The Good Oil: What 'Jimny' really means, and why there's no copyright or wrong
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We’ve only known Suzuki’s tiny SUV as the “Jimny” in its last two generations, but in fact the name was used right from the start in Japan, with the first-generation model in 1970.
And it’s a pretty weird name, right? Familiar now, but a bit of a head-scratcher when you think about it. Especially as Suzuki has never really offered an official explanation of where it came from.
There are three popular versions – two The Good Oil would argue are apocryphal and a third that makes perfect sense. So we’re starting with the fun ones of course.
The first is rather cartoonish. Many have genuinely argued that the name is a reference to Jiminy Cricket, from the Walt Disney movie Pinocchio. It fits thematically – small, smart – and there is precedent with Japanese carmakers lifting names from Western popular culture. You might have heard of the Nissan Fairlady.
The second opt-repeated one has slightly racist overtones to 2021 ears. It goes that on a trip to Scotland in the 1960s, Suzuki executives were quite taken with the name “Jimmy” and decided to use it on a vehicle, but misheard/mispronounced it. There is precedent for this sort of thing, too. You might have heard of the Mitsubishi Starion.
The third is surely the truth. The Jimny was conceived as a downsized SUV from the start, at a time when the Jeep brand was close to a proprietary eponym. So the first generation Jimny carried the model code LJ, for “Light Jeep”. The second was SJ, for “Suzuki Jeep”.
It stands to reason that Jimny is simply a mashup of “mini Jeep”. It also stands to reason that Suzuki wouldn’t want to publicise that, as there’s a little thing called copyright – which Jeep became rather hard-nosed about from the 1990s onwards.
But you shouldn’t let legalities get in the way of a great name.