Thursday, 26 March 2015

Nobody understands the motoring terminology these days

EVERY SO OFTEN someone makes the mistake of asking me what car they should go out and buy.

It’s a futile exercise, because every time anyone’s asked me whether they should buy the Nissan Pulsar they’ve got their heart set on I’ll ask them if they’ve considered, say, a Golf or a Focus instead. They’ll politely listen to whatever suggestions I’ve come up, file it away in the bit of their brain normally reserved for memories of that childhood holiday in France they’d rather forget and then buy the car they originally wanted anyway. They’ll also, nine times out of ten, declare it wonderful in every way.

However, there’s another reason why I increasingly dread dealing any sort of automotive wisdom. Nobody actually understands the terminology any more. Cack-handed acronyms in the used car classifieds are fair game – flog people like me a Sierra with FSH, PAS and E/W and I’ll be able to deduce it’s a 1980s Ford which has some power steering, electric windows and a couple of studious previous owners in its favour. In the wider world of buying new cars, 99% of people don’t do initials.

So – unless you’re the sort of person who spends an unhealthy amount of time buried in Auto Express each week – you won’t have a clue what an X5 PHEV is. All the manufacturers are guilty of it to some extent, which means you won’t have a clue what any of it actually means. Did you know that an Active Tourer is a people carrier in BMW parlance, or that KESSY is a keyless entry system on the new Skoda Superb? Of course you didn’t.

It’s as though the car industry has approached the Campaign for Plain English and told it to take a hike. But the term I really hate having to explain to people who aren’t versed in Petrolhead English’s more obscure terminology is ‘crossover’. The term immediately conjures up thoughts of someone midway through gender realignment surgery or something a chicken does to get across a road, but as a phrase to describe the Vauxhall Mokka it’s marvellously inelegant.

Crossover, to borrow from George Orwell, is effectively Newspeak, because it masks the phrase masks the fact it’s a hatchback pretending to be an off-roader. Layman’s English is long overdue a comeback as the preferred lingo of the automotive world.

Until then, you’ll just to continue using KESSY to activate the infotainment on your crossover. It all makes perfect sense!


  1. Great post thank you for sharing this with us.

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  2. TAT means Two Series Active Tourer. The term was thought up because this car is considered to be inferior to all other BMW models. The dealers put it in the showrooms in places where it is less likely to be seen.

  3. wow it's really amazing, nice share :)

  4. Many consumers are definitely confused by the latest terminology. It makes it more difficult for them to choose the right car or even simply browse around online to get an idea of what they like and can afford.

  5. The terminology can be confusing but thankfully, the basics about cars and safe driving remain the same.

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