of alcohol wipes and KY Jelly.
Chevette and Vega – Reason: Tainted: The Vega was a great name for a fantastic concept. The car looked good, performed well, was pretty comfortable…too bad it was less reliable than Lindsay Lohan’s sobriety. Same was the case for the Chevette, except that the mini-Corvette name would never fly in a modern image-conscious society.
Cimarron – Reason: Tainted: Actually, it was too goofy to begin with, often being called the “Cinnamon”, but Cadillac’s expensive version of the lowly Chevy Cavalier became the poster child for badge-engineering gone horribly wrong.
Dictator – Reason: Offensive: In the pre-WWII era, Studebaker had one of the greatest lines of product names. Studie’s names made sense: Dictator, Commander and President. It’s amazing how just a decade later, Dictator became associated with Hitler, spelling the end of the name’s use.
Wasp – Reason: Offensive: In the context of Hudson’s lineup, the Wasp made sense next to the Hornet. In a modern world the Wasp would be confused with the offensive acronym.
JAP – Reason: Offensive: JAP made motorcycle engines that were used in Morgan’s three wheelers, which is how it is eligible for the automotive list. (Yes, we know that the Morgan trikes were also considered motorcycles to get around British automotive taxes.) As an acronym, it is offensive to Jewish women. It is more associated with a slur towards Japanese…and in a modern world, that’s not considered at all cool.