How do Cars get Their Names?

By: Castlegar Toyota   |   21 Aug 2017
Two business people looking at sticky notes

We don’t envy the people that have the task of naming automobiles. While we may not think about the names of cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs, they’re incredibly important. The name of a vehicle can instill a sense of speed, class, luxury, exclusivity etc. Subconsciously the name of an automobile can have a big influence on where you buy, or even like a vehicle. So, how do all the vehicles we see around us get their names? Here’s all you need to know:



Time and Effort

Automotive companies dedicate a lot of resources into naming their products. Marketing, design, and communications teams come together to develop a pool of potential names. They take into consideration the looks of the vehicle, the types of people the vehicle will be marketed to, company history, and so much more. As an example, for one vehicle, Ford’s marketing team developed 150 name possibilities that they eventually whittled down to one name.


“A team from the company’s marketing, design, and communications departments comes up with, say, 150 suggestions, considering the images and feelings each evokes. Contenders are checked for inappropriate or negative meanings.” - Susan Pacheco, director of global advanced product marketing for the Ford Motor Company


An example of a name that wouldn’t work in North America is the Honda Life Dunk, which is a van sold in Asia but wouldn’t sell well in North America if the same name were to be used.


What is Toyota’s Approach?

Toyota’s vehicle names often come from references to crowns, architecture, royalty, mythology and natural patterns. The Corolla is named after the outer crowning portion of a flower; the Toyota Camry’s name is a play on kan-muri, the Japanese word for “Crown”; and the Sequoia is named after the Sequoia tree. See Toyota’s full line of vehicles and find the origins of all their names.



Do BMW’s Names Make Logical Sense?

The German automaker isn’t exactly known for inspiring vehicle names. They may make good cars, but a BMW 335i doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Being the efficient company they are, their car and SUV names are actually straightforward (kind of). The first digit refers to the model (3 Series, 4 Series etc.). From there, we’ll let take it from here:


“In past years the last two digits of the number in each series used to refer to the displacement size of the engine (e.g. the 328i Sedan had a 2.8-liter engine). Now the numbers roughly show the performance of the engine with a higher number reflecting more power. The 328i Sedan now has a 240-hp 2.0-liter Twin Power Turbo inline 4-cylinder engine while the 335i Sedan has a 300-hp 3.0-liter Twin Power Turbo inline 6-cylinder engine.” -



Biggest Naming Blunder

While there have been plenty of bad names for vehicles over the years, one of the funniest and head scratching is the Mitsubishi Starion. Unconfirmed reports say name of the car is all thanks to a garbled phone call.


“This one’s a little murky, but legend has it that Mitsubishi meant to name its new turbocharged sport coupe the Stallion, possibly to fit in with its Colt in nomenclature. A garbled phone call between Japan and marketers in the U.S., however, allegedly saw the car being advertised as Starion.” -

While names are important, remember that a quality, reliable vehicle should be your top priority. Browse our inventory to find the Toyota that’s right for your needs.


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