Finding the right `Fit' in a car's name


A friend announced that he was buying a new car, and because this is the sort of statement that demands a follow-up, I asked what kind of car he was getting.

"A Honda Fit," he said.

Excuse me?

A Honda ... FIT?

"It's brand-new," he said. "Check it out on their Web site."

As the enormity of this exchange sank in, I wondered what exactly prompted the Honda Motor Co. to name a new car a Fit.

What kind of customer base are you appealing to with the Fit?

People with gym memberships?

Active, healthy folks who watch what they eat and walk four miles a day?

Nonsmokers? Whey-eaters?

Yoga freaks?

Oh, I have long resigned myself to the fact that the era of great car names - your Ford Mustang, your Corvette Sting Ray, your Lincoln Continental, your Cadillac El Dorado - is over.

Now there is the Ford Focus, the Pontiac Vibe, the Toyota Matrix.

Now there is the Saturn Ion, the Hyundai Elantra, the Acura Integra.

I have no idea what any of these names mean.

Chevrolet Lumina ... you tell me what that's supposed to convey.

And what image is the Honda Prelude trying to project?

The dictionary defines a prelude as "an introductory performance, action or event preceding and preparing for the principal or a more important matter."

So what is the Prelude a prelude to?

Moving up to a Honda Civic?

I don't know ... does that fire anyone's imagination?

Here's another car name I don't get: the Saturn Vue.

The nice man who lives down the street from me has one. It's some kind of midsized SUV.

But what exactly is a Vue?

Is this just a typographical error?

Every time I pass his house when I walk my dog, I want to X-out the word Vue on his car with a Magic Marker and scribble View.

But I don't think he'd appreciate that.

You look out your window and see a fat guy walking his dog near your car, and now the fat guy is writing something on your car with a marker - you're not going to like that.

You might even call the police.

Hey, I wouldn't blame you a bit.

I'm just trying to make a point here.

Worst of all might be the car names that really AREN'T names, but instead are a jumble of random letters and numbers.

The BMW 325i, for example.

The Lexus ES350.

The Volvo XC70.

Yes, these are all cars from upscale automakers, cars designed to appeal to a certain income bracket, the one in which people look at a $35,000 price sticker and instead of keeling over, think: Oh, that's not so bad.

But to me, car names like this say: "OK, we've given up. We can't think of a single thing to name this car. Our brain is like Swiss cheese right now.

"So we're just going to string together a few letters and numbers and tell you that's the name of the car, all right?"

Yes, once we drove cars with bold, evocative names: Ford Thunderbird, Chevy Trailblazer, Jeep Cherokee, Plymouth Barracuda.

We had car names that could really TAKE you somewhere, if only in your imagination (Chevy Malibu, Buick Riviera, Buick Park Avenue, Dodge Daytona.)

Now we have the Kia Optima.

Optima - what does that mean?

Is it supposed to suggest this is the optimal car for you?

Is it a desired state of mind? ("Gosh, I'm feeling optima!")

If it is, let me suggest this: You put the Kia Optima people together with the Honda Fit people and, boy, that is one happy group.

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