A Moniker Could Make The Five Hundred
|Topics: Ford Five Hundred
February 12, 2007
There is no secret formula but the Ford Motor Co. intends to rekindle the old flame of its Ford Taurus by reviving its name in the Five Hundred sedan. The announcement was made by the automaker to analysts, journalists and executives alike at the Chicago Auto Show.
Naming vehicles is a big deal. It could either make or break the vehicle hence doing it is considered a major undertaking. Each automaker spends a hefty sum to create and nurture a particular moniker. So far, the brand equity of the Taurus, the Honda Camry and the Civic has gone beyond the value of pricey promotion blitz.
The American auto market is crowded with a wide variety of choices. Some automakers entertained change of name but picking the right name is harder and more crucial than other decisions to take. "Naming is a big, big deal," said George Peterson, the president of consulting firm AutoPacific Inc., a Tustin, Calif. "You can always argue with the names they use. But you can't beat a good name."
Detroit's Big Three automakers have been criticized for their habit of trying to introduce new names to revive tainted brands rather than sticking with the old ones and improving the vehicles. "Even if the car has kind of run its course and started to wane, you're better off investing in marketing the current product than coming up with a brand new name," said Karl Brauer, editor in chief of Edmunds.com, an online auto shopping site.
Analysts say resurrecting the Taurus is a clever decision, but the name alone likely will not prompt a sales revival. "The bottom line is the product," said Michelle Krebs, an editor for Edmunds AutoObserver, an online auto industry magazine. Analysts added that brand name has a great value. Some believe that the impact of the name on the sales of the vehicles is dependent on how people remember the brand.
"Taurus once stood for trend-setting design," Krebs added. "But that name is tainted. It really depends on do you have a good memory of the first Taurus or do you remember the later versions?" Reviving the Ford Taurus name is a compromise of sorts. It could offer a number of advantages over creating a new moniker. In addition, it could certainly abrogate the need to spend a fortune to create brand awareness.
Ford is not the only automaker to revive a model’s name. DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group dragged its old Avenger name this year for the replacement of the Dodge Stratus sedan. General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet resurrected the Malibu name in the late 1990s and Impala in 2000. The Chevy Camaro and Dodge Charger vanished, but the Camaro is coming and the Charger is back in the arena.
Old names keep on coming and no sophisticated Active Brakes Direct could stop them from pouring in. Part of the phenomenon is triggered when automakers discovered that alpha-numeric titles used by luxury brands would not work. Nonetheless, other attempts were terrible. Honda Motor Co.'s Acura lost an estimated $1.5 billion in sales by renaming its Legend sedan the RL, Peterson said. "The joke was that RL stood for ruined legend.”
Brauer added, "You can bring back names from the past, but unless the product is good, it's going to be a short-lived run."
More than 80 percent of consumers recognize the Taurus as a Ford product compared to about 9 percent for those who know the Five Hundred. This is according to research by Art Spinella of CNW Marketing Research in Bandon, Ore. "Ford did the right thing reviving the Taurus and Sable nameplates," he wrote in a note about his study.
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