The most popular car names for people (and cars named after people) – Axon’s Automotive Anorak
Enzo Ferrari. Henry Ford. Andre Citroën. Herbert Austin. Ferruccio Lamborghini. Soichiro Honda. Adam Opel. William Morris. Vincenzo Lancia. The list goes on…
A large number of the world’s car companies have taken their marque name from the surname of the men that founded their own vehicle maker, as illustrated by just a quick handful of examples that immediately spring to mind above.
Equally, a surprising quantity of car marques and models have also been named to honour significant individuals. These include Edsel – named after Henry Ford’s son, Edsel B. Ford, Edsel being Ford’s disastrous late-1950s marque that has become synonymous with commercial failure in the USA – as well as Dino – to honour Enzo Ferrari’s gifted engineer son Alfredo ‘Dino’ who tragically died of muscular dystrophy at the early age of just 24.
The world-renowned Mercedes name was inspired by the daughter of Austrian automobile entrepreneur Emil Jellinek. Jellinek specified the pioneering internal combustion engine designed by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach for the first 'modern' motor car, as developed by Karl Benz. So it was the 11-year-old Mercedes Jellinek that gave her Christian name to one of the Planet’s most recognised and admired vehicle builders, Mercedes-Benz.
It’s a similar story with the Lotus Elise. In keeping with the Lotus Cars tradition of using model names beginning with the letter ‘E’ (Elite, Elan, Eclat, Esprit, Exige, Evora, etc.) the Elise name was derived from Elisa Artioli, the granddaughter of Romano Artioli who was chairman of Lotus and Bugatti at the time of the car's launch in 1996. The (now) 24-year-old Elisa Artioli appropriately drives a Lotus Elise today.
Other car models to use first names include the Opel (and Vauxhall) Adam, plus the Opel Karl (Vauxhall Viva in the UK); named after Karl, Adam’s brother and Opel co-founder. In South Korean Kia sells the domestic market-only Joice and Ray, with the unfortunately-named Datsun/Nissan Cedric, Gloria and Violet once being strong-selling models all over the globe.
Over time, some car owners become so attached to their cars that they give them nicknames. Many moons ago, for example, an old flame of mine soppily named her old Fiat Panda, Fifi the Fiat, which she then replaced (with considerable heartache) with Percy the Peugeot (205). A Goodwood colleague, working in the Motor Sports Content team (who shall remain nameless to spare his blushes), recently revealed that he affectionately named his first car (a 1995 Ford Fiesta), ‘Queenie,’ although he didn’t reveal why!
As I’ve never given a nickname to any of the many cars I’ve owned over the years, I find this quite endearing, if a little odd! Some car enthusiasts have gone a major step further, however, naming their new-born child after (one assumes) a favoured car make or model, such as the amusingly named English rugby player Austin Healey (a brand ambassador for the Citroën C5 Aircross). Car-named babies have recently been revealed in the results of a survey conducted by the British used car website ChooseMyCar.com. This site commissioned research into car-related names given to babies born in the UK since the year 2000.
Over the past twenty years, this research found that three boys have been named McLaren, with a further three named Chevy and three more Dodge, in addition to many Enzos and Dinos, for example. For girls, Triumph, Hudson (the old American marque) and Cruz (an ex-Chevrolet model) also tempted a trio of proud parents for each name.
In the USA, car-related first names seem to be more commonplace for newborn boys, with first names including Jaguar, Mercedes, Cadillac, Nissan, Wraith and Avanti. Five American parents named their son Chevrolet, with five more choosing Subaru!
American car-derived names for baby girls born in the 21st century have included Ferrari, Aston, Alfa, Audi and Astra, with a few opting for Mini as well.
Remaining in the United States, around 165,000 parents have chosen the names Austin and Hunter (as in Hillman/Chrysler) for their sons, with a further 77,000 named Cooper. Hunter and Mercedes have also been chosen by thousands of new American parents for their daughters, with around 100,000 selecting Morgan for their little girl.
Back in Blighty, Austin, Morgan and Rio (Panther and Kia) have become popular car-related boys names over the last twenty years, with Morgan, Kia and Alba (various post-war niche sports cars) being the most popular automotive-inspired girls names.
And as for pet dogs, Rover still seems to be a popular name…