Experts: Naming cars is a complex process

Feb. 23, 2012 at 6:20 PM
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DEARBORN, Mich., Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Auto industry officials and experts in Michigan said finding the right name for a car model can be a project with a cost running into millions of dollars.

The experts, speaking a month after the North American International Auto Show, said automakers seek names that not only suit the vehicle, but reflect the current mindset of the country, the Detroit Free Press reported Thursday.

"In general, what you want is for the product to reflect these zeitgeists to the greatest extent possible, whatever the mood or spirit of the times is as experienced by the target market -- the design visual and the name to reflect that and people's ideals and aspirations," said Aaron Ahuvia, a professor of marketing at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Officials at auto companies said they can spend millions of dollars finding names, vetting them and using them in advertising the vehicles.

"You want to make sure a name has neutral or positive associations. If you have negative associations, you want to ask, 'Can I change it?'" said Mark Perry, director of product and advanced planning for Nissan Americas.

"Pinto as a name might be fine, but the association is negative," he said, referring to a Ford subcompact that became associated with reports of exploding gas tanks and was discontinued in 1980 after 11 years of production.

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