Porsche and BMW are known as “broken shoes” and “don’t touch me” in China

Don’t touch me.
Don’t touch me.
Image: Reuters/Jason Lee
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Visit any of China’s online car forums and you’re likely to come across people enthusiastically discussing “broken shoes,” “big bulls,” and “fat dragons.” What do they have to do with cars?

These are just some of the nicknames Chinese fans have given to luxury foreign car brands. Sometimes the monikers are awarded because the foreign brand name is hard to pronounce, so users opt instead for the closest translation to the brand’s English name from Mandarin. Other times, it’s out of affection for the car’s performance and appearance.

The nicknames are widely used and known—and reflect an enduring love of foreign car brands amongst Chinese consumers. In June, sales of luxury cars in China grew 25% from a year earlier, despite the overall auto market slowing down, data from the China Passenger Car Association this week show.

Here are some of the most popular nicknames for foreign models:

Audi’s RS series: 西装暴徒 (xī zhuāng bào tú),  or “a gangster in a suit,” inspired by the car’s smooth look and impressive horsepower (some links in Chinese).

Bugatti’s Veyron: 肥龙(féi lóng), or “fat dragon.” The French car manufacturer’s high-performance Veyron sports car earned the moniker for its round-front face design, and because “ron” in Veyron sounds like “lóng,” or dragon in Chinese. 

BMW: 别摸我 (bié mō wǒ), or “don’t touch me.” In the Chinese “pinyin” (phonetic) spelling system, the three letters create a phrase that expresses how precious people consider the car.

Chevrolet’s Camaro: 大黄蜂 (dà huáng fēng), or Bumblebee. The name of the car’s autobot character in the Transformers movies.

Déesse: 屌丝 (diǎo sī), or “loser.” The French car’s logo is “DS,” which is also shorthand for “diǎo sī” in Mandarin. The word is often used to refer jokingly to a poor, young male of mediocre looks.

Lamborghini’s flagship cars of different generations, for instance, Aventador and Murciélago: 大牛 (dà niú), or “big bull.” A nod to the Italian brand car’s horsepower.

Lamborghini‘s entry-level racing cars of different generations, such as Huracán and Gallador: 小牛 (xiǎo niú), or “small bull.” The differences between big and small bull are the car’s size and designs.

Mercedes-Benz’s AMG: 爱母鸡 (aì mǔ jī), or “love the hen.” AMG sounds like “aì mǔ jī” in the Mandarin.

Porsche and its model Panamera: 破鞋 (pò xié), or “broken shoes” for Porsche, and 怕哪摸哪 (pà nǎ mō nǎ), or “touch all the unwanted places” for Panamera, because of their similar pronunciation.

Volkswagen’s Lamando: 辣馒头 (là màn tóu), or “spicy buns,” because of the similar pronunciation.