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A minicar named Hustler? Japan's brand names raise eyebrows

Published on Dec 25, 2013 9:16 AM
President of Japan's auto maker Suzuki Motor, Osamu Suzuki (right), poses as he introduces the company's new mini sports ulility vehicle (SUV) called Hustler at a press conference in Tokyo on Dec 24, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Suzuki Motor Corp had little idea that the name "Hustler" for its new, boxy minicar aimed at outdoorsy Japanese customers might cause mirth among English speakers for its association with an adult magazine - but it's not alone.

Plucking words from foreign dictionaries without checking how they might be received by native speakers appears to be a habit at Japanese companies, which have produced countless products with unintentionally unsavoury names.

The name Hustler was chosen to conjure the image of agility, as well as invite nostalgia from customers who remembered an off-road motorbike released in 1969 called the Hustler 250, said a Suzuki public relations officer.

Foreign visitors might instead recall the sexually explicit magazine started by porn magnate Larry Flynt as competition to Playboy, or associate the word with obtaining money through illegal activities or vice industries.

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