Low Concept

Yes, This Is Your Grandfather’s Ford

The Ford Lauderdale, the Volvo Vermont, and other car names that actually make sense.

Illustration by Alex Eben Meyer. Click image to expand.

Kia announced recently that in 2009 it will start selling a seven-passenger SUV called the Borrego. If you’re like us, you might be wondering, what the heck is a Borrego?

In the 1990s, the emergence of SUVs made it logical for companies to name their vehicles after rugged Western locales—the Dodge Durango, the Chevy Tahoe, the Buick Rainier—to appeal to buyers’ sense of adventure, even if the farthest off-road they got was the overflow parking at the soccer field. So, the companies kept up the scheme for light trucks and vans (see the Chevy Colorado and Pontiac Montana). 

When has a concept been taken too far? Maybe when there are cars named after Reno, Sedona, and Tucson. Or maybe when a company decides to go the opposite route and name an SUV after a crowded but trendy slice of Manhattan, a la the Subaru Tribeca. At any rate, the folks at Kia have apparently blindfolded themselves and plunked a pudgy finger on an open atlas to give us the Borrego, which we think is named after a desert in San Diego County.

What gives with all the lousy geographic car names? 

Steve Rosenblum, head of marketing for GMC, said most of the good vehicle names are taken, but that GMC is committed to mappy names. Which explains the company’s latest crossover, the Acadia. Rosenblum said product development folks didn’t actually visit Acadia National Park, for which it’s named. Figures, because then they wouldn’t have settled on a piney, rocky island jammed packed with RVs and crying kids.

Since the auto manufacturers are hampered by the dwindling pool of available names, allow us to offer a few concepts, along with features that should help them appeal to their target audiences.

Volvo Vermont: A sporty wagon that runs on anything from Whole Foods. The limited Carl Kassel edition has a sound system that lowers all music and voices a full octave. The Vermont horn blasts Howard Dean’s “Yeah!,” which has proved to stop momentum dead in its tracks.                                                                                               

BMW 90210i: Dream no more, celebutantes. The latest BMW anticipates every whim.  Paparazzi pusher attached to the grill. Built-in doggie bowl for Sparkles. The owner’s manual even refers to the glove compartment as the panty compartment. OneStar, a GPS unit preprogrammed with locations of the nearest rehab locations, comes standard. Sensing quiet desperation, it consoles, “You’re hot enough to be a reality-TV star.”

Dodge Dixie: From south of the Mason-Dixon line comes a sturdy pickup for hauling bales of hay or commuting around Charlotte.  Under the hood: 400 horses of NASCAR-inspired American moxie. Because sometimes getting from Cracker Barrel to Wal-Mart requires Dale Earnhardt Jr. speed. Bed liner comes in fleece to help make country music lyrics come true. “Let’s get a little mud on the tires.” Wink. Wink.                                               

Scion San Andreas: Gamers are already waiting in lines outside Best Buy for a car designed for commuting and intergalactic warfare. The San Andreas has replaced the steering wheel with a controller compatible with your preferred console (in a stroke of engineering brilliance, the Nintendo Glove is compatible). The San Andreas is Bluetooth-ready. Motorists—or, as Scion is calling them, competitors—can talk to other players via headset. That way, nobody gets surprised when the white-haired lady pushing the shopping cart pulls out a futuristic weapon. Better play it safe and mow her down.

Ford Lauderdale: A car perfect for the Mortys and Doloreses of the Greatest Generation. Fake wood paneling is back. So are fold-up seats in the rear. Add some shuffleboard cue holders and a brake pedal with plush carpet for more comfortable riding. The pièce de résistance: The speedometer has been replaced with picture frames. Dealers will help install photos of grandkids.

VW Williamsburg: If you think this car is named for the Colonial town in Virginia, stop reading (imagine that last line voiced with detached scorn). New-car smell replaced with eau-de-basement, an odor VW has trademarked as the official smell of back-in-the-day. Passenger seat doubles as a messenger bag hook. Audio console—which includes record player, big headphones, and iPod hookup—detects any song that gets too much radio airplay and deletes it from the playlist.