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The Dumbest Car Names of All-Time

Updated on August 5, 2020
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I wrote film reviews for over a decade in a variety of formats.

Who Can Figure Out Why These Stupid Car Names Even Happened

Have you ever been walking or driving and seen the name of a car that confounded you? Like me, I'm sure you wonder how in the world such things happen. People actually sat in a room and came up with some awful name. If you've ever wondered, this article is for you.

I'm pretty certain automakers develop potential car names, then do market testing. Like they ask groups of people: "would you drive a car with this name?" And if the group answers "yes", then they approve the name. If the group answers "no", then they don't.

Seems like a simple process, yet still, some cars got these names. It's hard to believe.

Chevrolet Captiva
Chevrolet Captiva

Chevrolet Captiva

Production Years: 2006-Present

This car inspired me to write this article. However, I'm aware it's not super originally, I just couldn't get over what a bad car name this is.

You can sort of see how the car got its name. Some marketing yahoo figured they'd shorten the word "captivate" and that when people spotted the Captiva, it would captivate them. Get it? Well, this must be proof that marketing majors aren't very good with their English. I mean, when I see the Captiva, I think about somebody holding me hostage. Like, "oh crap, I bought a really bad car and now I'll never get rid of it. Obviously, I can't just go back to the dealer and give them the car back. Say something like, this car sucks, dude."

Anyway, I really hope the Captiva is a good car. Otherwise, it's going to go down in the history books. And if it has some kind of recall due to malfunctioning door locks, watch out.

AMC Gremlin (public domain)
AMC Gremlin (public domain)

AMC Gremlin

Production Years: 1970-78 (U.S.)

In addition to a bad name, many consider the AMC Gremlin to be one of the worst cars of all-time. Supposedly, somebody drew the original idea for the Gremlin on an air sickness bag. It debuted in 1970.

It's not exactly clear why AMC decided to call the car the Gremlin. It might have had something to do with its desire to fight the perceived threat posed by Japanese imports. I guess they considered Gremlins suitable fighting monsters. Perhaps the AMC Godzilla would have been a better name.

Generally, people consider Gremlins to be small creatures that cause problems in machinery, among other mischief. Seems like a poor name for a car.

Ford Pinto

Production Years: 1971-80

I'm really not a huge fan of the underpowered American cars from the 1970's. Engineers designed it to compete with the influx of Japanese imports. I owned a 4-cylinder Ford Mustang hatchback, which is basically like a big Pinto. Just a terrible car. I drove it up Eisenhower Pass in Colorado and it got up to about 15mph going up that hill.

Anyway, the Ford Pinto has always been a running joke. It did have a tendency to explode when rear-ended. And I never laughed so hard as I did the first time seeing the accompanying clip. The Pinto really describes exactly what the car is - a small horse. It's an undersized, juvenile horse that's not really a full-grown horse yet. Actually, I have no idea what a Pinto really is, but that's what I think it is. And in advertising, perception is reality. Fortunately, if you kick a real Pinto in its rear end, it will not explode.

Honda Fit (public domain)
Honda Fit (public domain)

Honda Fitta

Production Years: 2001-Present (worldwide)

I actually own one of these and it's a great little car. However, I had no idea that my Honda Fit's original name was the Fitta. Give credit to Honda for researching and realizing their mistake before a wide release. The word "fitta" is a Scandanavian word for the female genitalia. Of course, it is unfortunate car companies have to check every language on earth before naming a car. Calling your car something that means "monkey butt" in Japanese sucks. But clearly, calling your car the Honda Vagina merits some research. Nobody wants to drive a Vagina.

Ford Probe (public domain)
Ford Probe (public domain)

Ford Probe

Production Years: 1993-97 (U.S.)

The Ford Probe is actually a decent looking car, but it does look like a probe. When somebody probes you, they usually stick something up your butt. So, calling your car a probe isn't exactly good marketing. In fact, the Probe suggests that naming a car after its appearance is probably just generally a bad idea. Can you imagine a car called the Yugo Small Box or the Cadillac Whale Ship or something like that? I can think of a lot worse.

Hummer (CC-BY-2.0)
Hummer (CC-BY-2.0)


Production Years: 1992-2008

Everyone knows what a hummer is, right?

Is it really possible that the folks over at GM didn't?

Or was this perhaps some really genius marketing? Obviously GM marketed the car toward alpha males for whom having a Hummer is a compliment? It's not like sales of the Hummer weren't good for a certain amount of time. This gas guzzling vehicle sold well. Perhaps the marketing gurus knew that it was a gas guzzler. And they wanted to name it after another type of guzzler?

Ford Aspire (public domain)
Ford Aspire (public domain)

Ford Aspire

Production Years: 1993-2000

Apparently, people inside Ford referred to this car as the "expire". That's because of the sound it made trying to climb hills. Woefully underpowered, the name lent itself to easy jokes. It was a car that aspired to be, among other things: a real car, adequately powered, fun to drive; etc.

Subaru Brat (public domain)
Subaru Brat (public domain)

Subaru Brat

Production Years: 1978-1994 (worldwide)

I owned the Subaru wagon with the same design as the Brat. I think designers named this the Brat because somebody at Subaru got really mad. They cut the back off my wagon. I guess they were thinking that they really needed some kind of small truck. And they didn't want to redesign a whole car so they just cut the back off a wagon and, presto!, instant truck. So I guess that makes the Brat a Subaru wagon with no wagon part, but attitude. It's an extremely odd choice for a car name. Brats aren't nice. Nobody likes them. It doesn't make a lot of sense.

By the way, BRAT stands for Bi-drive Recerational All-Terrain Transporter.

Hyundai Getz (courtesy of Rudolf Striker)
Hyundai Getz (courtesy of Rudolf Striker)

Hyundai Getz

Production Years: 2002-2011

I think this is the car you drive to run over black teenagers. That's because you think they might be thinking about trying to mug you. Okay, you don't spell it exactly the same, but this car reminds me of Bernhard Goetz. He was that New York guy who shot four black teenagers in 1984. He claimed they tried to mug him. Other than that, I'm not exactly sure what Hyundai was trying to accomplish with this name. Maybe they thought it a hip marketing ploy? "This car getz you where you want to go?" or "Go get you a getz!"

Chevrolet Citation (public domain)
Chevrolet Citation (public domain)

Chevrolet Citation

Production Years: 1980-85

Can you imagine if you were a police officer out on patrol and you saw one of these? Wouldn't you pull the driver over just because you could and then say something like: "Well, you bought a Citation. What do you expect?" I suppose you could also say something like: "I pulled you over for having absolutely no taste and no imagination". The Citation wasn't exactly groundbreaking in any respect. Naming it so that it would embarrass potential buyers probably wasn't a great marketing decision.

What's Your Least Favorite Car Name?

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Allen Donald


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