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By Charl Bosch

Motoring Journalist


Sehol, Isis: 10 Strangely named cars South Africa never got

Manufactures are known for sometimes getting their product's names wrong, often with hilarious consequences.


Out of the millions if not billions of Rands automakers spend on research and development into cars and automotive technology each year, the harsh truth is that the slightest lapse in detail often leads to an outcome they solely wish hadn’t made it into the public domain.

Whether a design feature, specification item or a less than ideal powertrain, the unfortunate reality is it errors and sometimes massive mistakes to happen no matter what.

ALSO READ: My kar se wat!? China’s Sehol X8 Plus would need a name change before selling in South Africa

But when the blunder involves the admittedly not easy task of sourcing a name for a vehicle, the outcome is often more hilarious than having to make do with a frustrating lack of power.

Besides regulars such as the Mitsubishi Pajero, Hyundai Creta, Ford Probe, Mazda Bongo, Ferrari LaFerrari and more recently, the Great Wall Motors (GWM) Big Dog, here are ten equally unfortunate denominators the manufactures in question most likely still shiver to.

Sehol X8 Plus

Initiated as a joint venture between Seat, its parent company Volkswagen and Chinese brand JAC under the JAC-Volkswagen banner, the Sehol brand originally only read sol or sun in Spanish as a way of paying tribute to Seat’s origins.

Unfortunately, it, along with the X8, won’t escape hysterical laugher and rude finger pointing from South Africans, which makes its restriction China without doubt a saving grace.

GWM Poer

The P-Series might have exploded in popularity since being introduced locally two years ago, but only after GWM had to change its designation from its global name, Poer.

Ten weird car names South Africa not had
Globally known as the Poer, GWM had to revert to P-Series for South Africa.

Although pronounced “power” in reference to the P badge on the grille that denotes the core principles of Peak, Perfect and Power the P-Series is said to exhibit, the automaker, a year before the launch, said it had taken notice of “South Africa’s broad cultural background not to mention keenly sharp sense of humour” by opting to keep the P-Series name instead.

In recent months though, a number of examples have been spotted brandishing the Poer name, suggesting the initial batch of models delivered to South Africa were not examined closely.

BAIC BJ40 Plus

BAIC’s somewhat slow road to success in South Africa is starting to gain momentum following the recent preview launch of the Beijing X55.

The result of a joint venture with Jeep and not a blatant copy as many believed, the BJ40 Plus arrived on local soil in 2019, but required a name change for obvious reasons.

Ten weird car names South Africa not had
Joint venture model with Jeep had to have the “J” in its name removed to as to avoid indecent remarks. Image: motorspirit.me

As such, the original description for Beijing Jeep (BJ) was modified with the “J” falling away and the model becoming the B40 Plus for South Africa.

Toyota Deliboy

Intentionally named from the moment production started in 1989, the Deliboy was designated not just a conventional panel van, but one designed to live-up to what its makers had dubbed it.

Ten weird car names South Africa not had
Deliboy one of the few strangely named vehicles that does its name justice though. Image: Toyota

As such, it featured a walk-through layout between the cabin and loading area for ease of use, barn-style rear doors, an optional second-row bench seat payload up to 750 kg. Despite being fit-for-purpose, giggles at its name are almost guaranteed.

Nissan Homy Super Long

Descriptive in principle but also prone to a trick of the eye, or even the mind, the Nissan Homy famously sold in South Africa in the early 80’s and 90’s as the E20.

Ten weird car names South Africa not had
If not read carefully, Nissan Homy Super Long could denote something totally different: Image: Nissan.

Over in Japan though, it carried the Caravan name with the Homy designation representing a plusher derivative and Super Long the availability of an extended wheelbase. As plainly obvious though, this is not always the case if you don’t read carefully.

Daihatsu Naked

In the world of Japan’s iconic kei cars, the Naked, pardon the pun, stands-out a bit more than usual.

Ten weird car names South Africa not had
Daihatsu off-road flavored kei car lived up to its name, but probably not how the marque wanted it. Image: favcars.com

Sold between 1999 and 2004 based a Mira, a car known in South Africa in the early 2000s as the Charade, it took its name from having its door hinges mounted on the outside and bolts exposed to elicit a rugged and ‘naked’ look. As it turned out, it did result in the exposed effect Daihatsu probably had in mind.

Isuzu Mysterious Utility Wizard

Isuzu’s track record for producing a single model with a barrage of different names depending on the market sold is well known; the Trooper sported the Big Horn name in Japan, the Faster was called KB in South Africa for years and the Piazza featured a Holden badge Down Under.

Ten weird car names South Africa not had
Confusion eventually saw the three-door becoming the MU and the five-door the Wizard after 1990. Image: favcars.com

Out all names to what South Africans knew as the Frontier, regardless of it being sold by Chevrolet, Opel, Vauxhall and Holden during General Motors’ ownership of Isuzu, or by Honda following a short-lived partnership in the late-’90s, the Japanese market five-door Mysterious Utility stands above for adopting the name used by the three-door, followed by the Wizard suffix to create the Mysterious Utility Wizard.

The move didn’t last though and by 1990, a year of both entered production, the five-door dropped the MU part its name entirely for Wizard, while the three-door become known solely as the MU in Japan.

Honda Life Dunk

Japan’s kei car regulations that puts a moratorium on dimensions and engines no bigger than 660 cc’s is known the world over, but also for often leading to funny trim level names. Case in point, the Honda Life Dunk.

As a means of differentiating the Dunk from the standard third generation Life introduced in 1998, Honda added a turbocharger that upped power output to the limited 48 kW required by kei rules.

Ten weird car names South Africa not had
Adding a turbocharger to the standard Life resulted in Honda adding the Dunk suffix. Image: favcars.com

Whether the Dunk suffix was inspired by the basketball term slam dunk, in this case alluding the extra power or not, it nonetheless resulted in the most confusingly named car Honda has ever produced.

Mazda Scrum

While it is known that rugby is as big a business in Japan as in South Africa, Mazda probably took matters a bit too literally with the Scrum.

Ten weird car names South Africa not had
Partnership with Suzuki continues to this day with the Scrum also sold as a light commercial bakkie. Image: favcars.com

A joint venture with Suzuki, first under the mildly successful Autozam banner in 1989, before becoming Mazda a decade later, the Scrum remains in production today comprising a series of kei MPVs and light trucks derived from the Suzuki Carry that has been serving Japan since 1961.

Reportedly, the name is meant to showcase the Scrum’s toughness in the confines of Japan similar to the rugby move, though like the Life Dunk, it is worth an instant penalty.

Toyota Isis

Like its kei cars, Japan is equally known for its love of MPVs that continues till this day. Toyota’s decision therefore to cite Isis, the ancient Egyptian goddess of motherhood, for its seven-seat MPV in 2004 seemed wholly appropriate, until the emergence of the terrorist regime with the same name in the early 2010s.

Ten weird car names South Africa not had
Naming strategy started promising, but eventually ended uncomfortably for Toyota. Image: favcars.com

It was eventually discontinued in 2017, but not before offering a trim level called Platana in a likely reference to platinum and not the South African slang term for a frog.

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