Automotive: March 2007 Archives

Shelby GT500KRThe automobile blogosphere is filled with joy today over the Return of the King at the 2007 NY Auto Show — King of the Road that is, in the form of the , unleashed once again to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the Arnold Schwarzenegger of muscle cars, the 1968 Shelby Cobra GT500KR.

will once again be associated with the project, which was originally named "Cobra" to refer to the 428 Cobra V-8 under the hood which provided close to 400 horsepower.

The brand name “King of the Road” (KR), which was associated with a car that even today inspires awe, was a direct thrust at General Motors, who wanted their own King of the Road and wound up beaten to the punch.

Today’s car, which checks in with a 5.4 liter supercharged V-8 that delivers 540 horses puts the Carroll Shelby name on the headrests, 40th anniversary badges on the fenders and launches Ford’s Mustang brand name once again under the slogan "Need for Steed" — on the heels of the King will be the .

There will be only 1000 GT500 coupes built, so get your orders in now.... and they are sure to be popular and pricey. The car looks to me — and to the numerous people who have written about it — like a worthy wearer of the King of the Road title. Plus getting Caroll Shelby involved gives the product naming a degree of authenticity.

This is no zombie brand relaunch (think , Ford).

This is a coronation of a hallowed brand name that will ride on the grille of a worthy successor and provide a needed boost for the Mustang brand.

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Brand Naming: Chevrolet Resurrecting a Nomad?

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chevrolet_nomad_concept.jpgChevy seems to be set to revive the Nomad brand name for a new 2009 crossover vehicle whose lines do seem to hearken back to the famous 2-door surfer wagon of the 1950s.

It would be an interesting replacement for the Uplander and would be marketed as a counterpoint to the GMC Acadia. This would also be the latest GM car to utilize the Lambda chassis, after the Saturn Outlook, the GMC Acadia and the Buick Enclave. These names could be a foundation for a very unique brand architecture system.

The Inside Line blog was told from industry sources that Chevy’s flirtation with the Nomad brand name is yet another example of “what’s old is new again” but some people say that we should not hold our breaths, that the brand name is not even “on radar the screen.”

chevrolet_nomad.jpgI like the idea of a reawakening of the “Nomad” name, even if it is yet another "zombie brand", which I wrote about on March 24th.

By the way, Read Daniel Gross' insightful articles on zombie brands in Slate magazine here.

The original car may be from a few generations ago but I recognize it from old movies and Nomad does have a catchy ring to it.

The name makes sense, as well, because as far as I can see, it is loyal to its original marquee by being, at heart, a 2-door wagon. It also fits into the automotive trend to bring back favorite brand names from the past, like Taurus and Escort.

The name also fits with the GM brand name “Acadia”: rugged Acadia was the site of the permanent French settlement of North America and hardy Acadians lived a quasi-nomadic and studiously neutral life during the conflicts between the French and British.

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Lancia Bolsters Brand Name With Spiffy New Badge

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Lancia logoFamed Italian car brand name has revamped its visual identity.

According to Design Week, the object was "to retain the look and feel of the Fiat-owned brand's historic identity, but also to give it a modern twist." The new logo, which retains its shield-like appearance, has been spruced up and simplified since its last retouching in 2000.

Fiat logoIt also comes on the heels of 's own in October of 2006.

Armin at Brand New, in a well titled post called "," certainly likes the new logo, saying that Lancia was able to add a "hefty dose of attitude to the new badge." He also notes that "this new logo exudes car-ness and luxury," and nicely complements the tag line "The Evolution of 100 Years of Elegance and Attitude."

I strongly agree that the new logo looks like it belongs on the hood of a car, and the previous one looks like it was meant for a software box or on the side of a bottle of grappa. Importantly, the new badge enlarges and forefronts the company name and has a far more classic feel.

Lancia Delta HPELancia's nomenclature is the use of Greek letters for model, or product names. Unfortunately, the new concept car did not hit many high notes at last year's Paris auto show.

Here's hoping that Lancia's future cars slated to wear the new badge get a warmer reception from critics.

