changing the way brands name
about namescape services clients resources the group contact

Auto Naming

The Naming Group specializes in creating names and brandwide naming strategies for the automotive category. Our team has led numerous engagements with auto brands, including Chevrolet, Kia, and Suzuki.

While many naming challenges in the auto category are consistent with other industries – the importance of competitive distinction, of consumer motivation, of trademark and linguistic viability – there are unique challenges and opportunities to consider, specific to the world of cars.

The Naming Group applies these tenets to every automotive engagement:

The emotional connection between car and driver is deep and storied. We feel an attachment, an intimate bond with our vehicles that stems from any number of places: the vital role they play in our daily lives, the rush of a roaring engine, even an appreciation for the cultural and industrial impact they’ve made in shaping modern history. What we call our cars - and all the parts and experiences that surround them – is therefore incredibly important to us. More than other products we use on a day-to-day basis, we want to feel a personal connection to the names of our cars. There’s therefore a lot of pressure on brand leaders to create names that will drive that connection home.

Cars are expensive. We keep them for a long time. We remember them forever. Edsel and Pinto still ring in drivers’ minds – long since their production was mercifully ceased. If a name isn’t working, and a brand makes a change, the former iteration will still be on the roads and in parking lots and the collective consciousness for decades to come. Unlike more rapidly cycling products, the durability of car names raises the stakes of every decision. The brand’s identity in the long-term is shaped by today’s naming decisions. Conversely, new names take years to build into household brands – from creating awareness to updating windshield wiper selection guides, the addition of new names to the automotive landscape requires significant investment. Best to invest in a name worth the effort.

Even after narrowing the purchase decision to a vehicle class or price point, consumers are still left with numerous competitive options in every category. The decision between Civic, Corolla, Dart, Focus, Sentra, Cruze, Lancer, Forte or Accent could be driven by any number of factors: aesthetic preference, the best deal, even the favorite color on the lot. But the reputation and personality of the brand is often the scale tipper. And naming is perhaps the most salient of any brand feature. Names characterize the experience, the promise, and the personality of auto manufacturers. A catchy or motivating name can elevate our perception of a unique experience: driving engagement, affinity, and purchase.

Beyond the badges themselves, every auto purchase engages a wide range of decisions: from safety features to eco technologies to accessory packages and trim levels to colors. Each micro decision represents a naming opportunity that can inspire excitement, can motivate an upsale, and can advance the brand on a macro level. A strategic approach to naming each of these features can clarify the options for customers and strengthen the consistency of the parent brand and its personality.

Every badge in an automaker’s lineup needs to serve a strong individual purpose: distinguishing the model from other sizes and pricepoints in the portfolio, claiming a unique personality. But what’s often forgotten is that – in spite of these individualized objectives – every name in the lineup is also part of a bigger-picture story. It’s essential to remember the namescape in automotive naming, as the identity of the parent brand is driven by the collective effect of every name in the lineup.

To summarize, naming is an opportunity to advance an automotive brand in a number of vital ways:

• Make the customer’s options clearer and easier
• Entice customers’ selections of additional features and technologies
• Forge deeper emotional connections between car and driver
• Create stronger brands through the collective stories told by each individual name

Get started with The Naming Group: Contact Us


Automotive Press and Blog Posts


Watch President + Founder Nina Beckhardt's latest appearance on Autoline with John McElroy.
This time, they discuss what goes into a great car name, and some of the best (and worst) all-time examples.

Broadcast live from NYC's famous Katz's Deli in honor of the NY Auto Show, April 5, 2012

Dart Hits Target

The Third Sell – Naming the Chevy Sonic

What's in a Name? Fantasy Influences Vehicle Names [PDF]

Ambassador Mag feature – February, 2012

Label Maker
June, 2011

Naming Chevrolet Sonic: Think of a Hedgehog on Wheels

January, 2011

Chevrolet Selects The Naming Group for All-New Small Car Project

January, 2011

Alphabet Soup: The Art and Science of Vehicle Naming (video)

September, 2009