'The i-Tril concept car is possibly the most futuristic Toyota yet but we suspect that if it was brought to market in South Africa, there would be an issue with its name', writes Lance Branquinho.
Cape Town - Toyota’s unveiled its new urban mobility concept earlier in March 2017. Three seats and amazing packaging make it possible for this futuristic Toyota, an evolution of its i-Road from 2013, to venture where more conventional vehicles simply cannot.
The i-Tril made its debut at the 2017 Geneva auto show. Toyota claims its three-wheeler will be an "alternative to city cars, other electric vehicles and motorcycles", and "aimed at people who want to have fun even while driving at low speeds around cities."
Its developers are currently working on a technology called 'Active Lean', you know, like you used to do when you were younger while playing racing video games.
But we suspect that if it was brought to market in South Africa, there would be an issue with the name. Saffers, why are you are laughing?
The fate afflicting Mitsubishi Pajero ownership in all Spanish-speaking countries, is what is the issue with this Toyota too; Colloquial, localised interpretation of a name. Somehow, the i-Tril just isn’t going to make for an easy conversational sell, now is it?
On the topic of dodgy car names, here are some more bizarre vehicle monikers:
Supposedly a pre-millennial Capri, it was instead a very wedged-shaped counter to the invasion of Japanese coupes, which saturated US and EU markets in the 1990s.
Ford’s marketing people assumed the naming association with NASA’s greatest technology of the time would be a great leverage. What they had not sufficiently considered, was that probing is never a positive thing. Not at a proctologist (who does it for a living) and certainly not when arriving at a social function, and introducing your car’s name into conversation to perfectly nice strangers.
Raptors do well as automotive associations: Pontiac’s Firebird being the most noted example. There’s the Eagle Speedster too, possibly the nicest retromod you can buy that is not an air-cooled 911 from Singer.
But the avian automotive theme only works if the product in question has a semblance of performance, or is a stylish design. Toyota’s Condor? Not so much.
A seven-seater MPV, which was very good at transporting families on a budget nearly everywhere they required to go in SA, it certainly had none of the dynamic qualities associated to the South American bird of prey it was named after.
South Korea is one of the most remarkable contemporary societies: fantastically advanced, with nearly unparalleled internet speeds and home to the only technology brand worthy of being classed as an Apple rival: Samsung.
Unfortunately, this obsession with digital technology, and the habit of spending nearly all their time online, has influenced all spheres of Korean society. With unhappy consequences, such as the name choice of Kia’s Golf rival. The Pro_Ceed. Honestly, an underscore in a car badge? Enough with the internet influencing all spheres of our life, already.
Nissan Hardbody (NP300)
Cleverly renamed to the rather anonymous international model code, for nearly two decades Nissan’s one-tonne bakkie was known as the Hardbody. You can understand why, those Hardbody steel load bay panels were revered for being able to resist wear and deformation – despite the worst of mining or agricultural industry abuse.
The name, though: Hardbody. What was accepted as a bakkie name in South Africa, was in fact an Adonis modelling pageant everywhere else. Cryptic code? Possibly.
Americans don’t do alphanumeric car names. Unlike the Germans, who discovered a long time ago that the combination of letter and number, or simply a sequence of numbers, are superior to any other naming convention you could imagine.
Our American friends prefer bold names for their products and Chrysler’s sub-brand, Dodge, has delivered some of the most memorable (Dodge Viper) and worst… The Nitro.
Here is a brand with a history in door-slammer drag racing unlike no other. A brand which converted a bakkie V10 from diesel to petrol, put it in a car – and inadvertently altered perceptions and corrected biases of Americans cars forever. The Nitro, though, was hardly its greatest moment.
A pastiche of styling elements, arranged around a dreadful cabin, it had negligible performance and effectively no dynamic merits whatsoever. Why call it the Nitro? Perhaps the product planners had way too much laughing gas during some of those Mopar project meetings.
An erstwhile Chinese bakkie brand, of which one was essentially launched each month in 2008, Fudi had some terrible product – with outrageous names.
It’s awful double-cab, with the antiquated 2.8 diesel engine, and fast-food takeaway container cabin plastics, was a particularly unpleasant vehicle. To make it worse, they gave it a name that you knew everyone in South Africa was accidentally going to pronounce as ‘Leon’ instead of lion.
Imagine if Seat was still on sale, and the poor service agent was trying to establish which ‘Leon’ a specific replacement part was for: Chinese bakkie or Spanish hot hatch.