In which we deflate motor vehicle naming practices:

Compacts
Imports – Imported compacts know that they are cheap pieces of crap and attempt to cloud the fact by evoking a quirky sense of civic pride (Civic, Fit, Rio, Cooper) or number it up in an attempt to wear a tissue-paper-thin muscle car disguise (Fiat 500).

Domestics – American compacts try to disguise their cheapness by claiming to be “fun.” How much more fun could you get than a Fiesta? How much more spontaneous could you be than a Spark?

Sedans
Imports – Import sedans all have made up names that make it clear a foreign speaker was playing fast and loose with English phonemes. Corolla. Camry. Integra. All gibberish of the worst sort, yet evoking–especially to foreign ears–the kind of sporty reliability people presumably are looking for in sedans.

Domestics – Domestic sedans tend to have names ported over from grand old cars of old: Impala, New Yorker, Mark X. No one would ever mistake one of the mostly-plastic trinkets on the road today for a genuine lead sled of old, but the names desperately try to make that connection. Original names tend to be meaningful English words with no relation whatsoever to motoring: Cobalt, Taurus, Cavalier, Focus.

Sport Utility Vehicles
Imports – Imports know they are not American, that the closest they have ever been to a cowboy is when TCM was playing classic John Wayne in their Guangzhou assembly plant. So, like an insecure gang member taking on a violent thug name, these foreigners take on hyper-masculine monickers to try and out-American the Americans (or, in some cases, out-Australian the Australians): Tuscon, Outback, Tundra.

Domestics – American SUVs know that they are as American as apple pie and need not revel in the fact. Their names tend to evoke the American landscape without painting themselves red-white-blue and singing the national anthem: Explorer, Suburban, Denali.

Trucks
Imports – As insecure as imports are about their SUVs, they are even moreso about their trucks. So their names are even more inflated and ostentatiously Western, like Hombre or Colt.

Domestics – American trucks don’t have to prove anything to anybody. They therefore rely on raw numbers and the occasional adjective to convey their worth. The F150 evokes a parts catalog more than anything, but it doesn’t need to. S-10 is the same. Only the more insecure lines feel the need to adapt SUV-like names (Silverado, Dakota, Ranger).

Vans
Imports – Anxious to avoid the stigma of their vans being seen as utilitarian or square, importers prefer names like Odyssey or EuroVan to try and seem more hip than they really are.

Domestics – Suffering from the same fear as importers, domestic manufacturers use the same trick with names like Voyager, Frontier, and Safari. The only difference is that they tend to be very American as opposed the the more classical and international selection favored by their competitors.

Sports Cars
Imports – Import makes know they can’t compete with Americans on car names, to they prefer to fall back on raw numbers as evocative of performance. How many foreign sports cars are named 300, after all, trying desperately to evoke the 300 horsepower that they all wish they had?

Domestics – As a great man once said, American sports cars are all about the vicious animal names: Viper, Mustang, Road Runner. Corvettes, as armed warships, and Thunderbirds, as mythical vicious animals, qualify too. They are not above made-up or self-important names, though, as evinced by the Camaro and the AMX.

Electrics
Imports – Import brands name their electric cars just like they do their sedans, with dartboard English phonemes and an occasional Latin fig leaf like Prius.

Domestics – Americans can’t help but use words related to electricity for electric vehicles, like Volt. Tesla takes this to an extreme with the entire company given a name evocative of electricity for no other reason. This has not yet reached its logical and absurd conclusion, as natural gas vehicles like the Chevrolet Methane and the Ford Phosgene have yet to take off.

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