Auto Naming Nonsense Vexes Consumers

Martin Romjue
Posted on November 12, 2014
Welcome to Infiniti's vehicular nomenclature. Which really means no-men-clearly-surely understand this, so it must take an Infinite number of years to figure out. 

Welcome to Infiniti's vehicular nomenclature. Which really means no-men-clearly-surely understand this, so it must take an Infinite number of years to figure out. 

Welcome to Infiniti's vehicular nomenclature. Which really means no-men-clearly-surely understand this, so it must take an Infinite number of years to figure out. 
Welcome to Infiniti's vehicular nomenclature. Which really means no-men-clearly-surely understand this, so it must take an Infinite number of years to figure out. 

Mercedes-Benz announced this week it will change the names of some of its models to “clear up consumer confusion.” The automaker is following the lead of Cadillac and Infiniti in changing what the OEMs like to call their vehicle “nomenclature,” which is a fancy term for “list of names.” Article here

The relevant questions here: Why are consumers confused in the first place? And how will just regrouping the same sets of letters and numerals change that?

The naming patterns of most automakers generally fall into two categories: High-end luxury vehicles are denoted with a series of letters and numerals, or “alphanumerical” names, such as Lexus LS460, Mercedes-Benz S550, while lower-end, more affordable vehicles get normal names that actually spell out comprehensible words, i.e. Chevy Blazer, Honda Civic.

What I’m not buying here is that diddling with nomenclatures somehow simplifies matters. When every automaker uses its own series of letters and numbers to label luxury vehicles, the consumer cannot help but be confused. Unless you are a car buff or auto industry insider, it’s a challenge to fully understand all the abbreviations, numbers and symbols, i.e. BMW 535i xDrive GT.

Luxury vehicle naming schemes go against natural human comprehension and product perception. Vehicle names should be memorable, logical and consistent. I can visualize a Lincoln Town Car, a Honda Accord and a Toyota Camry right away. Affixing vehicle models with a series of letters and numerals requires Googling to find out exactly what the car looks like.

None other than Apple stands as a guide to branding and naming. Among your gadgets, do you have an AiPh775, an AiPa776, and an AiPo777? What, never heard of them? Well, that’s because I just changed the “nomenclature” of the Apple iPhone, Apple iPad and Apple iPod. What would 775, 776, and 777 stand for? Well, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple in the mid-1970s, so why not use those years in this fancy alpha-numerical sequence attached to product abbreviations to create a nomenclature? Get it?

I understand the appeal of alpha-numeric nomenclatures being distinct and symbolic, which fits into the luxury motifs of exclusivity and elitism. You have to be on the clubby inside to "get" the branding thing. Except, it's become annoying and pretentious.

 I don’t believe that using normal spelled-out names for vehicles would reduce luxury status. Look no further than Rolls-Royce, the leading luxury vehicle brand: Silver Shadow, Ghost, Phantom and Wraith. Now there’s a luxury vehicle maker that knows how to name a car and make you remember it.

You don’t need to rearrange the alphabet and numbers on those brands. So, I humbly put forward this idea to luxury automakers. Name your products with the most understandable nomenclature of all: Plain English.

Related Topics: Branding, client markets, Editor's Edge Blog, LCT editor, luxury market trends, Martin Romjue, Mercedes-Benz, premium luxury sedans, Rolls-Royce

Martin Romjue Editor
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