Shanghai Auto Show

Naming Trends From the 2019 Shanghai Auto Show

The 2019 Shanghai International Auto Show, which concluded on April 25th, attracted more than a thousand exhibitors and included more than 400 global debuts of concept cars and new energy vehicles. The theme of the auto show was to “Create a Better Life” together. This concept reflects a trend towards more shared travel experiences and highly connected vehicles; it also reveals the determination of the relatively traditional auto industry to evolve and offer better travel experiences.

As longtime auto naming experts, we at Labbrand couldn’t resist the opportunity to step onto the scene of the 2019 International Auto Show to uncover the latest naming trends and explore how they help drivers and riders “Create a Better Life”. 

2019 International Auto Show
2019 International Auto Show

The Classic Name

One of the industry’s most tried-and-true naming methods is to emphasize power and confidence. These attributes not only reflect the strength and spirit of the brand, but also give consumers a trustworthy image. Of course, each brand has its own unique twist on what “strength” means.

1. Dare to be First 

a) 领界 [lǐng jiè] Territory: Ford's new SUV highlights breaking boundaries and setting trends with its straightforward Chinese name meaning “lead the world”. Territory is breaking new ground into the intelligent car industry with Ford's unique smart system.

b) 博郡 [bó jùn] BORDRIN: As part of China's new squad of new energy vehicle (NEV) brands, BORDRIN is committed to becoming an industry leader. “博郡” [bó jùn] means “broad territory” and has a strong Chinese style, demonstrating the brand's self-confidence in representing China on the world stage. The name goes beyond mere power, with poetic, intelligent undertones. The word "博" [bó] means wise and knowledgeable, expressing a car brand that brings advanced connectivity to this smart vehicle.


c) 零跑 [líng pǎo] LEAPMOTOR: Taking a distinct approach from BORDRIN, LEAPMOTOR’s Chinese name uses a homophone to express connecting at any moment and leading an intelligent life. The expression used in the name literally means “leading the race”, but the first character has been substituted with “zero”, adding an edge to the name. The image of “zeroing in” evokes an approaching horizon, making every day with LEAPMOTOR a new beginning.


2. Break Through Your Limits 

a) 星越 [xīng yuè] FY11: Geely’s car model name means it’s extraordinary and leading the future, literally “surpass the stars”. Geely actually named an asteroid after the car, making it one of the only cars in the world to share its name with a celestial object, and expanding the competitive battle between car brands into outer space. We may see more car brands when looking at the stars in the future, as Geely also announced its intention to launch a flying car.

b) 星途 [xīng tú] EXEED, 天际 [tiān jì] ENOVATE: Both the English and Chinese names of EXEED & ENOVATE reflect a vigor to explore. The celestial Chinese names, meaning “star’s path” (EXEED) and “horizon” (ENOVATE), encourage our human yearning to discover the vast universe.


3. International Style

a) 格罗夫 [gé luó fū] Grove: When many people first see the name "格罗夫" [gé luó fū] at an auto show, Chinese consumers may envision a high-end international auto brand with a rich history. Grove, however, is the first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle brand to be headquartered in China. 

Grove’s international flair comes from the fact that its Chinese name is meaningless – much like the transliterated names of brands like Aston Martin and Ferrari. Opinions vary on whether local brands should mimic foreign names. For domestic consumers, a transliterated name will indeed bring high-end associations, and Grove likely hopes to emphasize high quality through its name. We can also foresee that Grove's ambition goes beyond the Chinese market, intending to take on international auto brands.


b) Interestingly, many of these brands' English names often play around with the letter "E". When it comes to car brands, this letter’s most common association is “Electric”, yet it can also represent “Experience” and “Environmentalism”. The letter "E" is being used by more and more EV brands. Similarly, BYD's new concept car “E-SEED” exudes vitality, hope, and unprecedented expectation.

New Possibilities

In addition to these perennial favorite messages, let's take a look at some refreshing car naming we discovered this year.

1. Math is Back

Mathematics is the foundation of human scientific and technological innovation, and it lies at the core of automobile design, research, and development. Some brands are exploring mathematical concepts in their car names to show the rigor and perfection of their manufacturing processes.

a) COS1° 科赛 [kē sài]

Oushang’s COS1° was launched in the second half of 2018. When you see this name, your mind may flash back to high school trigonometry class, learning about sine, cosine, and tangent. In mathematics, the value of COS1° is infinitely close to 1, making COS1° a car designed to be infinitely close to perfection. The brand even went a step further to emphasize its high-tech roots: the letter “C” is meant to reflect "cloud" in English, symbolizing its intelligent interconnection. “OS” is then the operating system supporting Oushang’s open platform. 

b) GEOMETRY 几何 [jǐ hé]

In early April, Geely released "Geometry A" to great fanfare. The familiar concept carries infinite imagery, elevating space and time into a multi-dimensional experience, like an ever-changing polyhedron with limitless possibilities. The letter A proudly marks the beginning of this new brand, which benchmarks the Tesla Model 3. 

Geometry A has a simple exterior, without any unnecessary decoration. The car avoids most of the physical buttons we see in other cars, and has a higher degree of intelligent integration overall. This minimalist style goes well with the clean lines used in geometry. We're looking forward to more creative blends of mathematical concepts in car names.

