When I first saw that Nissan had launched a car called the Qashqai, my immediate thought was that it was an attempt at honesty that can somehow been distorted in the marketing development. What they obviously meant to call it was the Nissan Cash Cow, surely?
Ah, but it turns out that, according to Wikipedia, the Qashqai are:
“…people in Iran speaking a Turkic language. The Qashqai language is closely related to Azerbaijani, and some linguistsactually consider it a dialect of that language. Qashqais mainly live in the provinces of Fars, Khuzestan and southern Isfahan, but especially around the city of Shiraz in Fars. The Qashqai were originally nomadic pastoralists and some remain so today… The majority, however, have now become partially or wholly sedentary.”
So then, a car named after sedentary peasants? Obviously! But if that is not whacky enough, we can also call upon the VW Touareg, a car seemingly named after the Tuareg people, a tribe of Saharan nomads, and following in the wake of winds (Scirocco), and sports (Golf, Polo.)
Not silly enough? At least those are common to all languages. It gets worse when you account for differences, like Buick’s LaCrosse, which refers in Quebec street slang to masturbation. Or the fact that Ford’s Pinto in Portuguese slang means a penis. Lots more of the same ilk here and here.
No doubt it is difficult to find international names for cars that strike the right note and don’t mean something unpleasant in slang, but then this is the cult of brand marketing we are talking about, the art of creating an artifice from a mere product to entice the customer to desire a lump of metal, plastic and rubber. To build up a device to take you from A to B into a lifestyle choice, thereby creative a vast profit potential.
Are the names applied to cars (in this instance) evocative of your ambition and desires? Well you could have a name with aspirational overtones like Skoda Superb (nothing like blowing your own trumpet, eh?), though most executive cars seem to have cold, hard numbers and letters. Not so much the smarmy GTi class for boy racers but the E-class, the 5-series and similar. Lower down the spectrum you get the cute names for people who love their Clio, Jazz, Juke, Ka, Punto, Fox or Twingo, for example. Then there are the more descriptive names applied to SUVs, the Discovery, Pathfinder, Freelander or Compass to name but a few.
Many are words invented by marketing agencies to create an image by association. Are we really fooled by these into buying a car because of the image created by the marketeers? You would hope not, but sad to say we do fall for such tricks. Surely, they would say, you want something that reflects how you see yourself? Such a nomenclature is a form of differentiation in the complex social interaction required to find yourself a car reflecting your values? Speaking for myself I want a good quality car that improves the driving experience, not a silly name that has been tested before a focus group!
As for brand marketing, it is a subject I shall return to… with feeling and not a little dislike!