If you’re familiar with the Honda lineup or at least have thought about an SUV in the past year, then the Honda Passport should be a familiar nameplate. And if you’re not familiar with the current five-passenger SUV that currently sits in between the Pilot and CR-V then you might at least remember the first-generation Passport from the mid-to-late-90s. But do you know how the Honda Passport got its name?
An unlikely partnership
We recently came across a story that was published on The Truth About Cars concerning the birth of the Honda Passport. It’s an interesting one that’s written by a former Honda executive who was involved in the project way back in 1993. And what’s more interesting is how the automaker came up with the SUV’s name.
If you don’t know already, the original Honda Passport – produced from 1994 to 2002 – was a rebadged Isuzu Rodeo and the two were alike it every single way aside from the front grille and wheels. But why did Honda go with an Isuzu as its first-ever SUV offering? The answer was simple: It needed an SUV that could compete with the likes of the Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, and Toyota 4Runner, but it didn’t have years to spend on research and development, so the unlikely partnership between the two brands was spawned.
A parts bin full of names
As the story goes, Honda called up Isuzu and struck a deal in which Honda would sell the Rodeo in the U.S. in exchange for Isuzu rebadging and selling some of Honda’s small cars in Japan. In response to the agreement, one of Honda’s advertising executives reportedly quipped, “Hello, Burger King? This is Lawry’s Steakhouse. We want to put our name on one of your sandwiches and sell it as our own.” The forthcoming hybrid of an SUV was even nicknamed “The Hodeo” before they were able to come with a genuine name for it.
Since Honda didn’t have any time to hire an outside consultant to come up with a name for it, the executives resorted to sifting through the Honda motorcycle/ATV parts bin for some inspiration. And through all of the names they sorted through, three stood out: Elsinore, Odyssey, and Passport. They then assembled a small focus group, which consisted of male SUV owners, to bounce the ideas and names off of and narrow it down to just one choice.
The original Passport was a Super Cub
As the focus group was presented with the various name choices, then narrowed them down one-by-one. The Elsinore was originally a 1970s dirt bike that Honda named after Lake Elsinore in California, known for the motorcycle race, but that didn’t sit well with the focus group, so it was cut. The Odyssey was originally used on a Honda dune buggy from the 70s and 80s, but the group thought that one didn’t fit either, so it was out. But then it was used the following year on Honda’s first minivan.
Lastly, the Passport, which was a name used on a version of the well-known Super Cub motorbike in the 80s, was well-received by the group, and the rest was history. The original Honda Passport actually sold well up until 2002, when it subsequently replaced by the three-row Pilot. However, it has made its return and it working its way up the sales ladder. Maybe Honda should throw in a Super Cub with the purchase of one to boost sales.