Automotive: July 2009 Archives

ferrari-458-Italia.gifThe new Ferrari 458 Italia, aside from being a thing of beauty, is also a departure from the company's traditional naming nomenclature.

The name is derived from the engine, a 4.5-litre V8 that can wind up to 9,000 rpm, the "highest revving Ferrari road car ever."

And according to the Fosfor Wheels blog (quoting the Ferrari press release), "The new model is a synthesis of style, creative flair, passion and cutting-edge technology, characteristics for which Italy as a nation is well-known. For this reason Ferrari chose to add the name of its homeland to the traditional figure representing the displacement and number of cylinders."

Ferrari Chairman Luca di Montezemelo also wrote in the company blog that this car - and its name - is a "homage to Italy" as "The creative flair of its people, the quality and style of its products all go to make up a country that is synonymous with excellence."

Interestingly, this car is being built alongside Ferrari's California model, leading some to wonder if the legendary car maker will be naming all of its future cars after places. I doubt it, but it does seem to me that this incredible machine is a wonderful tribute to everything Italian.

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Saab's Swedish Naming Makes it The Ultimate Anti-Brand

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It is simply too difficult to just forget about an automotive brand name like Saab, which has a tremendous amount of potential to rise again. 

move-your-mind.gifThe brand just has so many things going for it that I hardly know where to begin, but I guess I should start with the name's history. 

Saab, a very, very Swedish name, is supported by drivers who are incredibly proud of the car's Swedish heritage, despite the fact that GM has owned the brand for almost twenty years. Ultimately, its return to Sweden will give the brand even more authenticity in their eyes.

Saab is what one writer calls an "anti-brand," meant for people who like to think they can resist the allure of marketing. 

I always think of New Balance wearers as anti-brand people, although of course we all know that the ultimate compliment you can pay a brand name is that it possesses authenticity and attracts people who are willing to link their own identities to it.  One great example is Apple, a brand with incredible equity that appeals to those who "Think Different."  

One blogger did an analysis of the brand tags (as determined by a latent association study) associated with the Saab brand, and encouraging words came out like "cool," "European," "safe" and of course, "Swedish." 

That Swedish association is a very, very good thing.  Swedes seem to be, when it comes to cars, just as smart as Germans but a little more quirky and a lot safer. 

saab-griffin-logo.gifEven though Saab has struggled with its own identity while being owned by GM, the meaning of the name has remained.  

The Griffin logo is instantly recognizable and despite many rumors floating around the blogosphere, the logo is expected to stick around well into the future.

In the end, the quirkiness of the name, the fact that it leaves GM with an intact set of associations, and the authenticity of the brand are all things that many car makers would kill for.  If Saab can only provide a car that lives up to the name, they'll be right back in the action. 

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I have been watching the recent power struggle between Porsche and VW with great interest, because if this possible merger takes place, it has extremely interesting ramifications for both brand names.

porsche-vw.gifTo begin with, Porsche has been trying to take over VW for some time, but now the tables have turned and VW may get a hold of Porsche. If this union takes place, it will create Germany's most powerful car company and has the capability to reinvigorate both brand names.

But the power struggle has been bitter, causing shockwaves that have reverberated through the German government. It may even result with the current CEO of Porsche getting fired.

As most car lovers know, both Porsche and VW were created by car genius Ferdinand Porsche in the 1930s.

The Volkswagen drove into history as the "people's car," endorsed by Adolf Hitler, and then as the lovable Beetle that your parents drove to Woodstock.

The Beetle has since become an iconic name and much of the brand equity VW now enjoys comes from a nostalgia factor. However, VW has more or less continued to create interesting "people's cars" with the Rabbit, the Jetta and the Golf, while still being run by the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, Ferdinand Piech.

And Porsche is, well, Porsche. The most admired car brand in the world. And another descendant of Ferdinand Porsche, Wolfgang Porsche, supports the current Porsche CEO, Wendelin Wiedeking, in his bid to have the company remain independent.

