A judge in Paris has ruled that Renault can call its new electric car Zoe, much to the chagrin of some French women and girls with that name.
Parents of two children aged two and eight named Zoe Renault had argued in court that their children could end up enduring a lifetime of teasing and annoyance – just like the fictional youth named Sue in the famous Johnny Cash song, A Boy Named Sue.
The families, who are not related to the car company, wanted Renault to choose another name for the model.
“There’s a line between living things and inanimate objects and that line is defined by the first name,” lawyer David Koubbi, who took on the case because his stepdaughter is called Zoe, said.
“We’re telling Renault one very simple thing: first names are for humans.”
But a judge ruled against Mr Koubbi’s clients in a fast-track proceeding, saying the parents would only have a case if they could prove that naming the car Zoe would cause the children “certain, direct and current harm”.
Mr Koubbi said he would appeal against the decision.
He insisted that while it is clear the Zoe Renaults of the world would be most affected by the release of the car – planned for 2012 – all of France’s estimated 35,000 Zoes would feel the sting.
“Can you imagine what little Zoes would have to endure on the playground, and even worse, when they get a little bit older and someone comes up to them in a bar and says, ‘Can I see your airbags?’ or ‘Can I shine your bumper?’,” Mr Koubbi said.
In June, Renault chief executive Carlos Ghosn said he was aware of the issue and wanted to avoid any controversy that could potentially hurt the car’s sales.