Tag Archives: Toyota

Japan Journal #3: Comical car names

I sometimes wonder whether wine labels are the product of random word generators. Or hallucinogens. How else could a single grape product offer lingering impressions of liquorice, tobacco, Old Spice, gumboot rubber and Scandinavian sauna timbers?

Product names can also seem somewhat arbitrary. Car names, for example. Mitsubishi’s Pajero model remains in circulation here despite an under-researched Spanish translation that rhymes with banker.

Toyota once released a short-lived wagon in Australia that was branded the Tercel but the public was clueless as to whether it was pronounced Turk-ell, Terse-ell or another way. Ultimately, the phonetics didn’t matter as it was nick-named the Turkey.

Arriving in Tokyo, my first impression of the cars was that they were boxy and tiny – built to fit cramped parking spaces in narrow suburban streets. I was also impressed by the extent to which Japanese manufacturers tailor vehicles to populations. The big Japanese cars we see in Australia were few and far between on roads in their country of origin.

But back to names. I thought locally made cars might be labelled with Japanese characters that I wouldn’t be able to read. Nope. English prevailed – although I’m unsure how fluent the marketing teams were, based on the models I observed over the course of a six-hour bus ride. Please buckle up for the quirkiest car models I spotted – and some possible interpretations.


  • Cocoa (Small, brown and never as warm as you’d hope?)
  • Latte (Small, brown and able to jump start its driver in the morning?)


  • Fit (Only drives you to gym and back?)
  • Freed (Only for ex-convicts?)
  • N Box (Lets you check your email while driving?)
  • N One (The car you have when you’re not having a car?)
  • Spike (For Buffy fans or for when you need to puncture a traffic snarl?)
  • Stepwgn (Suitable only for blended families?)
  • Vamos (For when you want to vamoose?)


Axela (Built for choreographed spinning on icy roads?)


  • Clipper (For sea captains, barbers or hit-run drivers … or those who park by touch?)
  • March (For those who prefer to walk?)
  • Note (For forgetful drivers? Or secretaries?)
  • Stagea (Hmm. For those who love the limelight?)


SEdition (My personal favourite. Clearly for the rebel in the family?)


  • Allion (For the king of the urban jungle?)
  • Alphard (Mountainous roads best avoided?)
  • Fielder (Toyota teammate to the Batter and Pitcher?)
  • Isis Platana (I’m stumped by this one. A fertility boosting, dreadlocked green machine?)
  • Noah (Strictly for bearded drivers transporting species two by two?)
  • Ractis (Golly. A medical issue?)
  • Spade (For when you need to dig yourself out of snow?)
  • Vellfire (Because Hellfire sounded too satanic?)
  • Vitz (Pill-shaped and designed to put the pep back into your life?)
  • Voxy (Petite, opinionated and possibly diseased?)
  • Wish (As in you wish you had an Aston Martin?)

As a proud owner of a Japanese car, my translations are totally tongue in cheek. Then again, perhaps my future is in consulting to the car industry on model names. Or concocting wine labels…

Your Wish is granted.
Your Wish is granted.
The Vellfire - for motoring through Hades? Or on a velodrome?
The Vellfire – for motoring through Hades? Or on a velodrome?
The randomly named Ractis.
The randomly named Ractis.