FEATURE STORIES

The Name Game

The Name Game image

Text: Raymond D. Young / Photos: | posted July 15, 2002 09:14

Same cars different names

Ever wondered why the same car models have different names all over the world? Here are some of the following reasons:

Cultural/Regional

People appreciate the name if it fits their cultural conventions. A name may mean nothing in one country, yet sound unusual or even vulgar in another, so carmakers are sensitive with regards to this segment.

For instance, the Mitsubishi Pajero is known as the Montero in the U.S. Why? Because for Spanish-speaking Americans, 'Pajero' means 'playing with oneself' (with a sexual connotation). The fondness of the Japanese for foreign sounding terms and phrases has forced Mitsubishi to stick with the moniker in some areas. After all, did the name won them several rally championships?

Another would be Toyota's Tamaraw. Don't expect that this moniker would be the same as with other areas. We're the only country with Tamaraws, right? Therefore in Indonesia it's named Kijang, an endangered barking deer found only in that country. The Dynamic Family Wagon concept of Mitsubishi gets the Freeca slogan in Taiwan, Adventure in the Philippines, and Kuda in Indonesia.

To Increase Product Appeal or Recognition

Some markets are as sensitive to names as they are to equipment levels. A name can, after all, give consumers some kind of impression of the product they're getting. A 'catchy' name can also help boost sales.

A timely example for this would be the current model Sentra being marketed as the Exalta. Despite its changes being limited to cosmetics and amenities, Nissan in one way or another gave motorists an impression that a new model is out in the market. By the way, the rest of the world know it as the Sunny.

Another would be the Toyota Sprinter (a version of Corolla being marketed in Japan). Who would deny that the name itself would give the connotation that it really runs like a sprinter? True enough, to some extent, because usually its engines are much powerful than its Corolla counterpart.

To create the 'many models' impression

Because stability means having the ability to produce many different car models, carmakers keep on innovating ways to generate models with the least production cost. But this has been proven to be disadvantageous to some carmakers; even Mitsubishi is slashing almost half of their current lineup to recover its losses.

Various Toyota Models like Aristo, Windom, Mark II (all in Japan only) share common components. The same goes with Nissan's Cedric and Gloria.

In order to keep production and development costs down, carmakers worldwide are now employing a strategy called 'badge engineering' or 'platform sharing'. An existing model is face lifted (i.e. different lights and body trims, slightly different sheet metal) and is slapped with another badge then presto! You have now created a new model minus the development costs. Another strategy would be that the same model is marketed on other areas but with a different name. With carmakers merging and merging all over the world, this scenario is already becoming commonplace.

Ford Windstar is marketed as Kia Carnival in some areas, particularly Korea and the Philippines, because Ford provides technological assistance to Kia.

General Motors and others on the 'Big Three' shuffle existing line-ups and slightly alter them in order to come up with various models. Examples would be the Caprice Classic/Impala SS/Buick Roadmaster, GMC Astro/Safari, Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager, etc.

The current model Isuzu Gemini and Florian (Aska) is the same as the Honda Civic and Accord, respectively (with little differences). Honda tied up with Isuzu so technology transfer could benefit the two carmakers, both on engine technology. The Ford Lynx is marketed as the Protege in the U.S. and 323 in Europe. In Japan, it is sold as the current Mazda Familia. Platform differences include engines (1500cc and 1800 cc for Europe, 1300 cc and 1600 cc for the Philippines and some other areas, 1600 cc and 1800 cc for U.S., and 1500 cc VVT, 1800 cc and 2000 cc for Japan), trim level, equipment options, lights and others. Ford controls 33.6% of Mazda.

The Volkswagen group of carmakers now adopts a 4-platform strategy, with various makes (including Audi, Saab, Seat, etc. under the Volkswagen group) sharing it.

Keeping track of all those names can give anyone a tough memory test. Don't you wish they had employed a 'generic' name? Or why doesn't everyone adapt the naming convention of Benzes or BMW? If you know the German language, you will see that their naming convention is one of the simplest in the industry. But, we're all different, and that's the beauty of this world.