Geometry A(几何 A)
Geometry A(几何 A)

c) 欧拉 [ōu lā] ORA

It’s not uncommon to for the names of founders to become the official trademarks of car brands – Mercedes-Benz, Honda, and Ford, to name a few. WEY, a high-end new NEV brand owned by Great Wall Motors, was also inspired by the name of founder Wei Jianjun. When it comes to car brands named after scientists, however, we only find a handful, with Tesla the clear stand-out. 

ORA was launched by Great Wall Motors Group in August 2018. This year, the ORA received a lot of attention at the auto show, unveiling a self-driving electric car, the ORA R1. The brand’s Chinese name “欧拉” [ōu lā] pays tribute to the famous mathematician Leonhard Euler, reflecting a meticulous attitude towards automobile design, research, and development. The English brand name ORA is not related to the mathematician Euler. According to the brand, it’s a combination of Open, Reliable and Alternative – showing off their strategic brand positioning.

2. Enjoy Yourself

Create a Better Life reflects the vision of human beings striving for a better future. With the development of AI and new energy technologies, cars are becoming more involved in our lives in different ways: cars are a place of comfort, of entertainment, and even provide an opportunity for meaningful social engagement. 

Different from brands that emphasize speed and performance, some car brands are pivoting to address user experience in their name choices. Building off of consumers' emotions, these names portray cars as bridges to pursuing an ideal lifestyle. These brands try to resonate in a down-to-earth manner, encouraging consumers to relax and enjoy the moment.

Pursuing an ideal lifestyle
Pursuing an ideal lifestyle

a) 奕歌 [yì gē] EclipseCross

Mitsubishi's new car has a bright and colorful Chinese name meaning “graceful song”. It approaches life as a game, enjoying each moment by throwing back our heads in song, with uninhibited enthusiasm.

b) 缤歌 [bīn gē] CS3 BEV

Cheetah's new all-electric compact SUV, 缤歌 [bīn gē], means a "colorful life with a wonderful song". Different from the elegance and care-free attitude of Mitsubishi’s 奕歌 [yì gē], 缤歌 [bīn gē] emphasizes colorful vitality, full of youthful energy.

By filling the names with the positivity and enthusiasm of an optimist, both names close the distance with consumers by praising this aspiration for a happy life.

缤歌 CS3 BEV
缤歌 CS3 BEV

c) 幸福 e+ [xìng fú e jiā] Happiness e+

All of Hanteng’s (汉腾) EV’s mix symbols with English and Chinese characters. The Chinese pronunciation of e+ sounds like 一家 [yī jiā], meaning “a family”. The name paints a picture of a harmonious family, reflecting the model’s functionality to meet the transit needs of every happy family.

And while enjoyment can mean living mindfully in the present, our expectations for the future never stop:

d) 理想ONE [lǐ xiǎng ONE] Ideal ONE

Chehejia (车和家) announced at the beginning of the year that the company will officially rename as "理想” [lǐ xiǎng], meaning ideal, and its first model name is the "Ideal ONE." What makes this name unique is that its visionary meaning has the same pronunciation as the brand’s founder Lixiang (李想), adding a true brand story behind this lofty promise.

Ideal ONE(理想ONE)
Ideal ONE(理想ONE)

3. Chinese Mythical Figures

A life well lived is full of surprises and unpredictable moments. A small number of auto companies have chosen to adopt unusual naming methods to establish their own distinctive brands. This works well to separate them from the competition, and can impress the right audience.

Although Chinese culture has appeared before in car names, it still packs a punch of novelty whenever it shows up, bold and proud. In recent years, BYD’s Chinese dynasty-inspired names (Qin, Tang, Song, etc.) have led this trend.

a) Nezha N01 (哪吒N01)

As the first car brand under the new company HOZONAUTO, the concept of Nezha, a prominent creature in Chinese mythology, has caused some controversy: as a well-known mythical figure in ancient China, temples are even dedicated to Nezha in some regions, making it difficult for some people to accept it as the name for a means of transportation. The brand believes that Nezha, as the embodiment of courage, conveys the spirit of breaking convention through creativity, bringing a brand-new experience to the industry and consumers. In any case, “Nezha” is a well-known image for the Chinese people, which saves considerable advertising costs for nascent car companies.

Brands have changed in an increasingly connected era
Brands have changed in an increasingly connected era

Whether inspired by a mathematical concept, or by living well, or even by a classic mythical character, names are a way for brands to open up consumers’ imaginations and show off how brands have changed in an increasingly connected era.­­

Parting Thoughts

At the 2019 Shanghai International Auto Show, the names of the car models reflect each brand’s strategic positioning and reveal what they see as vital to “Creating a Better Life”.

Today, the car has evolved from a mere mode of transportation into an expression of travel and lifestyle. Its seamless integration with our daily lives – focused on digital connectivity and social interaction – is gradually becoming the focus of the industry.

With the development of EV and intelligent vehicles, many auto makers will likely continue to name cars around the theme of the future. And while technology gets more complex, name are more likely to revert back to simplicity. We can also expect more cross-border cultural elements in car names, bringing a freshness take to this well-established industry.

What new names will the Auto Show bring to the public next year? Labbrand will be there with you to dive into the next new trends.