Branded disasters: Creta to Pajero, how cars got a bad name

  • Anoop George Philip, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 23, 2015 08:48 IST

Carmakers who spend millions of dollars and many years on R&D probably don't spend a cent-worth time researching the meaning of names they find for their motor babies.

Hyundai's newly launched compact SUV Creta has joined the league of cars with the most unfortunate and funny names.

When Creta was being teased, we didn't know what it meant. So we asked Google, which led us to Urban dictionary, the go-to guy for slangs and new words. It said "A girl's p***y (external genitals). Can be a curse...."

It deserved a day-long facepalm.

But we decided to ask the carmaker at the launch what did Creta mean. "Short for creativity," according to them. Double faceplam.

But Hyundai is not alone in the name-shame list.

Around 2001, Honda escaped the ignominy by the skin of their teeth when it realised before the launch of its hatchback Fitta in Scandinavian countries that the name means female genitalia (c**t). It trimmed the name to 'Fit' in the US and marketed outside the US, including India and Europe, as Jazz.

To top it, they had sloganed it: "Small on the outside but large on the inside"

That was the sole snafu for the car, which went on to become the most popular hatchback in most part of the world that has roads.

Cars now, when they are designed in one country, produced in some other place and exported to a whole new region, should have names that have a universal appeal. Carmakers, it seems, have not realised that for mechanical defects, they can order a recall and fix it, but for name defects, they and the buyers have to live with it.

So, most of them end up with different names for the same product in different countries.

Another Japanese company Mitsubishi learned it the hard way for its hulk Pajero, which means a wanker in Spanish. So Pajero became Montero in Spain.

General Motors too had its cringe time while trying to market the Nova cars in South America between 1972 and 1978. "No va" in Spanish means, "It Doesn't Go". But the name didn't affect the sales of Nova, which became a hit in Venezuela. It is said GM guys in detroit were aware of the name fiasco but judged it to be of no importance.

Unfortunately, despite having cars with beautiful names like Beat and Cruze, GM's sales is going nowhere in India.

Mazda, a Japanese automaker, too had christening woes when it introduced the 650 CC Mazda Laputa, a kei or Japanese category of small cars, in Spanish-speaking countries in 2001. Though the car derives it name from the flying island in Gulliver's Travels, in Spanish Puta means whore.

It's doubtful, whether many men were willing to ride it!

(The views expressed by the writer are personal. He tweets as @journalist10 )

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