Hamburg (dpa) – Car makers spend a lot of time and energy on finding a catchy name for a new model. The name needs to fit the image and work in every cultural context, but the effort sometimes leads to flops and funny side-effects.
Opel spent months in finding a name for its new small car that will celebrate its debut at the Paris Motor Show in September.
”Initially the working title was ‘Junior’ but after sifting through hundreds of proposals the name ‘Adam’ was chosen after company founder Adam Opel,” says Opel’s press spokesman Patrick Munsch.
The result in this case appears obvious. But it can take dozens of people to search for the right name and model designation. At the end of the process names emerge like Adam for the Opel or Countryman for the new off-road Mini. Strange-sounding names are also part of the process. Suzuki is calling its new flagship model Kizashi while Nissan has named its new multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) Evalia. In addition, combinations of new letters and numbers are used for the rear boot lid.
”On the one hand the name must sound new, fresh and stir attention but it must also fit to the model,” says Manfred Gotta, who often advises carmakers in the process. ”Lots of creativity and a feeling for language are necessary,” he adds.
”It appears easier for those manufacturers who follow a certain numbered logic,” says Marion Ballier who is responsible for developing car names at the Interbrand agency in Hamburg. Audi for instance has its A model series while Mercedes has its A or S Class.
Gotta has his own way of going about it. Initially he locks himself into a quiet room with the car to feel its ”soul.” Then he looks at the philosophy behind the product and the potential customer group. After this process the real name-finding process only starts with the integration of creative advertising writers.
”The Romanesque languages are the most popular because they work all over the world and have a positive note,” says Ballier. From these the root words are taken and experiments made with certain endings. In this way the Ford Mondeo, the Opel Insignia and Fiat Punto found their names.
”If nothing can be found in the Romanesque languages the circle is extended to terms that you would not just find on Google,” Ballier explains. The Nissan name Qashqai is an invention with North African roots just like the Touareg for a VW. And the name Amarok for the VW pick-up stems from the Inuit language. ”It is the term for the Arctic wolf,” says Ballier.
Sometimes it also helps to look at the past, according to Gotta.
VW has revived the Beetle with a new look and soon there will also be a Skoda Rapid. Jaguar also took some time to find a name for its new Roadster and then opted for the F-Type that resonates well with the classics like the C-Type, the D-Type and the E-Type.
Geographical names are also sometimes used. Examples are the Opel Monza, Ford Capri or Hyundai Santa Fe. ”But here too care needs to be taken that the conclusions and associations fit,” says Ballier. ”When the Spanish carmaker calls its small car Ibiza and a Chevrolet Malibu comes from America, then that fits,” she says.
Once a first selection has been made, a thorough investigation is carried out to ensure that the name fits the cultural context of the target market and does not have any negative connotations.
But mistakes happen. Pajero for instance is not only the name of an SUV from Mitsubishi but is also the term used in Spain for a masturbating man. An e-tron is not only an electrically-powered Audi but is also the term in France for a heap of dog excrement. And the Lamborghini Reventon refers in Spain also to an tyre problem – el reventon.
Every now and then legal problems also arise. ”The manufacturers have copyrighted more names than they use,” says Gotta. VW has registered all winds after naming the Golf, Scirocco and Passat.
Mercedes was forced to pay compensation to a French artist after launching the E-Class. The artist had registered the name ”Classe E.” BMW saw its sport division ”M” in danger, forcing Mercedes into adding an L to the ML-Class.