At Audi, giving cars ‘names’ is a bit like Boggle with numbers
Giving a car model a name used to be something of an art form. But for some time at Audi, the name of the game has been to number its models following a letter. And now, the jumble is about to become more confusing.
According to published reports coming out of Germany in The Truth Abour Cars, the Bavarian brand plans to give all models equipped with gas and diesel motors odd numbered “names” and label all-electric or “battery electric” vehicles with even numbers.
In plain English, it means — probably — that the next-generation A3 (now gas) will become electric, and be called the A4; the A4 as we know it becomes the A5, and so on. Extrapolating as best we can, the current A5 Sportback and gas-powered A7 become…history. Unless those models sprout electric powertrains.
In January, we reported that Mercedes-Benz was set to drop the EQ product brand for battery-electric cars as soon as the next generation of compact cars, set to be on the market from the end of 2024. It would be the result of a decision by Chief Executive Ola Kaellenius to focus the brand on electric cars only. And BMW is said to be considering a similar move.
Naming a car is a tricky process.
“You try to create a language and a name that taps into the psychology and sells the product,” Robert Pyrah, who was head of strategy at the London-based creative agency Brandwidth, told The New York Times in 2018. “There’s a whole set of strategic considerations that come in,” he said. “It’s thinking how the brand should be positioned in the marketplace, identify the car’s essence.” Some clients have specific goals: “They’ll say, ‘We have a new SUV, and we want the name to target 30-somethings with two children.’”
There’s also the challenge of finding a name that’s still free to be trademarked. If a person on the brand’s marketing team, charged with approving the new name, is presented with suggestions “that are coinages, or made up, or futuristic,” Pyrah said, “they’re going to go, ‘Well, why can’t I have Explorer?’”
David Placek, founder of Lexicon Branding, has named products like Sonos, Swiffer, the Subaru Outback and the Rogue. He believes a name should be “surprisingly familiar” and he’s no fan of alphanumeric names … as with those used by Audi. He calls that “alphabet soup. There’s no memorability, and they’re hard to process.”