There are more than 50 brand new cars for 2015. Leaving out full-size trucks and SUVs, only 17 have actual names. Of those, only three are new. The rest are an indecipherable collection of letters and numbers that provide no clue as to what you’re looking at. In the age where branding is so critically tied to a manufacturer’s success, why don’t cares have names anymore? We can do better.
Nicole Wakelin wrote about Mercedes-Benz’s inane name restructuring today. The German manufacturers have only themselves to blame, painting themselves in a corner way back at the dawn of the automobile.
The trend started here when we stared buying European cars in volume. In the early days, even when the Germans were satisfied driving cars identified with numbers, American importers with an ounce of sense demanded that cars sold to Americans have names that evoked something. Max Hoffman was the legendary New York importer of half of the European cars you’ve ever heard of. Porsche may well have been able to sell a few 356s to Germans, but in America, Hoffman demanded a name that was evocative of what the car stood for and where it came from.
“Continental” was the name, and it quickly resulted in a threatening letter from Ford, since it was selling its own Continentals here and didn’t want the competition. Hence the challenge with coming up with a good name for a car, and why we’re saddled with the ridiculous situation we’re in now.
Take Audi and Infiniti: They’re currently locked in an eyeball-to-eyeball, cross-border battle for dominance of the letter Q. Q3, Q5, Q7, Q40, Q50, Q70, Q80. If my math is correct, in five years they’ll both meet in the middle at Q20 and the unavoidable international incident will result.
Most American manufacturers have stayed with the program of actually thinking up names for their products, or at least sticking with ones that have 50 years worth of heritage. Mustang, Charger, Challenger. That gives you an idea of what those cars are. The more “premium” American brands are following the European convention, unfortunately. ATS, DTS, XTS, 200, 300. Cadillac, for shame.
Lincoln, of course, has squandered its legacy by limiting itself to just 26 possible alphabetic permutations. Twenty-five if you realize that “MKK” might be the dumbest car name in history. This is a company that gave us — and probably still owns — names like Versailles, Capri, Premiere, Town Car and Continental. Throw in the names Mercury used and you realize the arsenal at Lincoln’s disposal: Monarch, Turnpike Cruiser, Marquis, Monterey.
It’s not without some irony that some German manufacturers have acquiesced to the fact that they’re simply running out of possible letter/number combinations. But you can see exactly how grudgingly they’ve accepted it by the names they choose: The BMW “Gran Coupe.” The MINI “Hardtop.” Those aren’t names. Those are generic descriptions of what they are. They inspire all the passion and excitement of shopping at Lowes for a “door,” a “snowblower,” or a “toilet.”
Porsche’s sole new car name this year is Macan. Is it “ma-KAHN”? “ma-KANN”? “MACK-an”? Google it. There are entire discussions about how to pronounce it. It’s original name was “Cajun,” which would’ve been good if it didn’t make most of America think about Adam Sandler. Word is that “Crazy Spoonhead” was already taken. I think it was a Vector.
If you leave out all the made-up names, all the names that simply describe what the car is, you’re left with ONE car in 2015 that has an actual new name: “Renegade,” and that used to be a Jeep trim on the CJ-7 and the Wrangler.
One would think that we’ve run out of words to use, but we added well over 100 brand new words to the Oxford English Dictionary last year, and if the MBAs pulling down six-figure salaries in the marketing departments of any auto manufacturer had any sense, they’d jump on a few of them before anybody else does.
Without further ado, BestRide offers the following brand new car names for 2015, culled from the new entries in the OED:
2015 Alfa Romeo
4C Death Spiral
200 Crap Shoot
HR-V Honey Bush
Q70L Imperial Purple
WRX STI Beatboxer
If any of the manufacturers would care to use them, I own the copyright and will expect a fat check in the mail.