When car manufacturers lasso their respective brains trust together to workshop the name of a new model, how much effort do you think goes into it?
In the same way it’s important with newborn children, the process of determining a name is important with cars. Getting it right does make a difference to the marketability and desirability of a new model.
There are a few examples that have recently come to mind where I think the manufacturers responsible have backed the wrong horse.
Take the Toyota Fortuner. The Fortuner comes from good stock, it’s the wagon version of Australia’s favourite car, the HiLux ute, yet its sales performance has been underwhelming.
Australians love Toyota, it’s the brand the majority of locals turn to when their own money is on the table. Toyota either lead or perform strongly in every segment it competes in, however, buyers haven’t warmed to the Fortuner in the usual fashion.
In the ute-based wagon category, the Isuzu MU-X leads the way.
Toyota hasn’t sat on its hands, the Fortuner has received more equipment and a significant price cut for the 2018 model year.
I would argue that in many cases, the Fortuner makes more sense as a lifestyle vehicle than the HiLux. It undertakes the role of family transporter far more convincingly, the ute with a boot makes sense in a greater variety of situations.
It would have been easy to name the Fortuner, a HiLux or HiLux wagon. It’s a nameplate the market is very comfortable with. So I will pose the question, is the name wrong?
At the so-called premium end of the market, we find the Maserati Ghibli. When I hear the name Ghibli, I immediately think of the Japanese movie studio. Maserati models should have cool, sexy and hard to pronounce names. Most people struggle with Quattroporte on a good day.
When it comes to the Ghibli it was the price, not the name, that proved essential to its success. The lower entry price opened the brand up to new customers. This is an example of a good result despite the name. The end doesn’t always justify the means and some parents shouldn’t be allowed to name children.
Tongue twisters don’t come much better than Nissan’s Qashqai. The English language is a complicated thing, nothing highlights this fact more than the Qashqai. Suddenly, ‘The Homer’ isn’t so out there.
Naming conventions have changed for many brands, take BMW. The Bavarian maker once used three numbers that allowed enthusiasts to identify the model and engine size of whatever BMW model was sitting in front of them. This is no longer the case, which is unfortunate. It does lead to another question, is a car better to be assigned a word or numerical code for its name?
Jaguar has entered the brave new world of SUV production and the F-PACE name seems reasonable enough. However, Jaguar’s upcoming SUV model names may have been mixed up during a meeting scheduled too late in the day.
In a confusing Apple-esque naming strategy, the upcoming electric SUV has been christened the I-PACE. Being an electric SUV, naming it the E-PACE would have made sense. Instead, Jaguar has used the E-PACE moniker on its soon to be released small SUV.
To bring a bit of consistency to the process of naming a car, Ford has implemented some interesting protocols when naming their cars, SUVs in Ford’s portfolio now need names that start with the letter E. With the Territory going into retirement, Ford Australia now has the E philosophy in full swing with the EcoSport, Escape and Everest.
At the end of the day, evidence suggests the total package and price are the biggest determiners in a car’s fortunes. For a definitive answer, we will keenly watch the Fortuner in 2018 to see if more buyers warm to it. Maybe Shakespeare was wrong and a rose by any other name wouldn’t smell as sweet.