1. Subaru Forester Ultimate Customized Kit Special
At the 2020 Singapore Auto Show, Subaru revealed a souped up version of its family SUV, called the Forester Ultimate Customized Kits Special. This rather upset Subaru of America and the Subaru Corporation, which said the renegade model was the work of an ‘independent distributor’ in Singapore and wasn’t an official model. The car’s name was quickly erased from the show stand. But the internet will never forget.
1. Toyota MR-2
A very literal, sensible name here. ‘M’ for ‘midship’, denoting the car’s mid-engined layout. ‘R’ for ‘runabout’, which is pleasingly humble. And ‘2’, because it’s a two-seater. Can’t fault Toyota’s logic. But you can rib its translation, because said in a French accent, ‘emm-air-deux’ is perilously close to the French word ‘merde’, which is literally sh*tty.
To avert disaster in French-speaking markets, Toyota’s MX-5 rival was known simply as the ‘MR’. So don’t go calling it a hairdresser’s car: it’s literally the ‘Mister’. Or, er, ‘Monsieur.’
3. Audi e-tron
Audi’s been badging its electrified models ‘e-tron’ for well over a decade, which makes it all the more surprising no-one thought to pick up a French book of slang. ‘e-tron’ may well conjure notions of electronic futurism to an English-speaker, but en francais, ‘étron’ means ‘turd.’ Whoops.
4. Ferrari FXXK
Ferrari’s not as brave as Subaru of Singapore when it comes to naming a car after a swearword, but it knew what it was doing when it called the track-only version of the LaFerrari ‘FXXK’, didn’t it? Officially it denotes this is the successor to the Enzo-based FXX, but because there’s a hybrid boost system riffing on F1-style ‘KERS’, it needed a ‘K’ on the end. Perhaps even Maranello thought that a 1,000bhp V12 missile called ‘FXXKERS’ was too strong.
5. Honda Fit
A true classic of the ‘whoops I’ve just been on Google Translate’ car naming genre, this.
What we Brits know as the Honda Jazz is actually called the Honda Fit in most other markets. However, the name Honda had originally earmarked for a car that prides itself on being small on the outside but big on the inside was ‘Fitta’ – which is a Swedish slang word for, erm, female genitalia. Wonder if this is where the popular Essex hobby of ‘vaJazzle’ got its name?
6. Daihatsu Naked
Now, as everyone grown-up knows, there’s nothing funny about being naked, we all come into this world unclothed and the human form is to be celebrated in its many shapes and sizes. However, as every schoolboy knows, for a brief couple of years the word ‘naked’ is something to be sniggered at in hymn lyrics and biology textbooks. It was also the perfect name for this bare, no-frills kei-car made by Daihatsu between 1999 and 2004. It’s compensating for nothing.
7. SSC Tuatara
SSC’s stunning hypercar may well be the first American automobile to top 300mph. It’s fast. It’s named after the tuatara lizard, a species native to New Zealand which is noted for its finned, spiky appearance.
The name itself is derived from the Maori language and translates as ‘peaks on the back’ – something the lizard and aero-honed supercar have in common. All terribly interesting, but there’s no getting away from the fact that if one pronounces the ‘ua’ sound as per the name ‘Juan’, as much of the world does, then this thing isn’t the ‘Too-At-Arr-Ah.’ It’s a Tw*t-ara.
8. Mazda LaPuta
A badge-engineered Suzuki kei car with SUV-like pretensions, the LaPuta was never a particularly notable vehicle, besides its name, which was apparently inspired by Gulliver’s Travels. Clearly Gulliver had failed to travel to any Spanish or Portugese-speaking nations, where ‘la puta’ is a derogatory term for a prostitute.
9. Mitsubishi Pajero
The Pajero is an icon of rugged 4x4-ing – a multiple Dakar Rally winner which has found hundreds of thousands of homes worldwide with its no-nonsense, go-anywhere character. In Britain, we know it as the Shogun. In Spain, its name translates as ‘w*nker’, so it’s called the Montero over there. See, this is why names like ‘X5’ and ‘Q7’ catch on.