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Did you know these 10 car names were actually acronyms?


Wait, “Smart” is supposed to stand for something? “Veloster” is an abbreviation!?

Acronyms are a fun way to say more than you have space for on the box, and when the badge of a car is supposed to take up such little real estate on the vehicle itself, they can be a handy tool.

Sometimes, though, the fact a nameplate is actually just shorthand for a longer phrase or for a person’s initials gets overlooked, or forgotten.

Sometimes people just straight-up don’t realize the badge they’re looking at stands for something.

In case you’re one of those people, we thought we’d let you know a few of the more obscure ones. Here are our 10 favourite car acronyms.

Leaf (Nissan)

LEAF: it’s a zippy name for a vehicle supposedly saving the planet, built by Nissan, the largest EV manufacturer in the world. However, apart from the name implying the runabout is good for the trees, it also stands for “Leading Environmentally-friendly Affordable Family” car.

If acronyms do indeed help sell vehicles, there’s no better proof than the Leaf, of which Nissan’s moved 400,000 examples globally.


This well-known Italian company got its start in 1899, shortly after the birth of the automobile. “F.I.A.T” then stood for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, or literally “Italian Automobiles Factory, Turin.” At a time when there weren’t a lot of cars around, the seemingly literally name for the brand would have stood out.

The first vehicle it produced was the Fiat 4 HP in 1900, a horseless-carriage-style car that didn’t even have a steering wheel, but instead a tiller-like handle to turn the front wheels.

Brat (Subaru)

Subaru’s Brat was built from 1978 to 1994, the Japanese company’s attempt to make an El-Camino-style vehicle, but with jump seats and four-wheel-drive. Besides being a punchy name, “Brat” stood for “Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter”.

The model was only called Brat in Canada and the United States; everywhere else referred to it as the 284. In a strange twist, the vehicle was never officially sold in the company’s home nation of Japan, making the Brat a popular import there.


The Smart company – officially it’s all lower-case, but we’re capping it for clarity – was born of a cooperation between Swiss jewelry and watchmaker Swatch; and German automaker Mercedes-Benz. In 1982, the CEO of Swatch, Nicolas Hayek, wanted to develop a car that would utilize the same manufacturing strategies and personalization features that made Swatch watches popular.

The result was the Smart car, which got its name from “Swatch Mercedes Art.” (It was also known as the Swatchmobile.) Even the logo, which resembles a letter ‘c’ with an arrow, was sort of an abbreviation, for “compact” and “forward-thinking,” which worked really well for the company.

Veloster (Hyundai)

Hyundai’s small hatchback was introduced in 2011, and the name is a car-crash between “Velocity” and “Roadster” — y’know, “Veloster.”

Despite its name, the Veloster is anything but a roadster. The classical definition of a roadster is “an open two-seat car with emphasis on sporting appearance,” and while the Veloster might be sporty, we can assure you it’s won awards for fitting more than two people, and under a very non-removable roof.

To add in even more confusion, Hyundai once made a concept for SEMA called the “Veloster Velocity,” which we guess meant “Velocity Roadster Velocity.” Here’s another acronym for you: WTF?


The original name for this company when it was formed in 1933 was Nihon Sangyo. Nihon stems from the Japanese word for “Japan,” Nippon; and Sangyo came from the Japanese word for “industry.” When the company became publicly traded on the stock market, the Tokyo Stock Exchange abbreviated it “Ni-San,” and the brand decided to run with it.

GLH (Dodge-Shelby)

Sure, call us out for cheating on this one, since “GLH” is pretty obviously an acronym, but we had to throw it in — it’s the car with a swear word in the name!

The Dodge Omni GLH was the brainchild of racer and tuner Carroll Shelby. Built from 1984 to 1986, it was originally to be named “Coyote,” but Dodge rejected that for Shelby’s suggestion, GLH, instead. “GLH,” of course, stood for “Goes Like Hell,” a name chosen because of the 1,000-kg curb weight and 110-horsepower motor.

There was even an upgraded GLH, the GLHS; there, the name stood for “Goes Like Hell S’more.” Those vehicles were powered by a 175-horsepower and 175 lb.-ft.-of-torque turbocharged 2.2-litre four-cylinder engine. Hot!

Alfa Romeo

Started just after the turn of the century, this company was born A.L.F.A. “A.L.F.A” stood for Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili (translation: Lombard Automobile Factory Company) and in its first iteration, it was a collaboration between French manufacturer Darracq and some Italian investors.

In 1915, an Italian industrialist named Nicola Romeo purchased the company and converted the factories to build munitions, aircraft engines and other components for the war effort. By 1920, The Great War had ended, and Nicola decided to resume car-building. The first vehicle produced under the Alfa Romeo name was the 1920 Torpedo 20–30 HP.


Before it was Nissan, it was “Datsun.” The name comes from the initials of the last names of the original founders, Kenjiro Den, Rokuro Aoyama and Meitaro Takeuchi, which together spell “DAT.”

Their first vehicles were called “Datsons” to indicate their smaller size. The company started in 1931, but when it was bought by Nissan in 1934, the parent corp changed it to “Datsun” to reflect the sun depicted in the national flag — and because son also means “loss” in Japanese.

NSX (Acura)

You know it’s an acronym, but do you know what for? A quick history lesson: Unveiled in 1989, the Honda NSX was a revelation for the Japanese car industry. Sporting a 3.0-litre V6 engine placed behind the driver and an all-aluminum body, it was the first time Japan had produced a car that could compete with the likes of Ferrari without the price tag.

The name reflected the performance milestones for the brand and the radical approach to its construction — “New Sports Experimental.”

The “NSX” went by another acronym before it was officially christened: HP-X, which stood for “Honda Pininfarina Experimental.” That name comes from the original 1984 concept vehicle, penned by Italian design house Pininfarina.


This article was originally published By ALEX REID,

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