The Cult of Cars, Racing and Everything That Moves You.
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An Explanation Of All The Bad, Ambiguous Branding Terms Automakers Use

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Automakers are great at hiring the most verbose, ostentatious people there are to handle flowery communications. It results in press releases, ads and really everything sounding like this: “[Such and such car is] a peerless combination of craftsmanship and technology, epitomizing the pinnacle of luxury travel.”

Honestly, what does that even mean? Usually, it means nothing more than “If it sounds fancy, hopefully our potential buyers will think it’s fancy.”


That was also a very authentic sentence from a very real press release, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as some of the stuff from Rolls-Royce: Those folks talked about a recording artist who forgot to wear his seatbelt being “inspired by the phenomenal serenity afforded to those who are conveyed in Phantom.”

Yuck. Shake off that pretentious, icky feeling for a second. Better? Good.

But conveying fanciness a car might or might not have isn’t the only purpose being verbose serves as an automaker—car companies are really, really great at coming up with new buzzwords to make cars seem more important, efficient or environmentally friendly than they really are. It leads to an entire dictionary of confusing words that manufacturers use again, again and again, all of which are ambiguous and meant to sound more powerful than their definitions truly are.


Knowing that, here are some of the automotive buzzwords that are likely meant to (and successfully have) confused a lot of people.


  • Sounds like: A fast and rare car.
  • Actually means: A fast car, but with no clear definition of what that means. Not always rare.


  • Sounds like: Some kind of really fast, futuristic hybrid sports car.
  • Actually means: A super supercar. No clear definition.


  • Sounds like: A weird, ugly and large road vehicle. Thank goodness this one hasn’t caught on widely.
  • Actually means: A super, super supercar. Defined by Koenigsegg as having one Megawatt of power, or more than 1,341 horsepower. Defined elsewhere as “massively more insane than a hypercar.”

Dynamic (also see: dynamism)


  • Often used in terms of: Describing automakers’ future lineups: “Every Jaguar and Land Rover launched from 2020 will be electrified.”
  • Sounds like: An eco-friendly, electric vehicle, perhaps a model that used to be a gas car and got “electrified” for the recent or upcoming model years.
  • Actually means: Has some sort of electric or hybrid power, which can range from mild hybrids (cars that have electric motors helping power engines, but the electric motors cannot power the car on their own) to fully electric vehicles. Also ambiguous when used in talking about lineups, since “every [automaker] model from [date] forward will be electrified” can easily mean that each model will have an electric variant as an option—not that every car itself will be an electric variant.


  • Sounds like: Some kind of buzzword from the era of flip phones. (Pour one out for flip phones, the one good thing to come of this world.)
  • Actually means: An ability to move freely, or simply using a transportation method without buying that transportation method.



Autonomy (also see: self driving)

  • Sounds like: The ability for machines to do things on their own, the start of the apocalypse, the system of government a person would set up if they bought their own private island and wanted to pretend to have power.
  • Actually means: In terms of cars, some level of being able to drive itself. Those levels range from a human being in full control to the car being in full control, and automakers are great at not specifying where their cars fall in that range.


  • Sounds like: The ability for cars and other vehicles to do things on their own, the start of the apocalypse.
  • Actually means: A car that does not require a person in the driver’s seat. This will not happen in the next couple of years, despite what you’ve heard.

Class leading

  • Sounds like: The pinnacle of luxury travel.
  • Actually means: Ahead of some other, likely unspecified group of vehicles, with a lot of fine print that you’ll never see about that classification.


  • Sounds like: Elegant, slightly altered for improvement.
  • Actually means: Just like almost every other car out there, because they’re all “refined” and “luxurious” anymore.


  • Often used in terms of: The “emotional design” of a car.
  • Sounds like: A term associated with a teenage journal, a kid who just got their candy taken away, a nice wedding ceremony, the loss of a loved one.
  • Actually means: Unless the car’s headlights or grille make you cry, nothing.


  • Sounds like: Something your rich uncle likes to brag about when you see him once every five years.
  • Actually means: Probably accessible if you have the money. No clear parameters or definition.


  • Often used in terms of: Getting the attention of people easily distracted by shiny, new things.
  • Sounds like: A shiny, distracting new thing.
  • Actually means: New. That’s it. Most companies release new cars every year. That concept is really nothing new, ironically.


  • Sounds like: Something actual living organisms have.
  • Actually means: Nothing. Cars don’t have DNA, which means that in our apocalyptic future, we won’t be able to find out who the machine father is or which robot committed the crime. That’s alright, because we won’t be in charge anyway.

Which ultra-annoying words did we miss?