Case study: automotive website translation for a global car manufacturer

Executive Summary

Our client, the Canadian division of a global car manufacturer, decided to redesign their website. Scriptis partnered with their new web design agency to provide French translation. In addition to sections for owners and dealers, the site included a “car configurator” tool allowing the user to price out and select accessories for a customized quote. This tool became the centerpiece of the end client’s mobile app, which Scriptis also translated.

The Challenge

Website translation requires a level of technical savvy to ensure all source content, including metadata and URLS, can be made available to translators. In this case, the website was brand new, and the client needed it to launch in English and French simultaneously. Source content was provided as Excel and Word files. The word count exceeded 50K.

As we’ve explained elsewhere, automotive website translation brings additional challenges. Technical content requires both technical writing skills and a thorough understanding of mechanical terms and equipment. On the other hand, marketing content needs a creative approach to capture the “feel” of the brand in a compelling way.  Our end client’s website included both types of content, underscoring the importance of diverse skills for automotive website translation.


Scriptis had worked with the web design agency in the past, but the end client was new to us. An essential first step for onboarding a new end client is creating a brand-specific termbase. A termbase is a bilingual glossary that establishes the French equivalents of English brand terminology. Translators use the termbase to ensure consistent usage across all translated content. Termbases cannot be used for different clients in the same industry.  For example, a particular feature might be offered by many different manufacturers, but each manufacturer might describe it differently to strengthen the brand.

The termbase became the foundation for the translation memory.  Professional translators use tools to save every source segment together with its target translation in a massive bilingual database. Once established, the translation memory assists the translator by recognizing and auto-filling repeated or boilerplate phrases. Beyond its utility in a single project, where phrases may be repeated across several sections, the translation memory provides an invaluable resource for future projects.

The end client wanted the new website to launch as soon as possible. Rather than waiting until the entire English source was ready, the agency sent sections as they were ready. Although this meant that an occasional rewrite might come through for a previously completed section, the translation memory allowed for efficient updates.

After all the content had been translated into French, the web agency and app development team assembled the bilingual website and mobile app. Scriptis then provided functional and linguistic testing. Using a structured approach, the tester worked her way through the entire site and application, systematically noting errors such as broken links or missing translations. The importance of pre-live testing by a native French speaking subject matter specialist cannot be overemphasized. Manual QA takes time, but it prevents errors from reaching the user.


Close communication between the web agency, the app developers, and the Scriptis team paid off. The agency and end client met their deadline for launching a new, easy-to-use website showcasing their products to a bilingual Canadian audience.

Beyond the value of the website itself, this initial large translation represented an investment for the client. Soon after the website launched, other brand-related material also required translation. Much of this content was translated during the website project and saved in the end client’s translation memory. This included technical service bulletins, brochures, recalls, owner manuals, and technical documentation. When the end client updates any document or digital asset in the future, the Scriptis team will run it through the translation memory. Scriptis provides a discount for the portion that has already been translated and edited.

Longtime clients of Scriptis have stayed with us for many reasons, not the least of which is the value of their translation memories. However, technical efficiency is not our only strength. Scriptis never loses sight of the “human in the loop” – the skilled, experienced individuals at the center of everything we do.  The project succeeded because of responsive service, technical know-how, strong translation skills, and careful, human quality assurance.