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7 Popular Cars Named for Iconic California Places

In the world of automobiles, names matter. They can evoke power, luxury, and speed, and in many cases, they can also summon images of places, often locales that are associated with freedom, adventure, and the great outdoors.

California, the Golden State, has a unique allure and beauty that has inspired car manufacturers from around the globe to name their vehicles after its iconic places.

Today, let’s take a closer look at seven popular cars named after some of California’s most emblematic locations.

1. Chrysler Pacifica

Let’s start with my own car, the Chrysler Pacifica!

The Chrysler Pacifica is named after the Pacific Ocean, which stretches along the entire western border of California. Its name may also be a nod to the lovely Bay Area town of Pacifica, which has California’s tallest lighthouse, pristine beaches, and even a goat farm.

Known for its comfort and utility, the Pacifica mimics its namesake ocean’s vastness and depth. This minivan is widely praised for its spacious interior, advanced technology, and smooth ride, much like the tranquil and endless Pacific.

Moreover, it’s one of the few vehicles in its class to offer a hybrid variant, making it as environmentally friendly as the ocean it’s named after, and the little California town that may also have inspired its creation.

2. Chevrolet Tahoe

2022 Chevrolet Tahoe High Country. Courtesy Chevrolet

Tahoe evokes images of crystal-clear waters, snow-capped mountains, and nature’s tranquility. The Chevrolet Tahoe lives up to its namesake, Lake Tahoe, with its robust build, off-road prowess, and spacious interior.

Most people are probably using the Tahoe to schlep kids around flat suburbs, not to climb massive snow-capped peaks. But it’s also nice to know that you could if you wanted too…

3. GMC Sierra

Named after the majestic Sierra Nevada mountain range, the GMC Sierra is a full-size pickup truck built to handle any terrain. The Sierra Nevada is known for its towering peaks, diverse ecosystems, and dramatic landscapes, much like how the GMC Sierra is lauded for its powerful engine options, reliable performance, and high towing capacity.

No mention of a “Donner Party” edition, thankfully.

4. Chevrolet Malibu

2021 Chevrolet Malibu. Courtesy Chevrolet

The Chevrolet Malibu takes its name from the iconic Malibu, California. Known for its coastal beauty, high-end living, and surf culture, Malibu perfectly encapsulates the essence of this midsize car.

With its sleek design, comfortable interior, and smooth performance, the Chevy Malibu offers a hint of luxury and sophistication that is reminiscent of the city it’s named after.

5. Toyota Sequoia

California’s Sequoia National Park, home to the world’s largest trees, lends its name to Toyota’s largest SUV. Just as the towering sequoias dominate the landscape, the Toyota Sequoia stands tall in the full-size SUV segment with its commanding presence, roomy interior, and powerful performance.

This thing is truly massive. It’s no wonder that they named it after a hulking (if immovable) tree.

6. Hyundai Santa Cruz

Courtesy Hyundai

While the Hyundai Santa Cruz is technically classified as a compact pickup truck, its blend of utility and refinement reflects the eclectic nature of its namesake city, Santa Cruz, California.

Famous for its beaches, boardwalk, and vibrant arts scene, Santa Cruz is a blend of laid-back coastal living and innovative spirit. The Hyundai Santa Cruz, with its unconventional design and modern features, represents this unique blend perfectly.

It’s like a little shark snappily navigating the urban landscape. If you get one, you basically have to put on one of those Mystery Spot bumper stickers.

7. Chevy Silverado

Photograph of a Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck driving down the Caldecott Tunnel, Oakland, California, December 21, 2020.

The Chevy Silverado takes its name from the historic Silverado Canyon, located in Orange County. Known for its mining history during the California gold rush, Silverado Canyon is a symbol of endurance and rugged charm, which is likely what Chevy wanted to invoke when you think of its truck.

In conclusion, the allure of California – its scenic landscapes, iconic locations, and diverse ecosystem – has significantly influenced the automobile industry. The state’s image of adventure, grandeur, and luxury have led manufacturers to name their vehicles after its iconic places. From sedans and SUVs to trucks, these seven cars are not only popular but also carry a piece of California’s charm and spirit in their names.

Chevrolet photos provided by Chevrolet under a Creative Commons license.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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