VW Model Names. . . What’s in a name?

Megan Closset, a Product Specialist and Training Curriculum Designer for Volkswagen Academy, recently wrote a great article on, “Why VW about the origins of the Volkswagen Model names. Here is her article.

Let’s start with Volkswagen: in German it means, “The People’s Car.”

Rusted VW, VW emblem, Volkswagen

The Volkswagen Golf is actually the German word for “gulf”—as in “the Gulf stream.” In fact, naming cars after prominent winds is kind of a thing for VW.

Vw golf, Golfs, Volkswagen, Volkswagen golf, rear golf

“Passat” is German for “trade wind.”

white passat 2013

“Jetta” is German for “jet stream.”

2012 VW Jetta GLI - VW Southtowne Utah

 The Scirocco is named after a hurricane-force wind that originates in the Sahara Desert.

vw, volkswagen, scirroco

The Touareg is named after the Touareg people of the Saharan interior. They’re a traditionally nomadic people, we thought it would be a great name for an SUV that can go practically anywhere.

VW Touareg

The world’s most popular car, the Beetle, wasn’t always called that. In fact, when it debuted we just called it “The Volkswagen.” The Beetle name came about organically as a result of its appearance. In different parts of the world, it has different nicknames. It’s known as the Käfer in Germany; the Vocho in Mexico(for the old Beetles), Costa Rica, and Colombia; the Fusca in Brazil and Portugal; the Coccinelle in France; and the Maggiolino in Italy.

VW, Volkswagen, Old Beetle, New Beetle, Yellow Beetle, punch bug

The CC has the distinction of being the Volkswagen with the shortest name. Outside the US, it’s known as the Passat CC.


While not a model name in and of itself, the “R” that appears in Golf R and the R32 is inspired by the German word for “racer”—Renner.  The inspirations for GTI and GLI have Italian roots: Gran Turismo Iniezione (“Grand Touring Injection”) and GLI Gran Lusso Iniezione (“Grand Luxury Injection”), respectively.

vw, drivers edition, chicago auto show, sixth generation, Volkswagen, Golf, gti, wolfsburg,

The Eos is named after the Greek goddess of the dawn. It’s a fitting name for the only coupe with a sunroof built into the retractable hardtop.

Vw Eos Hardtop

The Phaeton is named after the Greek god of the same name, the son of Helios, God of the Sun.

VW, Volkswagen, Phaeton, VW Phaeton

But if we’re talking model names based on mythological figures, a personal favorite is the Tiguan, Volkswagen’s first compact SUV. Its name is a combination of Tiger and Leguan, the German words for “tiger” and “iguana.” You have to admit: it sounds better than the “Volkswagen Dragon.”

VW Tiguan, tiguan, volkswagen

**Amending to the original article.** An addition that the Megan Closset left out of the Volkswagen family includes the VW Corrado! The word Corrado comes from the Spanish word for “Jet Stream” or “typhoon.” It is also said to be derived from the Spanish word Correra, to run or the runner.

vw corrado

11 responses to “VW Model Names. . . What’s in a name?

  1. And the Volkswagen Amarok, an Amarok is the Inuit word for Wolf. Also, if memory serves me correctly, Inuit legend says that the Amarok wolf hunted alone rather than in a pack.

  2. Pingback: VW Beetle History and Tuning Review·

  3. Bora is missing too. Model similar to Jetta. Bora is nord-east cold wind which blows from inland toward the Adriatic coast . It is active from Trieste (Italy) along Croatian coast. It is specially powerful in the channel bellow Velebit mountain around Senj. Bora usally last for 3 days and its main characteristic is that it blows in strokes (sweeps).

  4. The Scirocco and Bora comes from Italian language. The Scirocco is worm south-east wind. It usually brings clouds, rain and bad wether. Scirocco and Bora are the most powerfull winds on The Adriatic.

  5. Don’t know if model “Polo” comes from the English game similar to baseball or it have some other meaning. I have thought that the name of model Golf is derived from popular game. Now I see that there is some windy logic behind it, also.
    There is model called “Lupo” which is also Italian word for Wolf. Don’t know if it is the same model as Amarok. Lupo is small city car.

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