Automakers' unusual naming strategy could pay off big time.
Have you noticed this new trend when it comes to car names? New models like the Hyundai Santa Cruz, Kia Telluride, and Volkswagen Taos all have one thing in common: they're named after US locations associated with outdoor lifestyles. But what is the logic? "They're trying to conjure up an image," said Michelle Krebs, executive auto analyst at car-buying site Autotrader told USA Today. "When you hear Telluride, you get this picture of mountains and terrain that's outdoorsy. They're also names that are familiar." Likewise, the Chevrolet Malibu and Chevrolet Colorado are also named after familiar American locations.
Coming up with a new and memorable name for a car that will stand the test of time is not easy, often requiring months and sometimes years of deliberation by marketing teams. As a result, auto analysts think carmakers are running out of "real words" that haven't already been trademarked, which explains why we are seeing the return of so many old nameplates like the Ford Bronco, Chevrolet Trailblazer, and most recently the Ford F-150 Lightning.
"It's tough to find (names) that haven't already been reserved or purchased, so to speak, and licensed by a car company," said Karl Brauer, auto analyst at iSeeCars.com. One tried and tested naming strategy is to misspell a word to create a new word. We've seen this strategy applied to models like the Subaru Crosstrek, Chevrolet Trax, Hyundai Elantra, and Volkswagen Tiguan. Likewise, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 is a cross between "ion" and "unique." Then there is the alphanumeric nomenclature, which is particularly popular with luxury automakers that have named models like the BMW 330i, the Infiniti QX80, and Lexus RX 350, with the bigger number indicating the larger, more luxurious models.
But this strategy is starting to become stale, as model lineups with alphanumeric names have become convoluted. This is why some automakers are resorting to naming models after exotic US locations.
Since the Santa Cruz is named after an idyllic scenic town located on the Pacific Coast of California, it's clear which demographic Hyundai is trying to appeal to. This isn't a tough workhorse truck, it's a lifestyle truck (or a "Sport Adventure Vehicle," as Hyundai calls it) aimed at buyers who don't need the off-road and towing capability of a full-size truck but want the practicality of the small bed.
According to Edmunds analyst Ivan Drury, the Santa Cruz name conjures up "laid-back" vibes associated with a surfer's lifestyle, suggesting that its buyers are "not towing 10,000 pounds behind us with barrels of hay." Hyundai supports this theory, confirming that the Santa Cruz name was chosen because "its outdoor-oriented lifestyle focused on surfing, mountain biking and appreciation of outdoor pursuits reflects many lifestyle qualities." Time will tell if the Hyundai Santa Cruz resonates with its intended audience. Let's hope it's more successful than the Chevrolet Malibu, which has seen a sharp drop in sales as American buyers are more enticed by SUVs like the Telluride and Taos.