The Worst Car Name in History

Posted by: David Welch on January 17, 2008

The Routan? What’s a Routan? Believe it or not, that’s the name of Volkswagen’s new minivan, which will be built by Chrysler at its factory in Windsor, Ontario. The company says it’s a combo of “route” and “an” which is the suffix of other VW van names. Naturally. Who couldn’t have figured that out without an explanation? This has to be the most meaningless and convoluted car name in history. It sounds like the name of the tour bus for obnoxious rap troupe Wu-Tang Clan. Or it could be the name of a character from Winnie the Pooh.

In any case, this is one new vehicle that simply won’t sell, especially if they use that name in the U.S. Near as I can tell, the car buying public isn’t asking for a Volkswagen minivan. Sure, there are a few nostalgic types who remember road trips in a VW Bus. But with minivan sales down 18.5% last year, one could argue that they’re really not asking for anyone’s vans. I’d be shocked if VW sold 20,000 of these. Suvs are hipper than minivans, and VW managed to sell just 8,800 copies of its Toureg last year. If VW lovers don’t want a crossover suv—albeit an overpriced and overweight one with lousy fuel economy—they are not going to want a rebadged Chrysler either. And this is the company that says it’s going to get toe-to-toe with Toyota.

Reader Comments

Noz

January 17, 2008 7:42 PM

Worst car name ever? Close, but the rotten banana goes to... Chevrolet once again with the ill-fated NOVA. As in 'No Go' in Espanish. It was a pig in all its iterations, not just in its name.

That the VW Rottweiler will be made by Chrysler is its death nell, as if it needed another one. What we are seeing, once again with VW and the other German car lines is nothing more than German Arrogance. In this it vies with our very own GM, the latter coming out second best (worst) other than for the off-the-chart remarks of Herr Lutz.

Mir Khan

January 18, 2008 2:57 AM

Who is this idiot? The Touareg actually sold well according to projecion last year. What do you expect and SUV to sell when gas is $3.00/gal and it offers a whopping 20mpg? They knew it was coming. Still...sales went well. I know because I am the sales manager of the #1 VW Store in Texas...Archer Volkswagen. The Routan will do well too...since there isn't another minivan in the market that can compete...except for the Chrysler...which is currently in the shambles. No company has a better chance of going toe-to-toe since VW is the 5th (almost 4th) largest global auto producer. Your opinions are unfortunately biased and you need not to write such demeaning and demoralizing articles which sway public opinion. I consider this article a personal stab at one who simply does not appreciate a German-American joint venture.

Schmeltz

January 18, 2008 9:26 AM

David:
You make some excellent points. The name is atrocious. I really don't know where VW is coming up with these names over the last few years--no one knows how to pronounce them! Toureg? Tiguan? The only credit I can give their name selections are that they aren't the equally troublesome letter and number monikers that are all the rage these days. How does the "PDQ 2000i" or "ASAP 123456789" sound? (sarcasm). VW's names are certainly original, but they stray way too far into a place where non-conformity should never go.

You raise a valid point that the mini-van market is shrinking, therefore why inject another entry? I can understand their strategy in that if they want to be a full-line company, and truly take on the Detroit Companies and Toyota, they need an entry in every class of vehicles. Personally, I don't know if I ever heard someone say, "You know, I really wish VW would make a mini-van!". Perhaps once they are here, they will sell in sufficient numbers, although I am skeptical.

As for VW's choice to enlist Chrysler as their mini-van builder, I sort of agree with that move. Chrysler is the inventer of the segment and still the sales champion after all of these years. Some competitors have come and already gone, (GM and Ford), while Honda and Toyota have improved their offerings, yet still don't dominate the segment. Chrysler still knows how to be little more clever, convenient, or do whatever magic they do with their mini-van designs. It makes sense to enlist the segment sales leader to manufacture a mini-van for VW, so that they can focus on other things. Who knows, perhaps we will see a VW badged Dodge Ram in a few more years also while they're at it. Start thinking of a name for it now David! How about the "Ramnowqua"?

