Toyota “Spade” Minivan Displays Racy Styling, Insensitive Branding
Calling a spade a spade is one thing, calling a car a Spade is another – and that's just what Toyota has done for its new compact minivan. The choice of moniker raises a few questions... mainly, why didn't Toyota's Japan-based marketing department call their American counterparts and ask them if the name “Spade” would ruffle any feathers.
No matter that the Spade is only to be sold in Japan (where there are no people of color to offend?) with a monthly sales target of 4,000 per month. These days marketing is a worldwide endeavor and Toyota's English-language website trumpets the “Redesigned 'Porte' and New 'Spade' Compact Minivans.”
No matter as well that “spade” can signify many things beyond a slightly archaic yet still potent discriminatory epithet.
Certain types of shovels, an actor-comedian whose first name is David, and the private detective masterfully portrayed by Humphrey Bogart in the 1941 film noir classic The Maltese Falcon all come to mind. With that said, someone calling out to the star of Joe Dirt in a busy public place will likely shout “Hey Dave!” instead of... well, you see where we're going here.
Judging by the distinctive symbol accompanying the name on the vehicle's nameplate, Toyota has gone with yet another type of spade: the playing card suit – and not one of the red ones. Even that's not cut & dried, though. Toyota's official explanation reveals the name derives from combining the words “space” and “wide,” and since “Wice” is a silly name for an automobile they went with Spade. What could possibly go wrong?
As mentioned, a quick call to an American associate – or an American, period – might have avoided a lot of unwanted publicity that has nothing to do with the vehicle itself. To avoid such issues coming up in the future, we recommend Toyota review the infamous “Word Association Test” sketch from a 1975 broadcast of Saturday Night Live featuring Chevy Chase and Richard Pryor... and take notes.
Will the Spade be, ahem, Coming to America anytime soon? It could – the concept of a small, sporty-looking, front wheel drive, two-door sliding-door mini-minivan could very well succeed being there's very little competition in that market niche. They'll have to change that name, though... not to mention the horn that goes “honky-honky”. (via 3yen and DT)