Featuring the theme of “Committed to a Better Life”, the 2017 Shanghai Auto Show brought to the audience a collection of new car models from important car manufacturers around the world, as well as many exciting naming trends. New energy, new technology such as AI (artificial intelligence), connected cars, and more were all brought to the fore. How these new car models and technologies are named also reveal a few interesting insights about the automotive industry.
In this piece, we will dive into several overarching naming trends that were apparent at the 2017 Shanghai Auto Show, and their implications for brand naming.
Chinese domestic car manufacturers have grown rapidly in recent years. Originally positioned to the mass market and targeting traditional Chinese consumers, these brands now starting to actively explore the premium market and new technology. In the 2017 Shanghai Auto Show, Great Wall Motor and Geely showed clearly such an intention by each announcing a newborn high-end brand: WEY and LYNK&CO.
WEY and LYNK&CO brand name descriptions
These names stand out strongly among traditional automotive brands:
WEY feels like a mobile phone brand (same pronunciation as “喂” [wèi], the Chinese way of answering a phone call). LYNK&CO shares some similarities with fast-fashion brand names, such as H&M, C&A, and Jack & Jones. It projects a simple and trendy feeling, very attractive to youngsters.
Compared with their stylish alphabetic names, the brands’ Chinese names 魏派 [wèi pài] “WEI’s category” and 领克 [lǐng kè] “lead and overcome” project a quite traditional image, featuring grandness and authority. A task for these brands might be clarifying the brand positioning and tonality to make a consistent expression in brand identity communication.
TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) is an innovative system created by Toyota. The system offers innovations throughout the whole automobile manufacturing chain. For example, TNGA can customize under-pan system and share common auto parts among various car models, which optimize production efficiency. At the 2017 Shanghai Auto Show, Toyota launched TNGA’s Chinese name: 丰巢概念 [fēng cháo gài niàn] (expounding upon the concept of Toyota/Abundant Nest; sharing the same pronunciation as 蜂巢 [fēng cháo]: bee hive) together with the concept cars “丰巢 FUN” and “丰巢 WAY” which are developed from the TNGA system.
As the name of an innovative concept, “丰巢” [fēng cháo] is simple and iconic. It indicates car manufacturing needs accuracy and craftsmanship like building a beehive. It also shows that a majority of Toyota vehicles (from character 丰 [fēng] “abundant”) will be manufactured based on TNGA. It is a memorable name with unique brand spirit and connects closely to the master brand of Toyota.
丰巢FUN and 丰巢WAY
Newly launched vehicle models are always the focus of the auto show. Among all new model names, those listed below carry rich meaning or stories, from which we can analyze the naming structures and the connotations.
Several models unveiled at the 2017 Shanghai Auto Show (*Note: Ren 至仁 was launched at the Geneva auto show in March, 2017)
Some of these new names follow a fixed family nomenclature; some apply certain naming skills; some convey unique messages.
By sharing the same character or affix with the family nomenclature, these brands are easy to memorize and associate with the master brand. The Volkswagen SUV family name structure is a good example: all VW SUV model names start with “T” in the alphabetic name and “途 [tú]: trip” in the Chinese name. The family includes: Touran 途安 [tú ān] (trip, safety), Tiguan 途观 [tú guan] (trip, landscape), Touareg 途锐 [tú ruì] (trip, sharp) and the latest model Teramont 途昂 [tú áng] (trip, soaring). This family nomenclature is widely recognized in the market. By following the nomenclature, VW can bring quick recognition to the new model. Arteon is another new model under Volkswagen, upgraded from CC. The suffix “-eon” is also the family root of Volkswagen’s high-end models such as Phideon 辉昂 [huī áng] (brilliance, soaring), launched in 2016.
Valkyrie is the top supercar under Aston Martin and Stelvio is the first SUV launched by Alpha Romeo. These names must sound familiar to their fans as they are named after classic car models from the past, as a salute to the brand heritage.
The meaning and connotation reflected by the new car model names can be classified into the following types:
These kinds of names deliver brand personalities and brand appeals vividly. A concern is that there are a few popular car models from different master brands that apply this typology in a similar manner, which causes confusion. There are more and more models which are easily to mixed up with competitors. Taking 探界者 [tàn jiè zhě] (Chevrolet Equinox) as an example, it is similar to Explorer 探险者 [tàn xiǎn zhě] under Ford and Pathfinder 探路者 [tàn lù zhě] under Nissan.
探界者 [tàn jiè zhě] (Chevrolet Equinox)
The universe is vast and unpredictable, waiting to be explored by the human being. Hence, astronomical terms deliver a strong sense of mystery and futurism. Car models with modern design and cutting-edge technology tend to favor this naming type.
The names indicate infinite luxury and fashion of haute couture, in line with the luxury tonality of Rolls-Royce.
Dawn “Inspired by fashion”
These models are premium limited editions. They have bold and pioneering design but low-profile names. What deserves to be mentioned is Ren 至仁 [zhì rén], (under a Chinese supercar brand Techrules. The brand uses the traditional Chinese value “benevolence” in its name, showing respect to the perseverance and dedication of scientists and engineers working for the brand. As a Chinese brand, the name also demonstrates the confidence of Chinese culture.
We see a large amount of new technologies in the 2017 Shanghai Auto Show such as new energy, artificial intelligence, automatic driving, virtual reality, biometric identification, etc. Some model names also reflect the new technology to some extent.
All these names highlight the element “E”, delivering great power to these light electric cars.
This concept car can accurately recognize car-owners and passengers through facial or audio identification system and authorize the right person to drive. The name 云图 (cloud image) reflects the cloud technology with a connotation of biometric identification ability.
This car knows the real time traffic condition in all dimensions with AR-HUD (Augmented Reality-Heads Up Display). The Chinese name “光之翼” [guāng zhī yì] tells the story that people see more information through AR and VR technology and are able to transport with more freedom.
From new brand concepts and product technology to marketing ideas, we see lots of innovations in the 2017 Shanghai Auto Show The brand names also reflect these exciting new naming trends, for example:
As a naming expert in automobile industry (with clients including Volkswagen, Renault, Land Rover, Peugeot etc.), Labbrand will continue to present the latest naming trends in the automotive industry.
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