Auto manufacturers often name their cars strange things, though sometimes even they go a bit far by naming various cars in foreign languages or with extremely obscure or made-up words that would be the last thing to inspire thoughts of driving upon first hearing them, though admittedly they look like the final round of a spelling bee when compared to the pharmaceutical industry's product naming conventions. Here are a few examples.
- The Chevrolet El Camino. "El Camino" is Spanish for "The Walk." I suspect that Chevrolet chose this name because it sounded cool in 1959 (the year the first El Camino was manufactured), although they don't appear to have researched the phrase until it was too late. Who'd drive a car called "The Walk?"
- The Toyota Paseo. "Paseo" is a conjugation of the Spanish verb pasar, which also means "to walk." (There are a few different verbs for "walk" in Spanish.) This particular conjugation means "I walk." It may look like I'm driving a Japanese car, but in a distant reality that you can't see, I walk.
- The Honda Fitta. The Fitta was released in Scandinavian countries by Honda, who were apparently unaware of its colloquial meaning in the area's native languages -- "fitta" is slang (in Swedish, Finnish, Danish, and Norwegian) for female genetalia. It was renamed Jazz after Honda caught on. from toalight
- The Ford Prefect. This car was released only in the UK in 1939 and nobody knew what to make of it. Most assumed it was simply a misspelling of "Perfect." Perhaps Ford had meandered into a surrealist phase around the time this car was first released. If so, it didn't last long, and neither did the Prefect. "Prefect" does indeed seem to be an actual word, albeit obscure outside of the UK and Australia, meaning, basically, "hall monitor in primary school." "Ford Prefect" later came to be the name of a character in Douglas Adams' classic The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. from spiregrain and stupot
- The Ford Pinto. The Spanish translation of "Pinto" is "I paint," or, apparently "paint horses." Perhaps it should've been called "Estallo," which means "I explode." A pinto is also a type of bean. The Ford Pinto was hardly bean-sized -- you could sail to Iceland in one. "Pinto" also means "small penis" in particular Brazilian dialects of Portuguese. from dido
- The Austin Maxi was another British innovation, this one from the 1970s. What do you normally think of when you hear the word "maxi?"
- The Mitsubishi Pajero. "Pajero" is apparently Mexican Spanish slang for "wanker." from vuo
- Volvo is Latin for "I roll," though I'd be hard-pressed to find a country that would mistake the two, the Vatican notwithstanding. from 409
- The Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, when translated into Japanese, apparently has a colloquial meaning of "pissing in the wind." from ponder
- The Diahatsu Charade kind of speaks for itself -- it was by all accounts a service department bill on wheels. from ponder
- The Diahatsu Naked is Diahatsu's newest addition (as of this writing in 2002) in a strangely monikered line of automobiles, available primarily in Japan and Australia. from sailorDR
NOTE: I originally listed the infamous Chevy Nova, but I was informed that this was an urban legend (although, Vauxhall came out with the Vauxhall Nova, but it wasn't marketed in any Spanish-speaking countries). Check with snopes.com -- it's listed there.
I'm sure I'm missing a few, so if you can recall any, /msg me or add your own writeup. Another note: I used the literal translations of whatever words I translated here, because I'm an uncultured American. Deal.