Car Names - A Case Study In Consumer Science

Monday, April 15, 2013 - 8:50am


After doing research into how cars get their names and whether or not those names really make a difference in the overall success of the vehicle, there are a couple conclusions to draw.

When it Comes to Luxury, it’s All About the Numbers
If the company wants to be recognized in the luxury sector, they need to bypass the name altogether. Think Mercedes-Benz, BMV, Jaguar, Audi, Volvo and Acura. All of these companies opt for an alphanumeric approach to classifying their vehicles. It becomes a sort of esoteric boy’s club where you have to have some insider knowledge to understand what all of those numbers and symbols represent.

Boring is Not Always a Bad Thing … Unless You Are a Sports Car
Great cars prove themselves and step out from under the veil of average monikers. The Accord, Civic, Camry and Corolla are perfect examples of cars whose names seem to have had little bearing on their success. Their performance transcends their label.

On the other end of the spectrum, sports cars seem to exist under a different directive. When you think of sports cars, you think of power. It makes sense that these cars would share their names with some of the leaders of the natural world: Mustang, Cobra, Viper, Barracuda and the Jaguar. Sports cars need to have a level of aggressiveness. Think Dodge Charger or more on the Dodge Challenger. Tack "Turbo" onto the end and Ding! Ding! Ding! you have yourself a winner.

Creativity: Cover-up for Poor Character
Cars that have tried-too-hard for flashy names are usually trying to make up for what they lack in other areas.

These fly-by-nighters are targeting a different crowd. They are looking for personality matches. Much like speed dating, car companies only have moments to convince consumers that their car, truck or SUV is a better fit for them than the other fifteen models in their price range.

They need a name people will remember. Most car deals in this price range are sealed from the comfort of home by clever ad campaigns rather than smooth salespersons. Names that come to mind include the Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio, Dodge Dart, and Chevrolet Spark. Never underestimate the power of alliteration.

Sometimes Names Don't Matter. Literally.
Of course there are those cars you don’t remember (or don’t want to remember). With everything that a car goes through to get to the final name, you have to wonder what happened to these cars? 

#1: Chevy Citation

Do you really want to be driving a car named for a costly mistake?

#2: Toyota Yaris
What is a Yaris’? Oh well, all the better for the Honda Fit and Nissan Versa whose names actually make sense.

#3: Ford Probe
You shouldn’t be unconsciously clenching your buttocks before you even get in the vehicle. Unfortunately, space and speed are not the first things that come to mind.

#4: Ford Aspire
I’m pretty sure people aren’t sinking all their hopes and desires into this vehicle. If this is what you aspire to drive, we need to talk.

#5: Dodge Neon
Neon went out with the big hair and stone wash jeans but apparently Dodge didn’t get the memo. (Still, it sells well so something's going right.)
Let's just hope car companies can learn from their mistakes.