Why do car makers like horse names?

The 1964 Ford Mustang, serial number 1. Photo: Alvintrusty/Wikipedia
The 1964 Ford Mustang, serial number 1. © Alvintrusty/Wikipedia

Ever wondered how so many cars came to be named after horses?

There’s no shortage of them once you put your mind to it. The most iconic is almost certainly the Ford Mustang, affectionately known by many as the pony car.

But there are plenty of others.

Let’s look at the Fords: The Pinto, Bronco and Ranger come to mind. Lesser known is the Mitsubishi Kuda – kuda means horse in Indonesian – and Mitsubishi also gave us the curiously named Starrion, and the Colt, which its then-partner Chrysler branded on Dodge and Plymouth. Dodge also produced a Charger.

The equestrian theme of the custom Aston Martin extends to an embroidered horse logo on the front head rests and rear console.
Horses conjure up images of power, beauty, speed, athleticism, adaptability. Pictured is an equestrian themed custom Aston Martin. © Aston Martin

Subaru gave us the Brumby, while Hyundai stepped up with the Equus, not to mention an earlier model called a Pony. There’s also a light utility vehicle called the Haflinger, made by Austrian firm Steyr-Daimler-Puch.

Even Rolls-Royce has come to the party with its Camargue, a breed of horse in the south of France.

The team at Mojomotors.com has been researching car names and found that nearly all of them can be placed into one of 12 categories.

They looked at 215 models, but said they excluded some discontinued models and models that used letter-number naming conventions.

The most common car name related to a location, making up 21.9 percent of car names in the survey.

Next were words that conjured up images of adventure, such as a Ford Escape or Honda Odyssey.

Nature figured in the naming of 14.42 percent of vehicles, and this was the category in which horses fitted.

Of course, some of the great car names don’t just feature horses. Think AC Cobra, Dodge Viper, or Mercury Cougar.

Not all are animals, of course, and some may surprise. Toyota’s Corolla, for example, is named after the petals of a flower, while the Volkswagen Passat refers to a German trade wind.

A detail from the Mirage
Detail from a Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupé inspired by iconic Arabian horse Mirage.

The Mojo Motors team found that 9.76 percent of names had a cultural origin. The Volkswagen Touareg, for example, is named after a nomadic people in North Africa.

The survey found 6.98 percent of car names had their origin in transportation terms while 6.02 percent were designed to convey power – think Jeep Commander or Nissan Armada.

They found 5.12 percent had futuristic overtones, 4.19 percent were intended to convey versatility, and 3.72 percent were intended to create an image of speed (such as Chevrolet Sonic and Dodge Dart).

Curiously, 3.26 percent had their origins in music – Kia Forte and Hyundai Sonata were given as examples.

Just 2.77 percent of car names had their origins from human names (such as Mini Cooper), while technological terms inspired the names of 2.33 percent of cars. Mojo Motors offered up the Chevrolet Volt and Saturn Ion as examples.

So, why do horse terms prove so popular when it comes to naming cars?

Car makers want to convey something in the name that inspires something deep within buyers. They want terms that conjure up images of power, beauty, speed, athleticism, adaptability.

Put simply, the horse has it all.

Ferraris may not be named after equines, but the rearing horse is on its badge for a reason.


Latest research and information from the horse world.

One thought on “Why do car makers like horse names?

  • June 1, 2015 at 4:01 am

    Horses ….. Name because my wife at that time want a new horse but , I could not afford to buy her one ……. So I built her one an that’s how she got her name .


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