08 February 2010

The Names We Wear on the Backs of Our Cars

The car manufacturers have no doubt been thinking hard about this for a long time, but during my commute today I started contemplating the names we wear around behind us on our daily drives.

If you drive a Nissan, you can be a Rogue or a Titan; you can even command an entire Armada. Dodge drivers, in a similar vein, might be Challengers or Chargers, Rams or Vipers, while the driver of a Mitsubishi might be a Raider. (Is that anything like being a Pirate?)

Mercury, Subaru, and Toyota allow its drivers to go off and be Mountaineers, Foresters, and Land Cruisers, respectively, along the superhighways and back roads of the nation.

You can Escape in a Ford, or simply be bullish in a Taurus; Volkswagen drivers associate with smaller animals, like the Rabbit and the Beetle.

Jeep drivers are apparently most American, if American values can be summed up under the notions of Liberty and Patriot; you might need, along with those, to be a Commander.

Porsche suggests hotness and food all at once with its Cayenne. Maybe it's supposed to evoke fiery emissions. Hyundai, with its Genesis and Sonata, sounds high-brow, or maybe just evangelical. Driving a Kia, you can have Soul, which may or may not be intended to remind drivers that the company is located in Seoul; you can also drive a Sorento, which to me just sounds like cheese.

Other manufacturers suggest more civility. In a GMC, you can be an Envoy; in a Honda, you can be Civic or seek Accord.

Perhaps most ominous is the Cadillac Escalade, with its overtones of escalation, evoking schoolyard taunts and the international policies of certain presidents.

Trivial, probably. Subliminal, to be sure. But, I think, worth considering for the message we send each other and the world.