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Name Calling - Trail's End

Posted in Features on March 20, 2014
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How do vehicle manufacturers come up with the snappy names for their 4x4s? Naming vehicles after towns or natural features is probably tricky. Denali, Durango and Tacoma are good, but naming a vehicle after a crime-ridden metropolis is probably on the “don’t bother” list. States: Why is Colorado a good name for a truck, but not Colorado’s neighbor, Utah? Like Colorado, Utah is rugged and has nice mountains. Plus, it’s only a two syllable word. Do limiting syllables matter when naming 4x4s?

“Did someone at Ford get their knuckles smacked with a ruler when they recommended naming their performance SVT pickup after an extinct dinosaur?”

Some truck and SUV names hit the jackpot and have a long, storied history. The folks who named the Suburban, Power Wagon and Wrangler probably had no idea of the magnitude of what they created when they blurted out the word in a roundtable meeting while seated around a rectangular table. If it were us, we’d still be bragging about those names at family get-togethers and class reunions. Did someone at Ford get their knuckles smacked with a ruler when they recommended naming their high-performance SVT pickup after an extinct dinosaur? Apparently not. But why didn’t they use the dino’s formal name, Velociraptor? Velocity means speed, thus, speedy raptor. Maybe it doesn’t roll off the tongue as well because it has too many syllables. Or maybe they meant the “bird of prey” raptor.

Naming trim packages can be relatively self-explanatory. Work Truck is good, even when it’s cryptically called W/T. All of the manufacturers have done a great job giving cool names to special off-road packages. Pro-4X, Rubicon, Moab, and Trailhawk are brilliant. Some trim packages we wonder about. For example, we get that “Limited” evokes thoughts of “limited edition,” but when tacked onto an off-road-capable vehicle, it can make the vehicle sound less proficient in the dirt. Wouldn’t it be better to call the trim package Unlimited? Besides, it’s only one more syllable. Imagine the confusion that could result if Jeep offered a Limited trim package on the Wrangler Unlimited. It would be fun to say, though.

Engine naming for trucks and SUVs has to be a marketing handful nowadays. Back in the day, some engines were tagged with names denoting raw power, like Tornado, Typhoon, and Hurricane. With fuel economy and emissions being major priorities nowadays, we are seeing an onslaught of the word “eco” being integrated into engine naming. EcoBoost, EcoDiesel, and EcoTec3, for example. This makes marketing sense, but when it comes to the EcoDiesel, and its manufacturer VM Motori, will diesel fans want to plaster either word on a windshield banner or get them tattooed on their arm like they would with Cummins?

For better or worse, names given to 4x4s are etched in history. What are your favorite and/or least favorite names for 4x4 vehicles, powerplants, or trim packages? Drop an email to ken.brubaker@fourwheeler.comand tell us what and why.

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