DUBLIN – Kia’s new concept car, the Provo, is designed to provoke comment. But to many across Britain and Ireland, the name sounds like a celebration of terrorism.
British lawmakers appealed Tuesday in the House of Commons for the South Korean automaker to junk the name of its planned mini sports coupe because “Provo” is the street name for the dominant branch of the outlawed Irish Republican Army. The Provisional IRA killed nearly 1,800 people during its failed 1970-1997 campaign to force Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom.
Kia insisted the Provo — an experimental prototype unveiled this week for the International Geneva Motor Show and years away from production — was named to suggest “provocative,” not IRA bombings and shootings. And in a follow-up statement, Kia said it would be certain not to market any future car as a Provo in the United Kingdom or Republic of Ireland.
“I accept that this was a mistake made by the company, and I know that their decisive action will be welcomed by many people, in Northern Ireland and beyond, whose lives have been affected by the murderous actions of the Provisional IRA,” said Gregory Campbell, a British lawmaker for the main Northern Ireland party, the Democratic Unionists.
Kia is hardly the first automaker to stumble when picking model names that don’t sound stupid worldwide.
In Spanish, Chevy’s Nova meant “doesn’t go,” Mazda’s LaPuta translated as “the whore,” and the Nissan Moco as “booger.”
And of course, to the military-minded or excessively nervous, Kia’s own corporate name suggests “killed in action.”