Concept car’s name evokes troubled past in Ireland, UK

Kia's new concept car, the Provo.
Kia Motors Corp./AP Photo
Kia's new concept car, the Provo.

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 car maker 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 — a prototype unveiled this week for the International Geneva Motor Show — was named to suggest ‘‘provocative,’’ not IRA bombings and shootings. And Kia said it would be certain not to market any future car as a Provo in the Britain or Ireland.


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.” When Toyota launched the MR2, it soon found saying those letters and numbers in French made it sound as though the car smelled of excrement.