What’s in a name?

NAMES ARE IMPORTANT, they can convey meanings, emotions and significance, but they can also be a car’s undoing.

Take a look at the picture of the car above. Looks exciting doesn’t it? And it is; it has 592bhp, will hit 62mph in 3.3 seconds and can reach a top speed of 205mph. But nothing in its name would suggest this to you becuase it is called, as you should already know, the MP4-12C. Yes it’s made by McLaren, which to those of us in the know is a big deal, but the model name itself sounds like a dishwasher or a printer or any other household appliance that you might buy in your local branch of Dixons. ‘MP4-12C’ conveys none of the performance or emotion that lies within.

There has been a real problem lately with numbers in car names and the worst culprit of all is Ferrari. Their more recent price lists have included the 355, the 360, the 456, the 458, the 550, the 575, the 599, the 612 and many many more, the numbers growing as the years roll on. If we are working on the philosophy that “The bigger the number, the faster the car” then surely that must make the SAAB 9000 just about the fastest thing in the known universe. Numbers, I’m afraid, are meaningless. Sure, you could say that historically Ferrari have always given their cars number names but that’s still not an excuse. Especially when you look at what Lamborghini have been making just down the road…

Say the words ‘Muira’ or ‘Countach’ to any petrolhead and they’ll most likely go weak at the knees. These are evocative names that instantly conjur up the style and emotion of the cars that bare them. Lamborghini have continued the theme to this day with the likes of the Diablo, Murcielago and Aventador. Of course, you can take things too far as in the case of the new Pagani Huayra, which is pronounced like “wire-a”, but not quite, and is causing confusion throughout the motor industry.

Names are just as important at the other end of the automotive scale too. For instance, cars like the Renault Espace, Land Rover Defender and MINI spell out their USP in the name. Then there’s the importance of ‘brand awareness’. Volkswagen would never dream of changing the name of the Golf, nor would BMW the 3-Series or Ford the Fiesta. These names simply have too much cachet, too much power, too much of a reputation built up over the decades. Sometimes though, even a big name can go sour..

The Ford Escort was a famous name, in rallying circles people still talk about the MK1 and MK2 in hushed, reverential tones. The Escort was one of the biggest sellers in Britain and through its many guises was able to provide both family transport and hair raising performance. But then, in 1990, Ford introduced the MK5 Escort.

It was a terrible car and was panned by journalists. Ford hastily brought out a revised MK6 in 1992 but it wasn’t much better. Even a late injection of Cosworth power and big wings couldn’t stop the Escort name from being consigned to the annals of history, because in 1998 Ford wheeled out their new small family car. The Focus.

This is a plea then, to all car makers; please think carefully when naming your new cars, and when you find a good ‘un don’t spoil it.

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