In the 1950’s, “Bel Air,” “Thunderbird,” or “Eldorado” was plausible answer to the question “what do you drive?” Today, a reply might be “MKX,” or “745Li,” “F-250” or maybe “R2-D2.” People used to drive cars with names, now they drive algebraic expressions.
I can think of -6d + 7d x 2d plausible reasons for this numeric nonsense. We live in a technocracy driven by computer wizardry powered by complex mathematics few understand. Naming a car something that sounds like a computer, or a complex machine programmed by a genius sounds impressive.
The reality is that everyone’s playing copy-car with BMW. What BMW owners don’t realize is that for all the money they’re spending on their ultimate driving machines, they’re being cheated out of a name. Though the majority of luxury car companies copy BMW’s model mathematical mania, Land Rover, Ferrari and even Hyundai buyers receive with purchase a name, not an acronym. Despite the naming issue, (it pains me to type this) BMW is a trailblazing luxury car company that everyone else tends to copy (stupid shift knobs). Even though a BMW can’t be bought with a model name, the acronym BMW is memorable and considered synonymous with fast, luxurious cars.
Cadillacs used to have proper names, but they jumped on the letters bandwagon. The Deville has become the DTS and now CT6, the Catera the CTS. The Escalade model name remains but hasn’t completely escaped letters, as there is the Escalade ESV and Escalade EXT, which denotes extended wheelbase or pickup bed. Lincoln, Acura, Infiniti, Jaguar, Audi and Lexus are all guilty of playing the letters game too.
Sometimes the numbers following a car model’s designation refer to the displacement of the engine. Numeric model designations leads buyers to two incorrect assumptions; that the model numbers exactly correlate to engine size and that a larger the engine is more powerful. A Mercedes S600 has a 5.5 liter V12 producing 493 horsepower, while a Mercedes S63 is powered by a 6.3 liter V12 producing only 444 horsepower. However, these statistics depend on the year of the vehicle. Mercedes likes to fuddle with displacement sizes and switch about engines yearly even if they don’t change the model name. Sometimes the engines actual displacement is smaller than the model name would suggest by half a liter, sometimes it’s larger. Either way, it’s a misleading practice.
Letters at the end of model names sometimes designate further specifications. Infiniti and BMW use “X” to mean all wheel drive, Mercedes and BMW use “D” for diesel engine. On a Chevy, SS means Super-Sport, while SRT on a Dodge or Chrysler stands for “Street Racing Technology,” or what used to be known as Mopar. Cadillac uses the letter “V” for it’s sports lineup. Seriously, how do branding people expect the common consumer to remember all that?
From an advertising or marketing standpoint it makes no sense to name a product something that no one can remember or isn’t easily differentiated from other products. If I could slap a BMW branding executive every time I heard a person say “oh, he drives a BMW 330...no 535... or maybe 335 something or other,” there would be a lot of sore German punims.
Chevy has thrown a wrench into this ridiculous trend by changing a letter and two numbers into a name. Since 1960, full size Chevy trucks have been denoted by C for two wheel drive or K for four wheel drive, and then 10, 20 or 30 based on the duty rating. The Cheyenne was the base model truck, Scottsdale the mid-range model and the Silverado the top of the line. 1999 was the landmark year that Chevy renamed all trucks the Silverado and 1500, 2500 and 3500 according to rating. As a former Silverado owner, I think it’s a majestic name. What perplexes me, however, is why “Silverado” is on the left side of the tailgate and “Chevrolet” is on the right. Perhaps there is a Chevy truck plant in Israel?
Dodge takes the cake for the best truck name. Ram is a brilliant name signifying both the animal and sexual connotation. With the name Ram, Dodge has created memorable marketing slogans such as “Grab life by the horns” and stickers on the back of trucks reading “If you can’t Dodge it, RAM IT.” The new 2018 edition reads “RAM IT but not before getting notarized consent from all parties.”
Many American truck names are reminiscent of manifest destiny and connote the wild west. Durango, Sierra, Aspen, Wrangler, Yukon and Colorado, are all truck and SUV names. Can you imagine a Dodge Appalachia, a Ford Newark or a Chrysler Connecticut? Trucks just aren’t named after states thats name cannot be found on a belt buckle. Wyoming buckles have broncos, Colorado buckles the rockies, Texas belt buckles a longhorn steer. What would a Connecticut buckle have on it, a disgusted puritan or a traffic jam? Unfortunately, East Coast states and geological features don’t carry the same rugged aura.
I prefer a hearty easily spelled model name than a shifty number and letter concoction. A name is easier to remember, easier to market and advertise and sounds more impressive. That being said, car names are not always better. Consider the Ford Probe. Why name a sports car after a “blunt-ended surgical instrument used for exploring a wound or part of the body?”