The United States of Cars: A Roundup of New Vehicles Named After American Places

Automakers tend to head West when naming their cars.

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A car's name can conjure up a specific image, whether it's a rugged mountain, a trendy city, or a relaxing beach.

Automakers have long turned to appealing vacation-type destinations when naming their cars. Think about the Chevrolet Bel Air or the Chrysler New Yorker. These cars could prompt their drivers—or at least those flipping through vehicle brochures—to think of sunny Southern California or sophisticated Manhattan in the way that, say, a hypothetical Pontiac Peoria might not.

We pored over every 2023-model-year car, truck, and SUV sold by a major automaker in the U.S. to find out which states are the most popular for car names. Spoiler alert: Car manufacturers lean strongly toward western states.

While some models may make you think of rugged locales — such as GMC's Canyon pickup — they aren't all named after specific locations. (Even though the folks in Canyon, Texas, might disagree.)


GMC (various models) Denali: GMC turned to the highest mountain peak in the U.S. for its top trim level, which for 2023 is offered on all of the automaker's nonelectric pickup trucks and SUVs. Denali might not technically be a specific model, but the trim level is so pervasive in the GMC lineup that we've included it here anyway.


Hyundai Tucson: This southwestern city in the Sonoran desert is notable for its proximity to Saguaro National Park. When you picture a cactus with human-like arms, it's usually a saguaro. Just don't tuck one into the Tucson; not only are they prickly, digging one up without a permit is a crime.


Chevrolet Malibu: Chevy's on-again, off-again relationship with the beautiful coastal town of Malibu started back in 1964 with a stylish lineup of midsize cars. The name faded out of the automaker's lineup in 1983, only to return for 1997. But its future may be in doubt.

Chrysler Pacifica: Minivans make great road-trip cars, and one of the most famous drives for four-wheeled wandering is Highway 1 in California. That road passes right through Pacifica, California, a tranquil surfing town on the outskirts of San Francisco.

Hyundai Palisade: We're stretching with this one, because "palisade" refers to tall cliffs — such as the New Jersey Palisades and those in the town of Palisade, Colorado. But Hyundai has said that its three-row, midsize SUV is named after the affluent Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Hyundai Santa Cruz at the beachHyundai

Hyundai Santa Cruz: Renowned for its surf culture, Santa Cruz serves as the inspiration for Hyundai's five-seat compact pickup truck. You may not be able to fit a typical surfboard into the Santa Cruz's roughly 50-inch-long bed, though.

Toyota Sequoia: Known for its towering sequoia trees, the eponymous Sequoia National Park is a fitting locale for the largest SUV in the Toyota lineup. Technically, however, Toyota says it named its SUV after the trees themselves.

GMC Sierra: This line of GMC pickup trucks — available in light- and heavy-duty versions — is named after the Sierra Nevada mountain range in central California, home to the more than 14,000-foot-tall Mount Whitney. GMC's Sierra Denali sort of pairs the highest peak in the contiguous U.S. (Mount Whitney) with the highest in all of North America (Denali).

Chevrolet Silverado: No official word from Chevy, but the name for this truck is believed to be either the Silverado Canyon southeast of Los Angeles or the silver-mining town of the same name, located in the Santa Ana Mountains. The Chevy Silverado may come decked out in chrome, but don't go looking for any real silver in its brightwork.

Chevrolet Tahoe: While the deep-blue water in Lake Tahoe technically straddles the border between California and Nevada, we're giving the Golden State the nod here, not only because it's home to the towns of South Lake Tahoe, Tahoe City, and Tahoe Pines, but also because the majority of the lake is on the California side.


Chevrolet Colorado: Chevy's midsize pickup is the only new-car model named after an entire state. With its majestic Rocky Mountains, Colorado is a good fit for a chunky pickup.

Dodge Durango: This three-row SUV with available V8 power takes its name from a mining town turned tourist destination deep in the San Juan mountain range in the Rockies. At about 6,500 feet above sea level, Durango, Colorado, is the kind of thin-air place where some extra engine power can come in handy.

Kia Telluride in the snowKia

Kia Telluride: With its boxy lines, Kia's biggest SUV has a rugged look that seems to fit this mining town turned ski resort that's nestled into a narrow mountain valley. When fully equipped, the Telluride is Kia's costliest model — but its price is still a lot lower than the $1.8 million average it takes to buy a house in Telluride, Colorado.


Hyundai Kona: This coffee-producing district on Hawaii's Big Island boasts a crenulated coastline and the town of Kailua. Hyundai's take on Kona is a small SUV with available all-electric power.


GMC Acadia: The rocky, densely wooded landscape that makes up Acadia National Park is located on Maine's Mount Desert Island, though the word "Acadia" comes from a New France colony established in parts of Canada and Maine in the 17th century. GMC borrows the name for its midsize SUV, which is sold in Canada and Maine — but not France.

New Mexico

Hyundai Santa Fe: This eclectic, offbeat capital city dates back to Spanish settlements in the 17th century. There's no denying the mainstream appeal of the Hyundai Santa Fe, though — it's one of Hyundai's top sellers.

Volkswagen Taos: The high-desert town of Taos, which boasts an ancient pueblo that has been continuously occupied for the better part of 1,000 years, was the inspiration for naming VW's turbocharged subcompact SUV. There's also a flourishing arts community in Taos dating back to the 1920s.


Toyota Tacoma: Possibly chosen in part for alliteration, Tacoma is the name Toyota uses for its popular and successful pickup. The word was derived from the Salish term for Washington's Mount Rainier, although Tacoma is also a port city south of Seattle.

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Andrew Ganz
Andrew Ganz has had cars in his blood ever since he gnawed the paint off of a diecast model as a toddler. After growing up in Dallas, Texas, he earned a journalism degree, worked in public relations for two manufacturers, and served as an editor for a luxury-lifestyle print publication and several well-known automotive websites. In his free time, Andrew loves exploring the Rocky Mountains' best back roads—when he’s not browsing ads for his next car purchase.