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A Car Named Zoe Avoids a French Revolution

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author photo by Autotrader November 2010

A European auto manufacturer has recently been taken to court in an effort to fight for its model name of choice. Renault, a French car company backed by Nissan, has decided to name its new electric hatchback, Zoe Z.E. because of the vehicle’s zero emissions.

But the parents of two different children named Zoe Renault in France, are less than thrilled by the car’s name selection. Both families recently took Renault to court in hopes that it would choose another name and save their children from getting teased and mocked on the playground.

“There’s a line between living things and inanimate objects, and that line is defined by the first name,” their lawyer David Koubbi told The Associated Press in an interview. “We’re telling Renault one very simple thing: First names are for humans.”

A judge ruled against Koubbi and the two families, claiming that they could not prove that naming the car Zoe, a common name for girls in France, would cause the children direct harm. Renault, which has a few other human-like car names, the Clio and Megane, argued that no one has found fault in the other vehicle names and won the case to keep the name Zoe.

The Renault case sparks an interesting discussion into the naming of cars with human names. In the history of the auto industry, no other car company been legally called into question for its humane model names. The (Nissan) Serena, the (Toyota) Sierra and the (Volkswagen) Sharan are just a few examples of autos with popular American names.

And even though many vehicles like these seem as if they were intentionally named after a particular person, many of them were not named after people at all. Of course there are a few exceptions, like the case of the Lotus Elise, named after the granddaughter of the chairman of Lotus at the time of the cars launch. Or the Ferrari Dino, named after the founder’s late son Alfred “Dino” who was said to have single-handedly designed the V6 engine.

But for the most part, manufacturers name vehicles based on previous model names, the car’s characteristics, or many times the Latin derivation of the word. (The VW Sharan in Latin means “carrier of Kings”). So despite the efforts of those opposed to the vehicle’s name, it is pretty unlikely that Renault’s Zoe debacle will cause any change in the way auto manufacturers name their latest models.

Ironically, the car company hopes to make the car popular with among women and is working in partnership with skincare brand L’Oreal, to feature a new skin treatment and scent system in the ventilation of the Zoe Z.E. The $20,000 electric hatchback, coined the “spa car” is set to release in mid-2012.

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.
A Car Named Zoe Avoids a French Revolution - Autotrader