There are 52 all-new cars ready to hit the streets for the 2017 model year, and almost without exception, they carry name badges cooked up by some high-priced “Brand Identity” firm. We’ve come up with better names using nothing but the list of brand new words entered into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2016.
There’s art and science in coming up with a name for a product. Not surprisingly, there’s also money. A brand identity firm typically charges between $30,000 and $80,000 to do the research and development for coming up with a name for a product, and that number can be a lot higher. For that price, you get the occasional Subaru Outback or OnStar, and a lot of made up nonsense like “Previa“, which sounds like a pharmaceutical. Looks like one, too, now that we think about it.
Car companies have been making up names for a while. The earliest weren’t bad. “Futura” sounds pretty good, and it was just a trim on the Ford Falcon. The first truly made up name of any consequence was the Chevrolet Camaro in 1967.
When it was under development, its internal code was “XP-836” but the informal name for the Camaro project was “Panther.” Trouble was, most of Chevrolet’s product line that year was dominated by names that began with “C” — Corvair, Chevy II, Chevelle, Corvette. Chevy’s General Manager Pete Estes then unveiled a name “that suggests the comradeship of good friends as a personal car should be to its owner and that to us, the name means just what we think the car will do… go,” and pulled the wraps off the new name, “Camaro.”
The name was developed internally by Chevrolet merchandising manager Bob Lund and General Motors vice president Ed Rollett, and is derived from the French “camarade,” which translates to “comrade” in English. Nobody in their right mind would name a car “Comrade” just six years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, though.
Over the next 50 years, auto manufacturers have come up with brand and model names that make little sense, but are supposed to evoke positive feelings:
Who even knows what “Elantra” is supposed to mean?
There are a lot of new models on the slate for 2017, but only a handful have names that make sense. Alfa Romeo, for example, is back for 2017, and it’s named its BMW-fighter “Giulia.” In case you’re not hip to Italian cars from the 1960s, “Giulia” is pronounced “Julia,” and is what those cars were called as early as 1962.
Bentley and Maserati seem to be the most flagrant offenders for 2017, choosing names that will date their products to specific weeks in 2017, just the way you can figure out the birth date of every “Jennifer” and “Michael” within a single three week period in 1968. For 2017, Bentley introduced the “Bentayga” a name that likely means “we’re out of ideas.”
Over at Maserati, look for the new Maserati Levante, which — according to the press release — “was inspired by a warm, Mediterranean wind.” If hot air ever inspired anything, you can sure find it in a press release.
The balance of the Class of 2017 is dominated by either indecipherable alpha-numeric models, or cars with completely fabricated names.
Toyota, for example, has left off the “alpha” part of the alpha-numeric name, now that it’s marketing a Toyota-branded version of the Scion FR-S. It’s just called “86,” which would’ve made it a great product tie-in if there were a rebooted Get Smart franchise coming next year. Instead, though, it sounds like the subject of an Abbott and Costello routine:
Costello: Hey, I like that new car you got.
Abbott: Yeah, it’s an 86.
Costello: I thought you said it was new.
Abbott: It is, it’s a 2017.
The vast majority of cars in the marketplace today are an alphabet soup of letters and numbers. Back when there were only a few cars that used that naming convention — BMW 2002, Datsun 240Z — it was easy enough to understand. Now we’ve gone to the dark side completely, and it’s getting harder and harder to figure out which models come from which manufacturers, or even in some cases, what distinguishes models in a single manufacturer’s own product line.
What’s the difference, for example, between the Lincoln MKZ and the Lincoln MKX? When it adopted this naming convention, Lincoln limited itself to just 26 possible model names. Twenty-five if you realize that the name “MKK” is absurd. Then start picking out the less interesting combinations like “MKQ,” “MKB” and “MKW” and you’re down to 15, maybe 20 to pick from. Is it any wonder Lincoln brought back the Continental?
Marketing managers over at Audi and Infiniti are locked in a war of attrition for supremacy of the letter Q. At the low end, Audi has a Q3, Q5 and Q7. At the top of the spectrum, Infiniti has a Q50. Eventually, the two brands will meet in the middle and engage in trench warfare over the name “Q22.”
It’s almost as if we’re running out of words, but of course, our lexicon gets larger every year. In just the last year, the Oxford English Dictionary introduced hundreds of new words to the dictionary, a good handful of which would provide better, more descriptive, more memorable names for the new models introduced this year.
Try these on for size:
Bentley Banyanihan: New for 2017, the Bentley Banyanihan is named for a Filipino word that means “a spirit of civic
unity and cooperation.”
Chevrolet Scrimption: The 2017 Chevrolet Scrimption derives its name from a new entry in the OED that means “A small portion; a little bit,” which is what you’ll be paying in your monthly light bill when you charge one.
Chevrolet Squee: Aimed squarely at late millennials, Chevrolet introduces the Squee, which is what we hope tween fangirls say when they see one.
Chrysler Cheer-Squad: The Cheer-Squad’s size and utility make this nine-passenger minivan a hit with larger families.
Genesis Joachimsthaler: The new Genesis premium luxury model, Joachimsthaler, has old money literally in its DNA. Joachimsthaler is a type of coin from the Kingdom of Bohemia, and its abbreviation “-thaler” is from where the English word “dollar” comes.
Hyundai Clickbait: Named for its sensational, provocative nature, The Hyundai Clickbait is sure to attract attention and draw visitors to Hyundai showrooms.
Jaguar Golden Ticket: Like Charlie, you’ll be searching the countryside for the Jaguar Golden Ticket, which promises “in your wildest dreams you cannot imagine the marvelous surprises that await you!” Bonus: ready-made retro musical marketing campaign.
Kia Kindertransport: Built for families, the Kia Kindertransport is a hybrid offering perfect for a family with young children.
Maserati YOLO: You only get one ride on this planet. Shouldn’t it be behind the wheel of the 2017 Maserati YOLO?
Mazda Courtside: There isn’t a better seat in the house.
Keep an eye out this auto show season. BestRide.com will be covering all the latest models, no matter what their names are.