Most of us own a car or another form of vehicle, but do we ever think of where the names of car manufacturers come from?
Car manufacturers commonly get their names in three ways – the name of the company’s founder or someone notable in the company, acronyms, or more interesting miscellaneous methods. I will briefly go into each in this post.
Firstly, companies may get their trading name from using the name of founders or notable people within the company: for example, Henry Ford, Michio Suzuki and André Citroën to name three.
Secondly, companies may get their names using acronyms. Fiat, for example, stands for ‘Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino’, loosely meaning ‘Italian automobile factory of Turin’, the province where the company was founded. Tangentially, this is not to be confused with the word ‘Fiat’ that comes from Latin meaning ‘let it be done’ which appears in the Latin translation of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, when God proclaimed ‘let there be light’ (fiat lux), and in John Donne’s poetry from the 1630s, or in fact, the phrase ‘fiat in bankruptcy’ from the 1800s referring to less-than-Godly legal matters.
But as I said in the opening paragraph, car companies may acquire their names by perhaps more unconventional means.
Toyota gets its name from ‘Toyoda’, which was the founder’s name. Yet interestingly, the Japanese changed the name – incorporating a second ‘T’ because ‘Toyota’ uses eight strokes when written, whereas ‘Toyoda’ used a lesser number of strokes. In Japan, eight is a lucky number, and by making the name Toyota require eight strokes, they believed the company would have good fortunes.
The now obsolete Rover has perhaps a simpler story as to how it got its trading name. Before Rover made cars, the company made bikes, and the idea was on a bike you can ‘rove’ around the countryside. So the act of roving gave birth to Rover’s company name as it expanded to make motor vehicles.
As a footnote, another motor vehicle word worth adding to the plenary of this post is ‘dashboard’, which was once a wooden or leather screen in a horse-drawn carriage. It acted as to protect the driver and his passengers from any mud that would splash up from outside.