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Posts Tagged ‘Leaf’

Do You Want to Drive a Leaf? (Part 2)

In Branding, Business, Cars, Linguistics, Naming, Trademarks on October 15, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Fusion Vs. Leaf Vs. Volt Vs. Prius

 

Ford Fusion

Ford Fusion

 

Ford Fusion

The gasoline-powered Fusion first appeared in the 2006 model year, but for 2010 Ford added the Ford Fusion Hybrid, a gasoline-electric hybrid with EPA ratings of 41 mpg city and 36 mpg highway. It placed at the top of Kelley Blue Book’s 2009 list of “green cars.”

As a car name, Fusion blends a scientific notion, atomic fusion, with the mixing of world cultures associated with fusion in the food business. In this way, the high energy associated with atomic fusion is combined with, but not at all lessened by, the sophistication of cultural fusion. This double life wouldn’t sit well with a smaller car, but it’s a reasonable reach for a mid-sized one like the Fusion. It would be nice if the name also conveyed human charm, but that’s really not the case.

 

Nissan Leaf

Nissan Leaf

 

Nissan Leaf

Nissan’s Leaf, scheduled to begin appearing in December 2010, is a compact 5-door hatchback electric. Its all-electric city driving range is estimated at 100 miles, as compared with an estimated 700 miles for the Fusion.

As a car name, Leaf exudes attributes like “green,” “natural,” “good for the environment.” In a daring break with tradition, the name doesn’t say power or luxury. As a name, Leaf may strike consumers as overly delicate, but something about leaves — their beautiful contours, the grace with which they fall from trees — helps us think “comfort” when we see Leaf on a car.

Most important of all, thanks to its uniqueness among the luxurious, muscle-bound, and sports-centric car names of yore, the quiet name Leaf furthers the aim (announced by Nissan America’s Vice-President of Marketing) to make this car the “poster child of innovation” for the company.

 

Chevrolet Volt

Chevrolet Volt

 

Volt

Chevrolet’s Volt is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, anticipated in November 2010. Its batteries will power the Volt up to 40 miles, after which a small gasoline-powered engine will kick in, extending the Volt’s range to over 300 miles.

The name Volt would have had appeal even in an earlier era when gasoline-powered engines were practically the only choice. In those days, Volt would have scored high for expressing power and highly-charged performance. In today’s changing marketplace, Volt will of course also draw attention to the electric side of this hybrid.

What’s especially nice is that the name’s pronunciation is not far off from bold and jolt — a possibly advantageous contrast with the mellow associations of Nissan’s Leaf.

 

Toyota Prius

Toyota Prius

 

Prius

Since its U.S. debut in 2000, this car has done more than any other to popularize hybrid vehicles as a practical choice for the mass market.

The car’s perceived advantages were enough, with some help from government rebates, to outweigh a price premium of several thousand dollars over similar-sized conventional models and a wait of up to six months for delivery. Two symbols of the car’s stand-out qualities were its unique shape, with the roof forming a near-perfect arc, and its distinctive name Prius.

The name Prius joins a new root pri with the ending -us first used in Toyota’s Lexus. The root pri begins with the same three sounds as the root prem of premium and premier. The three letters Pri also begin the prim of prime and primary. Both prem and prim go back to the same Latin root, meaning “first.” With this name, Toyota chose to express Prius’ stand-out quality without focusing specifically on its green appeal.

That choice now seems prescient, as the marketplace readies itself for many new models and technologies designed to appeal to consumer (and government) desires for greener autos. With each successive introduction, Prius’ green appeal becomes a less distinctive selling point.

•          •          •

By now most manufacturers are offering a hybrid model. Chevy’s plug-in hybrid Volt is due to appear shortly. Buick’s plug-in hybrid SUV is coming in 2012. New plug-in hybrids are also expected between now and 2011 from Ford, Volkswagen, and Volvo. But Prius remains the first commercially successful hybrid, as its name will always remind us.

Today’s car names reflect ongoing changes in auto technologies and in global marketing. Thankfully, rather than everyone jumping on the same naming bandwagon, the newest crop of names reflect a variety of creative guesses about what values will count most to the consumer. Of course the nuts and bolts of the cars themselves will have the most to say about which new models succeed or fail. But, as in the gasoline-only era, the names themselves are sure to play a key role in which models attract the most attention, and for how long.

— Will Leben, Director of Linguistics

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Do You Want to Drive a Leaf?

In Branding, Business, Cars, Linguistics, Naming, Trademarks on October 13, 2010 at 1:18 pm

U.S. car culture never stands still. We’re used to a rapid succession of styling changes–fins, racing stripes, pin stripes, hatchbacks, SUV’s, crossovers. Just as constant are the shifting patterns of car names — luxurious place names (Riviera, Malibu), names about racing (Torino, Grand Prix), energetic animal names (Mustang, Bronco), weird names (Elantra, Amanti).

The naming landscape is changing…less muscle, more tone…

Nowadays some of the loudest buzz in the auto industry goes to quiet electric and hybrid brands like Leaf. Who ever thought a major auto manufacturer would put out a Leaf?

 

Nissan's all-electric Leaf

 

If nothing else, this name choice for a highly anticipated new car model suggests that the auto industry has turned a page. So much attention has shifted to low-emissions and zero-emissions vehicles that anyone not acquainted with Dodge’s muscular, gas-guzzling Charger might be forgiven for thinking it was an electric-powered car.

The world weighs in…

Another big factor in the newest car names is the global shift in production and marketing. Car names are becoming more uniform around the world.

For several years Buick marketed its LaCrosse brand in Canada as the Allure in order to avoid associations with la crosse, Québecois slang for ‘masturbate’ and ‘swindle.’ GM had also planned to market the Allure brand in China. But in 2009 the Allure brand was dropped and LaCrosse was adopted across the board, even in Canada and China. That worked well for GM in China, where the beloved, hot-selling LaCrosse was named Car of the Year for 2009.

New Technologies, Old and New Brands

Thanks to growing global exposure to once-local brands, car names exhibit more linguistic diversity than ever before.

Among today’s prominent electrics and hybrids are China’s F3DM, first marketed in 2008. India’s REVAi, the world’s best selling battery-powered electric to date, is being sold in a number of countries in Europe and Asia. Tata, also in India, has plans to add a hybrid version of its super-economical Nano. Chery, one of China’s best-selling cars, added a plug-in electric model in 2009, the same year that China became the world’s biggest market for autos.

Electrics and hybrids have been gaining steam for several years, and they’ve become the surprise new focus of the auto industry. The excitement is everywhere. England’s Daily Telegraph even reported on a study suggesting that preference for hybrid cars is genetic. Little wonder that we’re seeing so many new brands marking a break with the gasoline-only past. First in line was Toyota’s Prius a decade ago, followed recently by contenders with new technological twists.

Let’s see how three of the newest brands — Fusion, Leaf, and Volt — communicate their new competitive advantages alongside the well-established Prius.

To Be Continued…Click back on Friday for our overview!

— Will Leben, Director of Linguistics