Why do the names of so many car makes and models end with with the letter "a"?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 1992

Dear Tom and Ray:

We were wondering why so many car makers use names that end with "a?" For example, Supra, Corsica, Honda, Daytona, Maxima, Beretta, Miata, etc. Do the car makers just have an incredible lack of imagination?
Anthony and Dan

TOM: We discussed this with our staff grammarian, I.M. Shirley Wright, who told us that there are good reasons for this practice. While there are exceptions, most cars whose names ended in consonants have been miserable failures. AMC is a case in point. They made the Rambler, the Pacer, the Hornet, the Matador, the Ambassador -- and look what happened to them! (Incidentally, the vice president for car names at AMC must have come over to Chrysler when Chrysler bought AMC because Chrysler now has the Shadow, the Spirit and the Horizon.)

RAY: Once car makers discovered this, they made a quick decision to switch to vowels. The question was which vowel? "E" was too French, and French cars have never sold well in the United States. The French association was great when it came to selling wine, fries and poodles, but it didn't sell cars. Chevette, for example, is not one of the outstanding name plates in automotive history.

TOM: The letter "i" was discarded because it suggested pluralism. At one point, Pontiac considered calling the Fiero the Fieri, but market research revealed that people weren't sure whether they were supposed to buy one Fiero or two Fieri.

RAY: The Americans never considered "u" very seriously either, because it sounded too Japanese. So the Impalu and the Electru were ruled out almost immediately. However, it's a little known fact that all the Japanese cars were originally supposed to end in "u." Luckily, their American marketing executives talked them out of it. But we almost had the Hondu, Corollu, Mazdu and the Korean-built Ford Festivu.

TOM: That left only "o" and "a." "O" is masculine and worked for a few macho cars like the Camaro and the Yugo, but cars are traditionally thought of as female--like ships-- so ending with "a" was the obvious choice. Voila!

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