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Remember When Mazda Released a Car With a Misspelled Name?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro September 2017

It was the early 1990s, and Mazda was a fledgling Japanese automaker, tangled up with Ford, trying to replace the full-size 929 sedan, unsure of their future direction. Mazda had a few things going for them -- stylish designs, good engines, the new Miata sports car -- but they also had some weird ones: Some of their models had numbers (626, 323), some had names (Miata, Navajo), and some had a combination of letters and numbers (MX-3, MX-6).

When the 929 replacement came, it did not signal a dramatic improvement in Mazda's naming conventions. In fact, it was the biggest faux pas yet: Mazda named it the Millenia, misspelling the word "millennia." Note that the Mazda has just one "n," while the actual word has two.

Now, just to be clear here, Mazda insisted this was intentional. Absolutely over-the-top, giving-interviews-to-all-automotive-publications insisted they meant to spell it this way. A 1994 article in the Washington Post on this very topic interviews former Mazda product planner Rex Parker, and he says the word "millennia," with ten letters, "looked clustered and cluttered." The article goes on to say that Mazda "considered Milenia as a possible spelling but 'it turned out that people in some parts of the country had trouble pronouncing it with one L and one N.'" Mazda's argument, it seems, is that they weren't trying to spell the word "millennia," but rather they were creating their own, totally new word, with a totally new image.

Sure they were.

It's worth noting that, regardless of whether you believe Mazda's official storyline on the misspelling, the misspelled version of "millennia" was actually better than the car's name in foreign markets. In Europe, it was called -- I am completely serious about this -- the Xedos 9. The Xedos 9. I have no idea how to say that, or why it includes a number. It sounds like the name of a lesser moon for some giant, gaseous planet that people in Florida believe contains alien life.

Anyway, names aside, the Millenia did have one thing going for it: it was gorgeous. The original model was nice enough, but the updated version, which came out in the late 1990s, was among the best-looking sedans on the market. Unfortunately, buyers didn't really want a full-size sedan from Mazda -- regardless of its name -- so the Millenia disappeared from the U.S. market after the 2003 model year, never to be replaced. Or, in Mazda parlance, "replcaed."

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Remember When Mazda Released a Car With a Misspelled Name? - Autotrader