Consequences of mistakes in advertising translation

The sad experience of famous car brands


May 21, 2022
"Advertising slaps" and their consequences

Entering foreign markets is a crucial step, and marketers should be attentive to the translation of advertising. After all, savings on professional translators, who know the linguistic and cultural features of the target audience, leads to serious errors. And slips here are fraught with multimillion losses.

red car
Ford Fierra, in Spanish, means "iron" — something like our "bucket of bolts"

Ford in the Latin American market is a "title-holder" here. Thus, in promoting its new model of Fierra in this region, the company's marketers didn't take into account the language specifics. They should but didn't adapt the car's name, and the planned expansion turned into a shameful fiasco. Why? Because "fierro" in Spanish means "iron" — something like our "bucket of bolts".

Passionate Ford

It would seem, that mistakes are often the best teachers, but this was not the case: Ford’s other model, Comet, befell Fierra's fate on the Mexican market after being renamed Caliente, i.e. "passionate" for some reason. After the large-scale advertising campaign started, it turned out that this word had another meaning — "sexually aroused".


But Ford’s most famous failure is associated with the Pinto model in Brazil. It happened due to the fact that "pinto" means "small penis" in Brazilian vernacular. When the losses of the advertising company became evident, they rushed to look for the causes of failure and, finding them, promptly renamed the model into Corcel, i.e. "horse".

Chevrolet Nova in Spanish means "not moving"

Chevrolet is also not far behind Ford in this competition of "mistakes in advertising translation". When the company without any adaptation released the model Nova to South American market, its sales were miserable, because, as it turned out, there is a phrase in Spanish "no va", i.e. "doesn't go". Who would want to buy a vehicle that does not move?

Indecent Chrysler acceleration

Chrysler Corporation in an advertising campaign for Spanish-speaking countries, without further ado, used its successful slogan Dart is Power, i.e. "the Acceleration is a force". However, buyers interpreted the Spanish "translation" of the slogan as an offer for them to strengthen their potency. This ambiguity has cost the automaker a lot of money.

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