How do Car Companies Name Cars?

volvo xc90

Have you ever wondered how car companies name cars? How do some of these car names come to life? The answer to these questions… with a lot of difficulty, pain, and tribulation. Like anyone else trying to choose a brand name for a product, service, or new company has found.

A recent article from the New York Times explored the naming of auto monikers entitled “How Car Companies Decide You’ll Ride a Mustang or Catch a Tiguan“.  One big issue automakers currently have to deal with when naming new vehicles, trademarks.

One obstacle that branding experts in the car industry — and their clients — face is the dwindling number of names that are still free to be trademarked.

Sometimes names they choose and you wonder if auto executives gave up or got hit on the head. It’s interesting reading the article and understanding that a lot of the good auto names, well they’ve been used or already taken by competitors.

Also often automakers and vehicle manufacturers will resort to hiring branding and naming firms to help generate brand names. This may or may not help from what I’ve seen.

Other carmakers have just given up. Specifically the Germans with branding;

Some carmakers — the Germans, in particular — opt to avoid the game by using alphanumeric names, like the BMW 328i and M5, the Mercedes-Benz GLA250, the Volvo S90. This can sometimes lead to confusion for Audi shoppers, who may struggle to keep straight the differences among the A3, the S3 and the RS3, or between the Q5 and the SQ5.

It should be noted that the Volvo S90 is not from a German manufacturer.  Volvo is from Sweden but the same rules apply for Volvo. The Swedish carmaker has gone with alphanumeric names. XC90, V40, XC40, S60, V90, and V60. Good idea? We think not.

Mr. Placek said he tried to avoid what he called “alphabet soup.”

“There’s no memorability, and they’re hard to process,” he said

If you’d like to read the NYTimes article you can do so here.

What do you think of some of the car names you see on the road? Good? Bad? Crazy? Do you think you could do a better job of naming cars? How would you go about the process?

In addition to being a Co-Founder & Editor of the author, Adam Yamada-Hanff, also is a domain name and brand specialist. Adam helps companies and individuals find inspiring brand names for new products, services, and companies. You can contact Adam for domain brokerage and consulting services.

Adam Yamada-Hanff
Adam has always loved cars and anything with wheels. When he is not writing about interesting stories you might find him jamming on his saxophone, watching movies, creating art, or playing with his two dogs.