GM will adopt the controversial name LaCrosse for its redesigned Buick this year, potentially saving millions in ad costs but risking fall-out in Quebec.
That's because LaCrosse is slang in Quebec for pleasuring yourself.
When GM first debuted the $40,000 sedan in North America in 2005, the company changed the name to the Buick Allure for the Canadian market after someone pointed out the name's prurient connotation in French.
But with a redesigned model debuting this year, the ailing auto giant has adopted the LaCrosse name for Canada too.
GM hopes Quebec customers will hear the name and think of Canada's national summer sport and not the other thing.
"It was in fact our dealers in Quebec who wanted the name changed," says George Saratlic, a GM Canada product communications spokesman.
"They saw little down side to using the LaCrosse name in common with the U.S. and recognized the huge upside in terms of the enhanced advertising support that could be derived from the LaCrosse name and creative work done for it in the U.S."
This is hardly the first time a carmaker has been tripped up by an automotive double entendre.
Other double entendres in the automotive world:
- Mazda's Laputa is Spanish for prostitute if the syllables are separated.
- Honda reportedly ditched the name Fitta for its latest subcompact — going with Fit instead — because in Scandinavian countries it's a rude word for a woman's private area.
- Pinto, Ford's infamous subcompact, is Spanish for a small spotted pony but also Brazilian Portuguese slang for penis.
It happens all the time, says Ira Bachrach, founder of NameLab, a San Francisco-based branding consultant that numbers major car companies as clients.
"You sit in a room and there's always some guy in the back who says that means sexual perversion in Nicaragua," said Bachrach.
"Most companies ignore it or at the very worst they do research to see whether ... it's generally perceived in the audience they care about and ... whether it's relevant, whether the audience really cares."
As for the LaCrosse, Bachrach says it's probably an improvement, marketing-wise, from Allure. Feminine car names are not good for sales, he said, even among women, and likely the real reason behind the name change.