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DaimlerChryslerBenzLogoSometimes the only thing worse than nobody knowing your name is when everybody knows it.

It seems that two shareholders want to drop Chrysler from the DaimlerChrysler company name and instead use Daimler-Benz AG, because any reference at all to the ailing Chrysler business is "detrimental to the image of the corporation and its products," wrote shareholders Ekkehard Wenger and Leonhard Knoll in their proposal.

Wenger and Knoll add that people have been making up unflattering nicknames such as "Doting Daimler" and "Daimler-Crisis," and that hurts the brand name reputation.

Gunnar Heinrich, at the 4 Drivers Only blog, added that seeing a DaimlerChrysler plaque on a $134,000 Mercedes-Benz would be upsetting, given the lack of premium-priced status he associates with the Chrysler brand name.

John Neff at Autoblog chimes in, “What does it say about the state of solidarity within your company when you have one half being referred to as an affliction? Not much.” Neff notes that DaimlerChrysler supervisory and management boards will resist the name change, making it rather unlikely. Still, it hurts public relations.

I think it's in Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler's mutual benefit to end their ill-conceived relationship and build their respective brands. Yes, Chrysler has some great brands in its stable.

LEGG_MASON.jpgLegg Mason, on the other hand, has the exact opposite problem as DaimlerChrysler. Legg Mason is an invisible giant, known and respected only by people in the financial management sector but not by the average consumer. This is despite the fact that it is the fifth-largest money management firm in the world.

Legg Mason is about to spend $4 million over the next four months to change that. And not a moment too soon. People in its home town of Baltimore know the brand name, it seems, as well as a few others, including Citigroup, which are in its fold.

The only press they seem to have gotten lately is from some Playboy bunnies, who managed to beat the Bill Miller's Legg Mason Value Fund with their stock picks last year.

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Aston Martin logoThe Wall Street Journal seems to be confirming what the bloggers were predicting all last week: on Monday Ford is going to sell the Aston Martin brand name "to an investor group led by international motor-racing entrepreneur David Richards" (subscrption required), thus bringing the well loved car back into British hands.

The most famous British driver, of course, is , who does quite a number to his Aston Martin DBS in Casino Royale. This wasn’t his first Aston, of course: he also drove a DB5 V12 Vanquish (named "Vanish" by Q because of its invisibility) in Die Another Day and various versions of the DB5 in Thunderball, Goldfinger, Goldeneye and The World is Not Enough.

Aston Martin DB9There can be no doubt that the success of Casino Royale has fueled interest in the brand name.

I think that at least half the purchase price for Aston Martin, estimated to be between $700 million to $1 billion, lies in the the mystique the Aston brand name has among Bond lovers and classic sports car aficionados alike. And the brand is indubitably British, of course. Aston’s resurgence in popularity is being felt acutely in the Middle East, where Dubai is becoming a British ex-pat hotspot, driving up interest in the Aston brand name as well as other Brit brands like River Island, NEXT, Body Shop, Bhs, Debenhams, TopShop, Oasis, Evans, Peacocks, Faith and Boots.

Maybe should stick to tried and tested American brand names like the , The and the .

I consider Ford an iconic brand that will regain its footing in the US. Henry lives.

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Will The Escort Brand Name Return?

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The rumor that the Ford Escort might be making a return to the roads has got me thinking about how certain car brand names tend to get re-introduced.

One example: the Ford Taurus. In fact, a lot of the discussion at this year's Chicago Auto Show was about the name changes happening within the automotive industry.

ford-escort.jpgThe Escort brand name was recently compared to the city of Cleveland in terms of consumer appeal: “a sensible car, no frills, gets the job done.” I am sure most people feel the same away about this brand. It's not exactly associated with a passionate love for the car, but rather a classic American name.

Autoblog points out that Escort is probably the best port of call for a new subcompact - the Festiva, Ka and Fiesta brand names don’t have the same cachet for a car based on the Mazda platform.

I think that a combined reintroduction of the Taurus and Escort names would signal a strong move by Ford, but the cars themselves have to be as lovable as they were in the past, and they need to be supported to avoid killing the brand.

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