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Corby's rant: Cactus presents a prickly problem for Citroen

By Stephen Corby, 28 Feb 2014 Opinion

Citroen Cactus

Citroen's staff announced the news about the Cactus this week. Buying one might make you feel a bit of a prick

Anywhere else in the world, the idea of a car called the Cactus would be the subject of mild tittering and the odd jibe about whether buying one would make you feel a bit of a prick.

In Australia, however, it's slightly closer to the disaster that Mitsubishi faced in Spain when it attempted to launch the Pajero, only to be told that it is the Spanish term for "wanker".

Just try and picture the little faces of the folks who work at Citroen's Australian arm when they got the news. "Oui, yes, bien, vouz will be getting the new C4 variant, in 2015, and it will be tres magnifique, and non, non, of course not, you cannot change the name - it's called the Cactus, ou est le problem?"

It could be worse, I guess. They could have called it the C4 Buggered, or even the C4 Shat Itself, but the term cactus has some fairly negative connotations Down Under, connotations that will make it a marketing challenge akin to selling whale-meat sandwiches at a Greenpeace conference.

Citroen's slightly embarrassed-looking staff announced the prickly news about the Cactus this week and admitted that the idea of changing the name had occurred to them, but it turned out the slick-looking new super-lightweight SUV - which also features carpark-proof "air bumps" on its trendy exterior, just like a bumper car - was covered in Cactus badging and it would be too expensive to replace them with something more suitable, like "Patterson's Curse" or "Bindi".

Clearly someone at head office is delighted with their choice of moniker, evoking as it does the rugged countryside we all recall from western movies. But seriously, Cactus? Even if it wasn't a slang term for "busted ass", it wouldn't send me rushing to a showroom.

I understand it must be hard to come up with new names for cars when all the good ones are taken. Witness poor Mitsubishi, trying to come up with a name as sexy as "Mustang" and being tricked by some cruel piss-takers into calling it "Stallion" - which turned out as "Starion" due to a little trouble Japanese people have with rolling their Rs.

But Citroen has priors here. The exciting news about the Cactus came at the launch of the latest version of the C4 Grand Picasso, which is a pretty stupid name as well. I've always assumed that a car named after Picasso would have breasts on its face, or at least a nose so large it dragged on the ground, and was as bent as a boxer's to boot.

The Citroen Saxo is another shocker. It looks like some vowels were chucked out at the last minute to avoid embarrassment. Sister company Peugeot might be onto something by simply giving most of its range numerical names.

I don't want to pick on Citroen here, so let's also give honourable mentions to the Touraeg, the Grand Carnival, the Avenger and just about every other car to ever come out of America (the Mustang aside).

When it comes down to it, the only proper way to name your cars is clearly to use the titles of dearly departed fighting bulls. No one is going to make fun of you for buying an Aventador, although with that one they will know the pricks are all on the inside.