What’s in a name? The Marketing Behind The Naming of Luxury Automobiles VS Regular Ones

Disclaimer: Recently on Reddit a discussion took place revolving around the question: Why do auto makers like Toyota, Nissan, Volkswagen, Honda, Ford name their cars something like Camry, Versa, Passat, Accord, Fusion; while luxury auto makers like Lexus, Infiniti, Audi, Acura, BMW only name their cars using a series of letters and numbers like RX, G35, A4, MDX, 328i?

One particular user /u/gaqua had incredibly informative things to say about it and was able to describe much of the market research and background behind these decisions. The following is this user’s comment which solidly articulates the product and market research, and many of the thought processes that take place when choosing a product name. The comment has been copied in completion below and has not been edited by us in any way. The link to the original post is here.


What /U/Gaqua Had To Say About The Market Research Behind Product Names:


“This is a huge part of it, and it’s based on solid market research.

“Premium” products and the companies produce them want you to focus on the brand, which is why very high-end items (or perceived high-end items) typically have model numbers.

In fact, Nissan, Toyota, and Honda all came to this conclusion in the mid to late 80s when they launched their premium brands (Infinity, Lexus, and Acura) respectively.

Those Acura still had names at the beginning.

This has evolved over time, in the past, high-end products still had names. Lincoln Continental, Cadillac El Dorado, etc.

You can sometimes see variants of this approach outside the auto industry.

For example, Apple does weird little sub-brands, but almost never change them. Very rarely do they add a real name.

iMac (Macintosh sub brand)
iPhone 3G, 4, 4S, 5, etc (iPhone sub-brand)
iPod 40GB, etc. (due to the tremendous success of iPod, they had sub-sub-brands, iPod Mini, iPod Classic, iPod Touch, iPod Shuffle, etc)
Macbook (Pro as a variant)
Apple TV (no variants)
In fact, Apple is so ubiquitous that the name “Apple” doesn’t even need to be used much anymore since everybody knows “Mac”, “iPod/Phone/Pad”, etc, are Apple products. Kind of like how GM doesn’t call it a General Motors Chevrolet Camaro. They let the GM part stay out of the marketing name.

There are a few basic assumptions we see today:

Very few people will ever use more than one or two words to describe a product. “I drive a Corvette”, or “I have an iPhone”, for example. You might see “I have a Samsung Galaxy” or “I drive a Toyota Camry”, but you’ll almost never see the 3rd word. “I have a Samsung Galaxy S2” or “I won a Toyota Camry LE” or whatever. The third word is usually reserved as a trim level or modifier.
The addition of a “model number” adds an aire of performance/technical prowess.
Part of this comes, in the US at least, from the way the military names their hardware. With the giant US defense budget and the idea that the US military is driving technology and research & development, the US public subconsciously has heard about all the high-end military hardware referred to by model numbers for years.

The M16, the M1A1, the F22, the SR71, the A10, the B2. These model numbers denote technology and performance in the US and as such, in the US especially, other companies have tied into that and used a very similar “letter followed by numbers” naming scheme. Auto manufacturers are the most obvious. Camera manufacturers do variants of this too. Nikon D700, Canon 400D, etc. Why don’t they use something like the “Nikon SuperPhoto” or “Canon UltraDef” or something? They keep those at the low-end. CoolPix and Powershot. The high end gets model numbers.”


Important to note is that the processes outlined above pertain to every industry, not just the automobile sector. There is a great deal of research that goes on behind the scenes of all of your favorite products. /U/Gaqua touches on information that applies to every business and the decisions they make when choosing names for their products and services.

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