The hot turbo-hybrid Provo concept car Kia is showing at the Geneva auto show reportedly is getting rave reviews from news media, but has provoked an intensely negative reaction from a Northern Ireland politician.
Gregory Campbell, a member of the British Parliament from East Londonderry, files and then tables a motion in the House of Commons protesting the name and calling for the vehicle never to be marketed in England or Northern Ireland.
During a bloody period of upheaval from 1969 to 1997 called The Troubles, the Provisional Irish Republican Army committed acts of violence in Northern Ireland, England and occasionally in Europe; its members were referred to as “Provos.”
Nearly 2,000 people died during the conflict as the IRA, which sought separation of Northern Ireland from the U.K. in favor of union with the Republic of Ireland, clashed with police, the army and loyalist paramilitary groups.
In addition to bearing the name Provo, the Kia show car is adorned with an orange roof, a color associated with Irish unionists and one of the colors of the flag of the Republic of Ireland.
Michael Choo, Kia’s director of global communications, discounts the impact the Provo name might have on the concept’s success.
“The car itself is a beauty and it’s unfortunate that this has come up,” he tells WardsAuto, “as it’s an exceptionally beautiful concept car and it’s getting many rave reviews from reporters who are covering the Geneva show.”
Campbell has introduced a motion in the British Parliament essentially condemning the name and protesting its use on a vehicle that might be marketed within the U.K. The motion urges Kia not to bring the Provo to the U.K., including Northern Ireland.
Kia responds in an official statement: “There is absolutely no intention by Kia Motors Europe to cause offense with the name of its new concept vehicle, the Kia Provo.
“The Provo was designed and named at the company’s design studio in Frankfurt and is a concept vehicle only, rather than a production-ready car. Kia takes care to ensure that the name of every new model on sale is appropriate in all markets.
“The name Provo comes from the word ‘provoke,’ as the aim of this racy, striking design study was to provoke a reaction amongst the audience. The orange roof was chosen as it was a popular color for sports-car buyers during the 1970s,” the auto maker says.
Steve Kitson, a spokesman for Kia in the U.K., offers a slightly different interpretation of the vehicle’s name. The Provo monicker was derived from the Italian word “prova,” meaning test or trial, he says.
“It's a play on the Italian word meant to provoke emotions, to provoke aspirations, to make the car exciting and fun," Kitson says, adding, “This car is a showcase for a motor show in Switzerland designed by an Italian at a design studio in Frankfurt."
Campbell pulled in his horns after Kia released its official statement.
“Obviously, a large multinational company may not be aware of all the connotations surrounding a particular name,” he says in a statement.
“The motion which I had tabled in the House of Commons was aimed at making Kia aware of the particular sensitivities and to request a change. In this case, Kia (officials) have acted quickly and issued a clear statement that they will not launch a car in the United Kingdom with this name and will not utilize this name in any other way.”