- Recent reports suggest that Land Rover may drop its alphanumeric nomenclature (LR2, LR4) in the United States. The company is ostensibly planning to revert back to its vehicles’ God-given names of Freelander and Discovery. This move will allow for both global naming consistency and an opportunity for potential customers to recognize, associate, and remember the names of Land Rover products. To this I say, “thank you”!
Much like wheel sizes and their commensurate low-profile tires, alphanumeric naming has gotten out of control. How did this insidious trend happen? It seems likely that someone has data somewhere suggesting that Americans are more likely to associate alphanumeric nomenclature with higher-end vehicles. This association makes sense given that millions of us were raised with aspirations of owning, or at least having an appreciation for, BMW and Mercedes (I am referring back to when their alphanumeric naming schemes were actually decipherable).
There are several problems with alpha, numeric, and alphanumeric nomenclatures. My biggest concern is when manufacturers switch to one of these naming schemes from a more traditional one. For example, Acura went from making Integras and Legends that everyone knew and loved to making RSXs and RLs that are more difficult names (and thus cars) to pin down. It is true that this change put them more on naming par with Lexus and Infiniti. However, Lexus and Infiniti used alphanumeric names since their inception. Similarly, Mazda one day began insisting that journalists refer to the iconic and revered “Miata” as the “MX-5”. There was nearly a revolt. In turn, Mazda came up with the roll-off-the-tongue compromise, “MX-5 Miata”. I cannot think of another industry where manufacturers actively try to diminish name recognition.
Another problem with using alphabet soup to come up with car names is that companies run the risk of them being nonsensical. Nonsensical names are harder to remember and therefore so are the cars. Case in point, Lincoln. Other than car buffs (and even that may be a stretch), I doubt most people know the difference between the MKS, MKZ, and MKX. True, “MK” has some relationship to the historical “Marks,” but most people will not know that either. Ask anyone who makes the Town Car versus asking who makes the MKZ. There is no doubt that the percentage knowing the latter will be significantly higher.
It is also worth nothing that ultra-luxury cars use names, from Bentley Mulsannes and Flying Spurs (so cool) to Rolls-Royce Phantoms and Ghosts (equally cool, if not more so). Names tend to evoke more emotion, which in this case will facilitate recall. Alphanumeric nomenclatures, particularly those that are a departure from the names to which people grew accustomed, will not. It is fine to spice up a regularly named lineup with an RX-7 or a GTI here and there, but it becomes distracting and potentially damaging when meaningless and emotionless names are used. Please Acura, bring back the legendary Legend, and make the car worthy of the name. You will be recognized, remembered, and rewarded.