PROVO — Kia unveiled an experimental prototype this week for the International Geneva Motor show: The Provo. Its name is causing some controversy, but it has nothing to do with the Utah city of the same name.
People in Britain say it’s a reference to the Provisional IRA, part of the Irish Republican Army that killed nearly 1,800 people during its failed 1970-97 campaign to force Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom.
But KIA insists the Provo was named to suggest “provocative.”
“We were very surprised,” said Corey Norman, Provo's deputy mayor. “Our economic development director came to us and showed us a picture of a car that was called the Provo, so of course the mayor got excited about it.”
The South Korean automaker believes the Provo will help it break into the sports car market with a model that’s a hybrid. In Utah, some say a different type of vehicle would have been a better fit for the Provo.
“People have had fun with it, and I have heard the joke about how it should be a minivan or at least an SUV that can fit eight kids,” Norman said.
The stylish car is a prototype so it wouldn’t be available for several years.
“If you are going to buy one, come drive it in Provo,” said Provo resident Britny Nilsson.
Kia is hardly the first automaker to stumble when picking model names that don't sound stupid worldwide.
In Spanish, Chevy's Nova meant "doesn't go," Mazda's LaPuta translated as "the whore," and the Nissan Moco as "booger."
The Honda Fit raised eyebrows across much of Scandinavia, where the word refers to women's private parts. When Toyota launched the MR2, they soon found saying those letters and numbers in French made it sound as though the car smelled of excrement.
And of course, to the military-minded or excessively nervous, Kia's own corporate name suggests "killed in action."
Contributing: Associated Press