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Thursday Five: Five Stories Behind Manufacturer Names
Company names usually have either very boring or very weird origins, depending on the company and the people involved.
Nowhere is the mix of boring and strange people so pronounced as it is in the car industry, so this Thursday we bring you the five weirdest or most boring car company name origin stories we could find.
We’ll just leave it up to you to decide which ones are which...
Unlike most Japanese manufacturers that took their name from their founder (Honda and, sort of, Toyota) or contractions of longer, more boring names (Nissan is a contraction of “Nippon Sangyo” which means “Japan Industries”), but not Mazda.
Nope, Mazda, whether by slight ignorance or sheer ballsy self-belief, is named after God. Yep, Ahura Mazda is an ancient Zoroastrian God, largely translated to be the same entity known as Jehovah or Allah in other religions... which is brave for a company that produced the 121 Funtop.
On the other end of the scale from Mazda is Japanese luxury manufacturer Lexus. There are a number of conflicting stories behind the Lexus name, all of them boring.
Depending on who you listen to, Lexus is either an amalgamation of “Luxury” and “Success”, a shortening of “Alexis” which was a popular name when the company was in the planning stages, or - and this is the most commonly accepted story - merely what the first car was known as while under development; the Luxury Export US, or LEXUS for short.
Saab made planes! And they REALLY went on about it when they were owned by General Motors and churning out dismal cars on ancient GM platforms in a desperate attempt to sound interesting.
It didn’t work, they went under and a brilliant name died with the remains of what was once a manufacturer of brilliant cars.
So what did Saab actually mean? Well, it was an abbreviation of “Svenska Aeroplane AB” which is Swedish for “Swedish Aeroplane Corporation.” Which is almost as dull as Lexus...
It is fairly common knowledge that “Volvo” is a Latin word that means “I roll” or “to roll,” but what most people don’t realise is that SKF (the Swedish ball bearing company the car company sprang from) originally planned to used the “Volvo” name on everything it manufacturered that, well, rolled, including bicycles, bearings and eventually cars.
Also, “Volvo” is a conjugation of the word “volvere” which, by way of the Spanish version of the word (volver) is where we get the word “revolver” for a handgun with a revolving chamber. Which means Volvos are now and forever linked to cowboys. Awesome.
August Horch faced a small problem after he left the car company bearing his name in 1909. He saw no reason to not name his new company after himself and continue making cars, however the owners of the original Horch company thought otherwise.
So Horch did what any thinking, reasoning blistering egomaniac would do and went ahead and did it anyway. So he got sued.
He eventually saw sense and changed the name to “Audi” which meant “listen” in Latin, the same thing “Horch” means in German. Handy, that.