It Drives Me Crazy When Sales And Marketing People Call Cars 'Units'

Photo: Ford

Car companies and industry analysts often refer to cars as “units” when discussing things like monthly sales, assembly plant capacities and dealer inventories. It is the most boring, emotionless term ever used to describe automobiles, and I can’t stand it.

During a recent presentation for a new vehicle launch, a brand manager stepped up to the podium and started spouting out sales figures: “This month, we’ve sold 30,000 units, which means we’re on track to sell over 300,000 units by the end of the year.” Everyone else clapped, but I just felt odd. What were we talking about, here? Dishwashers or automobiles?


To be sure, I totally get that “units” is a business term, and maybe I’m just being overly sensitive, here. But how hard would it be to just say “30,000 Ford Mustangs” (for example) or “30,000 sports coupes”? To me, calling something as soulful and culturally important as an automobile a “unit” just seems out of touch. Plus, it makes the company look like a bunch of bean counters.

Photo: benoded/Ebay

If you’re selling washers, driers, refrigerators or toasters, then sure, go right ahead. Those are just detached, purely-functional machines with no real depth. But you see that Austin Healey Sprite in the picture above? Calling that a “unit” is like calling a puppy a “unit”—it’s just wrong on so many levels.

Maybe my obsession with cars is getting the best of me, here, but I just can’t get on board with calling the greatest machines on earth merely “units.” It degrades cars’ importance, and puts them in the same category as appliances. And that’s just not OK.

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About the author

David Tracy

Writer, Jalopnik. 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle, 1985 Jeep J10, 1948 Willys CJ-2A, 1995 Jeep Cherokee, 1992 Jeep Cherokee auto, 1991 Jeep Cherokee 5spd, 1976 Jeep DJ-5D, totaled 2003 Kia Rio