I’ve lamented before about how carmakers have been treating the word “coupe” like it was some meaningless but spicy term they could just slap on anything they wanted to feel “sportier,” but now I’m ready to take action. I’m officially issuing a formal demand that automakers stop misusing the word coupe in reference to, usually, four-door SUVs and crossovers with a slightly sportier design. Don’t worry, though—I have a much better replacement word in mind.
I want to be clear that this is not just me complaining anymore—I have filed a formal resolution with the Global Consortium of Automotive Nomenclature (GCAN), headquartered at the Hague, and while this is a group I made up just now, right here, they are nevertheless the most authoritative automotive naming organization in the world, and, as per the rules I’m making up as I type this, what they say goes.
This is no longer a request. This is now law.
In case there’s those of you still confused about all this, let me give you a quick refresher. The word “coupe” or “coupé” has a very specific meaning—it’s a two-door sporty car. Not quite a sports car, but not just a two-door sedan.
The name comes from the French word meaning to “cut off;” it’s always referenced a two-door body style. That’s just what the word means.
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Now, many companies are producing vehicles that look like this, and all of these have the word “coupe” in their names:
As you can clearly see, these vehicles do not, in any way, fit the definition of “coupe.” They all have four doors. They’re not coupes, no matter what any of these fancy German automakers try to tell you.
They do all share something in common, though, something that contributes to their sportier looks, a design trait that we’ve actually seen before, many times. It looked like this:
They’re called Fastbacks.
What changed a regular sedan or more traditional-style notchback coupe into a Fastback is exactly the same process every automaker making these non-coupes is doing: adding a strongly sloping roofline at the rear that gives the car a more sleek, streamlined look.
What Mercedes-Benz did with the GLC to make it a GLC Coupe or what Porsche did with the Cayenne to make it a Cayenne Coupe is precisely the same thing that Ford did to the Mustang to make the Mustang Fastback: slope that roof.
Now, while coupe has a direct association with two doors, fastbacks don’t necessarily have to be. That’s why I’m proposing that all automakers currently employing these sorts of sloped-roof styling methods to turn four-door SUVs, Crossovers, or sedans into sportier variants will cease from referring to them as coupes and begin to refer to them as “fastbacks.”
As in Mercedes-Benz GLC Fastback, or Porsche Cayenne Fastback.
As a test, I reached out to Mercedes-Benz to see if they would voluntarily begin to change their naming conventions for their four-door vehicles that fit this category from “coupe” to “fastback,” and I received this response:
Thanks for the offer, but we’ll politely decline.
Director, Corporate Communications
Mercedes-Benz USA LLC.
Big mistake, Rob.
By flat-out refusing to consider the nomenclature change, Mercedes-Benz has been officially censured by the Global Consortium of Automotive Nomenclature, which means that I can no longer write about affected Mercedes-Benz vehicles without mentioning this black mark on their record.
I suspect that many potential consumers may not wish to own a vehicle that’s been censured by GCAN, but I guess we’ll see.
I do hope other manufacturers do not make the same mistake that Mercedes-Benz committed, out of some sort of misguided hubris. If it has four doors, it is not a coupe. Call them Fastbacks.
Besides, Fastback is a much cooler name, anyway. And, remember, this is no longer a suggestion. I have the full might of the GCAN behind this, and they don’t fuck around.
These cars are now Fastbacks.