The brain trust that is General Motors will have to rename its latest brand, the Buick LaCrosse for its Canadian market. According to this article in the Toronto Sun, GM did not realize that LaCrosse is slang in Quebec for masturbation. Here’s an excerpt:
GM vice-chairman Bob Lutz, who was in Toronto yesterday to address a gathering of GM dealers, said he wasn’t aware of LaCrosse’s racy roots although he speaks French and spent three years living in Paris.
“I thought I knew every expression existing in the French language for self-gratification, including the crudest ones known to man,” said the outspoken Lutz.
The article also cited the Nova snafu from years past. Now I’ve been told repeatedly that the Nova example is an urban legend. However, when I wrote about it for my book I went to the person who first documented this story. He told me that he spoke with GM right after the incident and that it did in fact occur and that GM did in fact remove the Nova nameplates from the cars in at least one Latin American market.
That said, it is very easy to make fun of companies when these mistakes happen. But coming up with names that work in multiple markets isn’t easy, particularly if you have to navigate the ever-changing world of slang.