Naming cars in this day of globalization has become an exercise of gargantuan proportions. For marketers and brand managers, the trick is to avoid a name that can be translated as something less than appealing in one of the dozens of languages you plan on marketing in. Even so, every now and then we get one that is slightly out of place, but usually it's not a huge misstep.
Take the unfortunately named Smart ED or Hyundai BlueOn as examples of how you could stretch a name to get something funny out of it but aren't really major blunders.
But has Audi crossed the line from funny to major blunder in naming their entire upcoming electric car brand “e-tron”? It appears they have because, as it turns out, the word “étron” in French means “excrement.” And Germany and France even share a border!
Audi's e-tron brand has certainly had its fair share of the limelight—garnering lots of hype from the first entrant, the R8 e-tron. It's a super sexy electric rocket that Audi says they will produce in a limited run. But now imagine it if you happen to speak french; “super sexy crap rocket” doesn't really have much of a ring to it.
It wouldn't be so bad if it was just one car… you can simply rename that car for individual markets (like Buick did with the LaCrosse in Canada—”lacrosse” is slang for masturbation among the French Canadians). The problem is Audi has chosen “e-tron” as the name for an entire brand. For instance the company also has plans for a small electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle under the brand name and has talked about many other models in the near future. Can you change an entire brand name just for one market?
Perhaps this really isn't that big of a deal though? After all, many people know of the urban myth that the Chevy Nova didn't sell well in Mexico because “No Va” literally means “No Go” in Spanish. But that little gem turns out to be completely false, mostly because the way you say “No Va” and “Nova” are entirely different. Perhaps the same can be said for “e-tron” and “étron”? You can only hope.
But seriously Germans, you live right next to the French and you share a really long and storied border with them. You didn't know what “étron” meant? C'est la vie.
Source: Green Car Reports