iAmnotimpressed

Editorial

Auto manufacturers can use some breathtakingly stupid language when it comes to describing their products. This is often done to make something simple sound like an engineering marvel. They tend to use the word "dynamic" in particular, apparently hoping that this is the word you will come to associate with the vehicle itself. Not too many people take press releases at face value, but there is another, more subtle language trend at work too.

It's not something which I believe is being done on purpose, but it does give me pause. Back in the 50's, there was a trend for appliance manufacturers to add the -matic suffix (or sometimes -O-Matic) to just about every model name, component and feature of the products they were trying to sell (such as the Singer Slant-O-Matic sewing machine). The idea was to create an image in the customer's mind of everything sort of being taken care of for them, automatically. That way the customer could sit back and enjoy their life.

The suffix found its way into the automotive world, and by the end of the 50's there were scores of dumb names being given to various features of the car (Roof-O-Matic convertible tops, for example), and not just limited automatic transmissions (although there were plenty of those too, such as Cruise-O-Matic, Hydra-Matic and Merc-O-Matic). This was the height of postwar prosperity, and it was during this time that cars started to take on the role in our collective unconscious of appliances, something helped along by the automakers' marketing departments and their use of appliance-themed language.

You Might Also Like
Outstanding Sports Cars Nobody Wants To Buy
Outstanding Sports Cars Nobody Wants To Buy
9 Mid-Engined Corvette Concepts You've Never Heard Of
9 Mid-Engined Corvette Concepts You've Never Heard Of

The Model T had introduced the concept that everybody could have a car, but it was that 50's consumerism which made that car no more special than your fridge. Sure, some pretty special cars were produced back then, and they continue to be now, but we enthusiasts know the automobile as an entity has suffered from this association with appliances. At least, they used to. These days it seems something even worse is afoot. Cars get redesigns far more frequently than they did even in the rampantly consumerist Mad Men days of the late 50's and early 60's.

Adding to this are leasing and buyback deals, resulting in the average American hanging onto their car for much less time than they do their fridge. No, in the new millennium cars are no longer appliances, they have sunk lower, and have joined the ranks of those goods for which we hold the least sentiment, electronics; and I can prove it with language. Today we just need to look at the prefixes attached to the features in our cars. The first of these is My-, which is found not only everywhere on the internet, but also on the Ford MyTouch and MySync, not to mention Chevy's Volt companion, MyVolt.

Of course, the My- prefix pales in comparison to the lowercase letter in front of a capital, as with the iPod. BMW is by far the worst offender in this category, with iDrive, xDrive (two similarly named, but entirely unrelated systems) and a whole upcoming line of cars with i- names. Not that we should lose sight of the Audi eTron or the Mitsubishi iMiEV, a serious contender for the title of most annoying nomenclature. It is true that you have to call these things something, but giving them such obnoxiously trendy names guarantees that they will be seen as dated well before the technology itself can no longer be upgraded.

In the case of the EV, cars have literally become large electronic devices, but even conventional cars have come to be viewed in the same throwaway fashion as phones and mp3 players. Making cars more contemporary serves only to cheapen them; they need to be more timeless.

Gallery

4
PHOTOS