I always liked the Chevy LUV pickup truck. It was a re-badged Isuzu Faster, and, especially in its earlier generations, was a great-looking, capable little workhorse of a truck. Chevrolet, in a fit of affable goofiness, named the truck “Light Utility Vehicle,” which was usually rendered as the acronym “LUV.” What makes this especially fascinating is to just try an imagine Chevrolet of 2018 selling a truck called the LUV. I’m not sure I think it would be even remotely possible.
Sure, LUV is a strange name for a truck, no question. Naming a truck “Love” would be a bold move, but naming it LUV, a word closer to love’s creepy infantile sibling “wuv” (and that word’s even creepier cousin, wust) is, at best, an interesting choice.
Still, even so, people did accept it. A lot of people. The first year the LUV was available, Chevy sold over 21,000 trucks. Sales kept growing until a peak in 1979, when 100,192 LUVs were sold.
A lot of this had to do with the fact that the LUV was a very good, inexpensively priced, and very useful little truck. But it’s clear that the truck’s name didn’t really hinder sales.
In fact, Chevy never had an issue with touting how tough the LUV was; for whatever reason, the weirdly cutsey name and the idea of toughness weren’t considered incompatible.
The reason I’m bringing all of this up is that I can’t, I just can’t possibly imagine a situation where present-day Chevrolet in the Year of Our Corvair 2018 would name a truck “LUV.” It seems positively impossible to me. I can imagine them naming a truck “Warhammer” or “Rage” or “Powerfist” or even “Meatgrabber” long, long before I can imagine them naming a new truck “LUV.”
I’m not entirely clear what that says about society, but I’m pretty sure this says something. Back in the ten-year period between 1972 and 1982, people who bought trucks had no problem with buying a truck called the LUV, yet I’m almost certain that the PR and marketing department of Chevy would never, ever believe that their current target audience would accept a name like that.
I reached out to Chevy to ask about the LUV name, but they just told me this:
“I think you’re casting into a fishless pond with speculative product questions…”
That, of course, is pretty much true for any carmaker, to be fair.
I’m not really sure exactly how I feel about this, or what it says about our culture, if anything. So, without judgements, I think it’s worth at least thinking about the fact that Chevy selling a truck named LUV—or, really, anything remotely in the overall general category of words expressing some kind of empathetic emotion-based idea—is an impossibility on par with Chevy selling a truck made from ham, yet Chevy selling trucks with any number of violence-suggesting names is very possible.
Maybe it’s related to why movies get more restrictive ratings for depictions of sexual content than violence? Maybe the idea of “LUV” is just too incompatible with what trucks are used for today, somehow? Maybe truck drivers are less secure than they were in the 1970s, or are investing more of their identities in the trucks they buy?
I’m really not sure. But I think it’s worth thinking about.