Alphabet Soup, Number Salad: Hence What the Cars Are Called

Alphabet Soup, Number Salad: Hence What the Cars Are Called

Updated 05/06/2022 08:07

  • Letters, numbers, a combination of both or simply a specific name: Many manufacturers are inventive when naming their models.
  • How cars get their names – and what embarrassing accidents can happen.

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“Tell me what’s behind and I’ll tell you the name of the car” – what sounds so simple requires good planning on the part of the car manufacturer. Some had bad luck when choosing a name, while others played it safe with certain systems.

The name of the car model must be well thought out in some way or another. The diversity of the world and its languages ​​is enormous. Manfred Gotta can sing a song about it.

He has been developing brands and product names since 1986, including car manufacturers. The names of Actros, Twingo, Smart, Vectra, Well Satis, Viano and Panamera are derived from them. “A car name can personally position the vehicle and stand out from the brand,” Gotta says. Because it conveys one’s personality and can help brands with an image problem. However, the variety of names then makes it difficult to tell them apart.

A good name should not follow the spirit of the times or trends, but should last a long time. When looking for a name, Manfred Gotta always looks at the car first – from all sides.

“I have to hold the car visually and hastily, feel the car so that I can understand it,” he says. With his team and special programs, he creates 100 different names for each vehicle. He has checked these for pronunciation, intonation and meaning in different countries.

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Why are some models called differently abroad

Timing is also essential to prevent embarrassing mix-ups. Because in recent years there have always been misleading names on the international stage. Audi E-tron can sound like “etron” in French – “poop”. Mitsubishi’s Pajero SUV may have “wankered” in South America—and became the harmless Montero in Spanish-speaking markets.

A Pinto can be not only a compact car from Ford, but also colloquially a “dick” in Brazil. And Kuga is “plague” in Croatian – or an SUV from Ford.

To ensure safety on the road, the rear-view mirror in particular must be adjusted correctly. What to take care (Photo: iStock-Ralph Geethe)

numbers instead of names

Some manufacturers rely on other systems, such as bmw, 50 years ago, Bavarians invented their own nomenclature with three numbers, which is still valid for many models today. Until that time, BMW had mostly named its models after the displacement of the engines. Smaller vehicles only had smaller engines, while larger cars had larger engines. There was no overlap. For example, the smallest car was the BMW 700 (since 1959) with a 700cc engine, the largest was a 3200S with a 3200C engine.

count fifty years ago

Engines had to be used in all vehicles for development and cost reasons, with the mid-range models recently introduced in 1972. The weakest engine in the middle class should power even a small car, and the strongest engine in the middle class should also serve as the weakest engine in the luxury class.

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“This would not have been possible with the previous nomenclature. BMW had to name different engines in different categories to clearly show the difference to customers,” says Fred Jacobs, head of the BMW Archive.

The new system had numbers for the class that grew in size: a smaller class was called 3, a middle class was called a 5, and an upper class was 7. In between, space was left for later niche models, such as coupes. The last two digits indicate the displacement of the engine. A 520 was therefore a 5 Series with a 2.0 liter engine, a 525 A 5 Series with a 2.5 liter engine, and a 725 A 7 Series with a 2.5 liter engine.

“Customers should be able to tell at first glance which model the car is. With a compact three-number combination, this has been possible for 50 years,” Jacobs says.

Numbers and letters are often more universal

So-called alphanumeric identifiers such as combinations of numbers and letters as product names offer an advantage: they are usually easier to understand internationally. You have to be careful with unlucky numbers at some places here.

Mercedes has been naming its vehicles since the 1960s, mostly with a three-digit number denoting displacement, followed by a letter for the size of the vehicle. Such as the 220B sedan (interior W111) from 1959. A D for diesel – about 240 D for W 123 (since 1976) – could also follow.

Since 1993, Mercedes has divided its range into classes such as A, B, C, E, S and G and SUV models are derivative versions for the GLA, GLB, GLC or GLS. This is followed by a displacement number, an indication of engine power, a lower-case d for diesel or information about all-wheel drive – such as the S 400 d 4Matic for the corresponding model of the current S-Class.

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But even with just letters and numbers, you can sometimes go wrong: Toyota’s little Athlete MR2 can sound like “merde” in French—”nonsense.” (dpa/tar)

Vacation time – travel time. Holidays from the long-running car are more popular this year. But not only the driver, but also the car must be ready for the trip. With these tips you can start your vacation safe and stress free.

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