Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) faced a trademark issue in China in connection with its real brand name, so the company launched under a different name. Unfortunately the automaker didn’t provide any Chinese characters for its Tuosule name on the website, leaving itself open for some very unfortunate interpretations, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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Tesla goes to China as Tuosule

A visit to Tesla’s Chinese website shows a site that looks pretty much like the automaker’s U.S. site, although it features more red cars because red is considered to be an especially auspicious color in China.

The WSJ provides one possibility for Chinese characters which could be used to signify Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA)’s Chinese name. The letters carry the idea of “expanded speed and happiness,” which the writer states is the official name of Tesla’s Chinese sales division. It might be a good idea for Tesla to adopt this name as its brand name, and fast. I’m not sure how it fits in with the naming customers described toward the bottom of this article since the pronunciation isn’t provided, but in any case, this is a problem Tesla should fix ASAP.

Unfortunate Chinese names for Tesla’s Tuosule

Others have provided some rather unfortunate Chinese character choices for Tesla’s Tuosule name. Perhaps one of the less-bad ones is a group of characters which can be translated as “refined” but more literally translates as “leaving vulgarity behind.” In other words, the idea would be related to people who have only recently come into money or who are otherwise putting on airs.

Others have offered some Chinese characters with more negative connotations, specifically through Weibo, China’s popular micro-blogging site. One other suggested letters which are pronounced diaosi, which roughly means “loser” in Chinese.

Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) has begun taking reservations for its vehicles in China, so despite the jokes, there does appear to be some demand for the company’s electric vehicles.

How brand names are selected in China

Having Chinese characters chosen for a brand name is important not only because it helps with meaning, but also because it provides a pronunciation. Hutong School provided an explanation of the different ways Western companies can choose their Chinese character names. Some go with literal translations, although usually these literal translations sound nothing like the brand name. For example, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s Chinese name is the Chinese word for Apple, which is pronounced Pingguo.

Others go with a phonetic translation, although this is only helpful if the company already is known in China. For example, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT)’s Chinese character name is pronounced Woerma.

Still others go for a combination of the two so that they can choose a name which sounds somewhat like the brand name only with “well-chosen Chinese characters” which represent a meaning that is positive. For example, Coca-Cola’s Chinese name is is pronounced Kekoukele and has a general meaning of “delicious and happiness.”

To see the actual Chinese characters, hope on over to the WSJ page and check them out. Shares of Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) declined 4% in midday trading.