Automotive: December 2009 Archives

SAAB Car Naming and Branding Up in the Air

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The saga around the SAAB brand name is pretty sad. It looks like the
company is history, the car is history, and perhaps only the name will
remain to be sold to the highest bidder.

The blogosphere is full of bitterness about this, with one engineer commenting 'This is as if a bad guy [GM, current owners of SAAB] watched someone die and then snatched his ID card to sell it.' Ouch.

saab_logo.pngThere are tributes galore about the little car - an offshoot of the airplane industry - while a last ditch effort is made by Dutch luxury car maker Spyker to acquire the name from GM. Right now, GM is "winding down" the brand name.

But all is not lost, sort of. Beijing Automotive Industry Holdings Ltd. (BAIC) has the technology for two SAAB models and might - might -make an offer for the name.

I feel this would be a real coup. The SAAB name has so much equity that if the cars are good enough, people would be prepared to buy them from Chinese sellers. Don't believe me? Just look at Land Rover, which was owned at one point by German automaker BMW and then Ford and now Indian car giant TATA.

Land Rover is to English car making as, well SAAB is to Sweden. Yet buyers keep buying Landys, no matter who builds them.

I would hate to see the SAAB brand name die and do hope that somebody acquires it. Soon. A Chinese SAAB? Well, why not?

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Bad Car Naming and Branding Alive and Well in 2009

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Every year the worst car names are discussed across the Internet and this year has a bumper crop. Amanda Wegerzyn at Cars.com weighs in with a hilarious, brutal post that trashes not only the entire Lincoln lineup ("What's the difference between the MKZ, MKX and MKS? Gimme a second to look it up because I honestly can't remember which is which.") as well as the Toyota Yaris for being "ridiculous and nonsensical."

She also skewers the Subaru B9 Tribeca: "Here we've got a family crossover named after a fashionable neighborhood in lower Manhattan and... a World War II bomber?"

NissanHomySuperLong.pngHer lowest blow is saved for the Ford Aspire: "When Ford slapped the Aspire name on the back of this car, they were basically saying: 'Yeah, even our car knows you wish you were driving something cooler.'"

Go Retro takes a longer look back in time, hammering the Dodge Diplomat ("A misguided advertising attempt to make a soccer mom feel like she's royalty or something.") as well as the utterly un-PC MG Midget ("saying that you drive a Midget just sounds weird.")

She also hammers the Ford Probe, as does nearly every other car blogger ("I don't know about you, but anything that sounds like something that would be inserted into any of my bodily orifices during a medical examination or procedure is definitely a turnoff to me.")

Bill Classman reminds us of some classic horrible names, among them the Rolls Royce Mist (in German this means, um, well, read the blog), the Opel Ascona (read the blog) and the ill fated Honda Fitta (ditto).

But the most hilarious post comes from Jalopnik, who looks at some historically awful names (the
1920s era Studebaker Dictator was a pretty bad one), as well as some current bad naming choices, most of which come from Asia.

The "Isuzu Mysterious Utility Wizard" is pretty awful, as is the "Toyota Estima Lucida G Luxury Joyful Canopy."

But the "Nissan Homy Super Long" really takes the cake.

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Will Chrysler Replace the Lancia Brand Name in Europe?

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lancia-logo.gifSo by 2011 Fiat S.p.A may be replacing their Lancia brand name with the Chrysler brand in Europe.

This is a surprise move that may signal the demise of the 103-year-old brand name. It is also further proof of just how serious Fiat is about making Chrysler a global brand name.

Most Americans are unaware of the very popular Lancia name but it has tremendous equity in Europe. However, it may end up that the Lancia name will only be used in a few markets - like in Belgium and Italy, where the brand hails from.

The other option is to sub-brand the Lancia name under Chrysler on top models, but it seems unlikely that Italian buyers will go for that.

Chas Hallet of Autocar.co.uk puts this interesting relationship nicely when he says, "Both are brands with pretensions of grandeur and both have very little impact outside of their home territories."

Lancia-Thesis.gifStill, there is tremendous equity in the Chrysler brand name and a great deal of affection for the Lancia automobiles. This move would give Chrysler an instant presence in Europe.

Interestingly, the one blog has already created photoshopped imaginary cars that migtht grow out of this union.

The final decision comes at the end of 2010, but I think this is ultimately a good move. If Lancia continues to bring out interesting cars, this could really bolster Chrysler's image.

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