GH

January 24, 2008 11:56 AM

David: Well Said!

In my opinion, I must agree many managments in the automotive industry have their Heads positioned somewhere
other than planned at birth.

History proves that in my day "THE PEOPLES CAR" commanded a number 1 position in nameplate sales. Shall we assume that Routan be rebadged as possibly the "German~Canadian~US
Peoples Van"?

Jeremy

January 24, 2008 3:43 PM

Let's hope this is just a patch VW is putting in place until they get their plant built in NC. I would love to see them make the T5 (Caravelle) available here in the states, as well as a T5-based Microbus! Unfortunately, they'll probably end up building their new small- and mid-sized cars in their US factory... :-(

Jackson

February 6, 2008 4:39 PM

I thought VW named their vehicles after winds. That since stopped with "Routan"??? Route would have been a name more acceptable to the public and more what we would expect of old VW. The old VW that wanted to build a car with the thought the driver wanted to own their VW and drive their VW with pride and confidence that German engineering was superior. VW has years ahead of themselves to bring back the real VW fans. Is the Routan that vehicle? Or is the Routan going to delay VW? Rabbit/Golf/Rabbit...VW had their niche and gave it away. The non-US manufacturers picked it up and ran with it to success. Good luck VW. I am waiting. I was part of a 5 VW family.
Now I am part of a 1 VW family. That is due to marriage.

JFG

April 6, 2008 4:42 PM

The name of the vehicle is one thing, but how about VW's track record for reliability? I bought a Eurovan new in 1993, which I stupidly still own, and it has been in the shop 67 times since then. It's the worst lemon I can imagine, and it just konked out again today! (That's how I reached this page.) It's had a whole plethora of problems and defects, many of which have recurred. The power windows, for example, both have had to be replaced four times. Who in their right mind would consider buying a VW van?...I would only warn them that they were making the biggest mistake ever!

motamed

April 17, 2008 3:02 AM

With due respect US auto industry has never been able to compete with the European and Japaneze made cars and that is a fact.In fact the sloppy downsizing of the cars to make them fuel efficient is something that Detroit has never been able to accomplish.You have expensive cadillacs as much as 100000 Dollars that have basically no trunk room left.How about those those excellent cars such as Impala,Olds Cutlass or Beautiful Cadillacs that were built for decades that made to last for ever.Do we lack technology,I don't think so.I believe we have lost our initiative,plain and simple.

Gary Hetherington

May 21, 2008 12:18 PM

VW Van ..... call what you want but VW BUS sounds good to me . The original was the first successful mini-van befor the Chrysler (mini van)
If the VW is a trend setter as was the first version, it won't matter what they call the little bus.
A quality VW van/bus with good fuel mileage may be the family van of the future. It may be a good idea to have the new bus look similar to the original. ( ie as the new beatle does to it's forerunner)

Keep it small and a family of four hauler .

Gary Hetherington
Rusagonis ,New Brunswick
CANADA

Dr Anjan Chatterjee, India

September 29, 2008 1:23 PM

Whats in a name? Nothing much so. But the name should be fitting to the automobile's image.Imagine me buying a big macho SUV which may be named kitten. Thats blasphemous.
Routan is not a very apt name for a minivan.They spend so many millions of dollars researching and building any model along with so much time spent on these. but the model name gets very little effort, time and attention by most car makers.
Lets hope they give their heart and soul to it, much like Iaccocca and his team at Ford did it with the Mustang - one of the best names in automobile history!

Dr. Angel Olivares

March 30, 2009 9:24 PM

Hi fellas!
Who cares about that name. Is a VW that's all. We VW lovers like diversity. Long life to our favorite car builder !!!

jone

February 22, 2010 4:39 AM

Nice website, I am bookmarking your website. Thanks

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Want the straight scoop on the auto industry? Our man in Detroit David Welch, brings keen observations and provocative perspective on the auto business.

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