So basically, both companies were founded by the same person. And both companies offer cars that are synonymous with quality engineering and fun. Yet for some reason they both seem to strongly dislike each other, golf-gti-2009.gifeven though bringing the two companies together would create a juggernaut.

Just imagine, for a moment, what would happen if VW introduced an affordable rear wheel drive, air cooled car positioned just above the Passat or alongside the Golf that could claim Porsche engineering (like, say, a new GTI).

This would not just be a union of two car giants. It would be the creation of a super brand.

The equity VW would receive by having Porsche in its stable would be immense. And as previously mentioned, most car lovers are aware of the connection between VW and Porsche anyway. Bringing them together would make the new company irresistible.

Now, I am not suggesting that VW turn into VW-Porsche, I am merely saying that VW's association with the Porsche brand name would add a luster to its own name that might bump up its sales dramatically.

Porsche, meanwhile, would have a whole new, built-in segment of drivers to appeal to: VW drivers who want to bump up to a Cayenne, a Boxster or even a 911.

It is quite an intriguing situation for any branding or car fanatic. I can't wait to see how this one turns out.

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Steve Saleen Drives Into a Company Naming Crisis

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2010_SMS_Mustang_460.gifSteve Saleen, who created the car performance brand Saleen, Inc, is learning the hard way that when you leave the company you founded, you can't always take your name with you.

After founding Saleen, Inc in 2003, Steve left in 2007. The company was unsuccessful and the name was sold.

Then a few days ago Mr. Saleen filed a suit against Saleen Performance Vehicles after the Saleen brand name was subsequently purchased by MJ Acquisitions, who appears to be reluctant to honor Saleen, Inc warranties, casting Steve Saleen's name into disrepute.

Steve Saleen has personally vowed to honor those warranties via his new company SMS Limited.

It must also irk him that the current owners of his former company's name are launching a new enhanced Ford Mustang just as he tries to launch his own.

His new SMS 460 Mustang, which is a thing of beauty, is "the only Mustang authorized to bear Steve Saleen's name, to use the benefit of his heritage and to incorporate his performance innovations derived from over thirty years of racing and manufacturing experience."

But then again, SMS Limited doesn't exactly scream "Steve Saleen."

MJ's purchase of Saleen, Inc entitled them to use the Saleen brand name for JOSEPH~1.pngsuperchargers, aftermarket parts and high performance vehicles, but Steve has retorted that "SMS Supercars is the true Saleen."

This is the same lesson that fashion icon Joseph Abboud once learned - when your personal name has brand equity, always be mindful to negotiate its future use. You simply have no idea who might wind up with it.

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Pontiac G8 to Cop Chevy Caprice Naming and Branding?

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First the Taurus, now the erstwhile Chevy Caprice may be making a comeback.

More specifically, Caprice may be the nameplate applied to the Pontiac G8 sedan now that Pontiac is defunct.

Interestingly, the Australian designed and built Caprice is known in its home country as the Holden Commodore or VE Commodore.

chevy-caprice-1966.gifBut the return of the Caprice nameplate in the U.S. would mark the revival of a well-loved, forty-year-old brand name. This may be a car that is "too good to waste" after being launched in 1965 and reaching it's zenith in the late seventies before being phased out in 1996.

This also reverses a statement by GM CEO Fritz Henderson that the G8 would be killed off partly because he is "not a fan of rebadging."

General Motors Vice Chairman for Creative Elements of Products and Customer Relationships, Bob Lutz, seems to think differently and has been the champion of the Caprice name for the car.

However, the car itself would have to be slightly modified - the grille currently has the twin kidney Pontiac look. Consumer Reports thinks it will look more like a Lumina if it does in fact become a Chevy brand name.

The Caprice is a wise naming choice, not least because this real wheel vehicle is a perfect ft for law enforcement agencies, who have been known to use the Caprice in the past.

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