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Isn’t she lovely? Why cars are named after women

Take time and reminisce about the cars you have owned and the names you gave each of them. Why do we do this? We take a stab at finding some answers.

Car names are somewhat intriguing. Maserati has long used the name of winds (such as the Mistral, Bora, Merak and Ghibli). Some manufacturers use the names of animals – consider the Volkswagen Beetle, Ford Mustang and Mitsubishi Colt. Others name cars after places – the Kia Rio, for instance. And, with Mother’s Day having just passed, it is noticeable that many cars are named after women – not only by vehicle manufacturers but by vehicle owners, too. The question is: why?

The first and arguably most famous woman’s name to be associated with cars was Mercedes. It is not just the name of a car, but the name of a brand, too: Mercedes-Benz (which, according to the 2021 AutoTrader Car Industry Report*, was the third most searched-for brand in South Africa last year). The Benz part came from Karl Benz, widely thought to be the inventor of the car. And Mercedes? That comes from Mercédès Jellinek, daughter of Emil Jellinek (he was a particularly influential customer and board member of Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft, and he helped create the Mercedes 35hp).

Since then, we have seen a plethora of cars being named after women by automakers. Typical examples include the Alfa Romeo Giulietta and Lotus Elise. Others that may not be familiar to all South African motorists, include the Nissan Silvia, Toyota Carina, Austin Seven Ruby, Mitsubishi Lancer Celeste and Daihatsu Mira.

Photo: MotorPress

Motorists all over the world love giving their cars names, too. According to a DME automotive survey, women are more likely than men to name their vehicles: 23% to 18%. Many of the chosen names are those of women: Baby and Betsy account for 4% of all the names. Bessie is next at 3%, with Black Beauty (2%) and Betty (1%) rounding out the top five. (1)

But why on earth are cars associated with women? One theory is that it is a carry-over from the sailing days of old, when ships were named after women. There is a theory that ships being referred to as female was a metaphor for ships being “containers” carrying freight and cargo to be delivered at a later date, similar to a woman bearing children. (2)

Whatever the reason, the naming of cars symbolises the emotional connection that motorists have with them. A car is far more than just a possession. It plays a vitally important role in many people’s lives, because it takes our children to school, transports us to work, keeps us warm in winter and keeps us safe in the event of a collision. This is why some motorists will go so far as to name their cars or order customised number plates.

Of course, there is yet another reason why cars are named after women: because both are beautiful. Take the Mustang in Gone in 60 Seconds, for instance. It is widely considered one of the most famous and desirable movie cars of all time. And what is this thing of true beauty called? Eleanor. Which just seems so right.

*AutoTrader, January 1 to April 30, 2022


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