The Name Game
What’s in a name? While manufacturers spend millions of dollars on branding their names, smart vehicle buyers give more consideration to the look and handle of a car, than what it’s called. However, there’s no doubt that a car’s mystique affects its popularity. Do you think the iconic Ford Mustang would have sold a little less briskly if they had named it the Ford Horse?
The Perfect Pick
So how do manufacturers pick a name? The process tends to start, as you would expect, with long brainstorming sessions, often involving both the company’s marketing team and an outside agency. The lists of hundreds – even thousands – of possible names are handed over to a selection committee that condenses the ideas into a short list based on pronunciation, marketability and reflection of the vehicle’s character.
So, What Do You Think?
Next, extensive research begins. Is the name trademarked? Does it have a negative connotation in any language? Do other companies plan to launch a product with this descriptor soon? How will the public interpret the name? Failures at this stage can lead to some memorable results, for example:
● Chevy Nova – This name got its share of chuckles in Spanish-speaking countries, where “no va” translates to “doesn’t go.”
● Volkswagen Touareg – Both unpronounceable and the name of a band of North African nomads known for their involvement in the slave trade.
● Chevy Citation – While the company was surely thinking of the word’s “award” connotations, the public seemed to associate it with the unpleasantness of a traffic ticket.
● Ford Probe – Speaking of unpleasant, for many people this name brought to mind medical procedures.
● Studebaker Dictator – So named because the company believed it would dictate a new standard of automotive perfection, it was introduced just a few years before Adolph Hitler came to power.
Sometimes the origins of names are as interesting as the names themselves.
● The Lexus brand was born when the name “Alexis” was submitted for consideration but heard as “a Lexus.”
● All Lamborghini models are named after bulls.
● Acura execs lamented that “Legend” was so popular that people forgot who produced the car.
● Many luxury lines avoid the risk of naming their models by simply assigning letters and/or numbers.
● The Porsche 911 was going to be named the 901, but Peugeot had already trademarked that number.
So the next time a car pulls up next to you, imagine the countless hours of lost sleep it caused the manufacturing executives on the front lines of the name game.