April 12, 2017 in Daily Bulletin
Dan Nosowitz delved into the past and present of how car models are named:
- American car names have typically reflected current trends. In the 1930s and 1940s “the Zephyr”, “the Commander”, and, the retrospectively unfortunate “Dictator” were marketed.
- With the advent of the space race in the 70s and 80s Americans were buying “Comets”, “Meteors”, and “Satellites”.
- When Mercedes Benz entered the American market, it differentiated itself as a maker of luxury cars. Its habit of using alphanumeric code names (e.g., “Mercedes-Benz 770K”) began to be emulated by anyone trying to make high-end cars.
- The trend continues. Today the rich can choose among the Lexus LS500, Volvo S90, and Mercedes CLS550.
- Meanwhile most Americans will purchase a Honda Accord or Toyota Highlander.
- Using an alphanumeric code name for a vehicle keeps the focus on the fact that the car is a Mercedes Benz – the model is unimportant – helping to enhance the automaker’s brand.
- It also helps preserve the value of a car by mitigating the risk of anachronistic car names. Who, after 1939, would have wanted to purchase “The Dictator”?
Read more on Atlas Obscura.