Something missing without an I? Car names and e-mobility.
The departure into the new world of e-mobility has more or less become the strategic guiding theme for all car manufacturers worldwide. Apart from the technical challenges, problems with software and battery capacities, it is above all a question of the charging infrastructure that will determine short-, medium- or long-term success. The pioneer Tesla distinguishes its models by using the letters S, 3, X and Y, in Germany the letters I or E are favoured. This often leads to considerable confusion and misinterpretation. The letter I used to stand for injection (Direct Injection), as in the case of a TDI (Turbo Diesel Injection) or the legendary model designation GTI (Grand Turismo Injection) produced by VW.
Today, however, there are designations that are prone to confusion, such as BMW’s i3 or Hyundai’s i30. To make matters worse, VW puts the ID.3 and other models such as the ID.4 next to it. This, too, does not lead to a distinctiveness and autonomy of the new model series with electric drive. The result might probably be that in future two large premium manufacturers will be fighting over the wider use and combination of the letter I in a wide variety of guises. What has already led to legal trouble with BMW M Motorsport GmbH and selected M-Class models from Mercedes-Benz is also conceivable in relation to the letter I. At the very least, however, the distinguishability and differentiation of new models and model series in the consumer perception falls by the wayside.
While Porsche, for example, has introduced a completely new model series with a completely new name “Taycan”, other manufacturers are still lagging behind here. The letter E is also more inflationary than unique. As an abbreviation for e-mobility, it is suitable for identifying the alternative drive type of a particular vehicle, but it is not to be favoured as a product name for completely new vehicles.
While Volvo, for example, ensures clear relationships with its own newly developed brand Polestar and the respective series designation in the form of numbers (Polestar 1, 2 and 3) and thereby ensures clearly demarcated in customer perception, the letter E is not always a direct reference to the electric drive. At Mercedes-Benz, for example, there already exists an E-Class regardless of the type of drive. The e-Golf, on the other hand, is purely electric and KIA is trying its hand at EV models. Audi, however, has chosen the most unfortunate path. True to the motto “Well thought, badly done”, they have chosen the brand name e-tron for all electrically powered vehicles. Unfortunately, however, they did not take into account that l’étron means excrement or dung heap in French and thus raises considerable question marks in international usage.
Many manufacturers lack clarity and consistency in the nomenclature of their vehicle models and model series. It is made unnecessarily difficult for consumers to identify and assign new vehicles to the respective manufacturers. If, as is the case with Audi, the problem is compounded by the fact that the performance parameters of the individual models are pressed into a separate numerical scheme, the confusion is complete. It would be desirable if the introduction of new technologies were accompanied by clarity in the naming and differentiation of models and model series.
As managing director of innomark GmbH, Thomas H. Schiefer comments on brand issues currently under discussion at irregular intervals.