The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

3 January 2006

Stinking badges

"Aviator," in the Lincoln lineup, was seen as the junior Navigator — and a notch up from its Mercury and Ford cousins. Now it's about to become the MKX, a fragment of a Scrabble® rack that doesn't score well in Ravenwood's Universe:

Call me crazy, but I prefer my cars to have a name rather than the alphabet soup letters that are so popular now-a-days. I guess I just don't have time to remember all those letters. I don't own a Lincoln, although I did once take a look at the Aviator and other models. I would not have even considered buying anything called the MKX.

I blame this on Honda, which sold bazillions of Acura Legends and Integras before deciding that they'd rather be known for Acuras than for the bazillions of Legends and Integras on the road. Now there's the RL, the TL, the TSX and the MDX, and can you tell anything about any of them from this jumble of consonants?

If you're going to have alphanumerics, they ought to be at least hierarchical: BMW sells a 3-series, a 5-series, a 6-series and a 7-series here, in approximate order of price (the 6, sold only as a coupe, is pricier than the 7 it most closely resembles, though there are other 7s), plus high-performance M versions (for instance, M3 and M5). No harder to comprehend than, say, the TTLB Ecosystem.

Ford, at least, was ingenious enough to come up with a scheme to name all its SUVs with E words (Explorer, Expedition, Escape) and its cars with F words (Fusion, Focus and — stretching it a bit — Five Hundred). And no, I don't want to hear your F word for a Ford car. Chevrolet, of course, has its own collection of C words. But Chevy was the major practitioner of the fine art of naming vehicles after places no one would ever see them: think Bel Air or Biscayne. (They still sell Malibu and Monte Carlo, even today.) And Hyundai has named its two SUVs after Western cities: Santa Fe and Tucson. Might there be a Reno in its future? Dodge has already locked up Durango, after all.

Toyota used to have a whole bunch of C words of its own: Camry, Celica, Corolla, and the earlier Crown, Corona and Cressida. I always coveted the Cressida, and once suggested to a dealer that they develop a Troilus package for their pickup truck. This got as much response as you think it did. They occasionally did deviate from the scheme, though: there was, for example, the MR2, almost immediately dubbed "Mister Two" in the press, a tiny two-seat roadster that had just about enough cargo space for a Hershey bar if you didn't get the kind with almonds.

Disclosure: I drive a Mazda 626. This meant more back when they had 323s and 929s on the lot.

Posted at 12:10 PM to Driver's Seat

It was unkind of you to hector the Toyota dealer.

Posted by: Sean Gleeson at 12:34 PM on 3 January 2006

It's not like he was offering me financing at Priam rate.

(Yeah, I know. It was either that or throw in something about the Podarge dealer down the street. Oh, well, we'll always have Paris.)

Posted by: CGHill at 1:02 PM on 3 January 2006

Mazda used to sell the 121 overseas. It was a very small car, as the name implies, and Mazda realized that they would not sell in the US.

Toyota's old naming scheme was based on the Toyota Crown, their first brisk-selling car. Most of the following names had some etymological relationship to the word "crown" (Corolla, Corona, et al), but that went by the wayside in the late 80's. "Tercel", for example, is a male falcon.

Posted by: timekeeper at 4:22 PM on 3 January 2006

In addition to the current 3, 5, and 6, Mazda builds a 2, which is not sold here. (Presumably it was the follow-on product to the 121, as the 6 was to the 626.)

I always liked the name "Tercel," even if the cars bearing that name seemed more wren-ish than hawklike.

Posted by: CGHill at 4:25 PM on 3 January 2006

And then there's the Chrysler Sebring, named after an abandoned WWII airbase in central Florida.

Posted by: triticale at 8:09 PM on 3 January 2006

Actually, the Sebring is named after the Formula I endurance race held every spring at that former base, which normally serves as a municipal airport for Highlands County.

(Mom lives in Sebring. Trust me on this one.)

Posted by: timekeeper at 11:53 PM on 3 January 2006

What was wrong with Ford's original schemata of Model A... Model T, etc.? Simple, easy to understand, conveyed information, easy to pronounce, did not cause heartburn...

Posted by: Winston at 6:36 AM on 4 January 2006

Bristol, the British aircraft maker which started a car line after WWII (using, at first, prewar BMW designs acquired as "reparations"), began with a Type 401; their next model was the Type 402, and they continued in this pattern, never large enough to have more than two current models at any given moment. By 1970 they'd gotten to Type 411/412, before a one-shot Type 603 (to honor the 603rd anniversary of Bristol) and a switch to actual names.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:30 AM on 4 January 2006

I think they're renaming it with a letter-bundle to distract people from the fact it's no longer a truck-based platform.

What was wrong with Ford's original schemata of Model A... Model T, etc.? Simple, easy to understand, conveyed information, easy to pronounce, did not cause heartburn...

Heh. Thing is, they wanted to be able one day to introduce a 27th model, and the National Weather Service had already reserved the Greek alphabet for surplus hurricanes.

Posted by: McGehee at 10:01 AM on 4 January 2006