I don’t know why people keep wobbling on about the price of fuel or city centre gridlock – the real crisis in the automotive industry is that we’re running out of car names.
So, pay attention at the back, because this could get a little complicated: the Mercedes-Benz GLK, ML, GL and SLK will now be known respectively as the GLC, GLE, GLS and SLC. Actually, that wasn’t difficult at all, was it?
This has all been done to place a greater emphasis on the five core models at the heart of the company – the A, B, C, E and S class vehicles – and to highlight the close mechanical ties the derivatives have with their respective models.
As part of the new strategy, words such as ‘BlueEfficiency’, used to differentiate engine types, will also be removed and replaced by a single lower-case letter. So we won’t have to work around mangled monickers such as the Mercedes-Benz C220 BlueTec BlueEfficiency again.
The reasons for all this rebranding, company chiefs say, is to enable customers to work their way around the model line-up more easily.
But you don’t need to be a genius to work out that as well as making some room on the boot lids of the cars, it also frees up some space in the model plan.
The German car manufacturers in particular seem hell-bent on filling every conceivable niche in the car market, and dreaming up some new market streams and sub-brands too.
To do that, they need names. Which is fine and dandy if you give your cars names like ‘Passat’ and ‘Picanto’ because you can just ask a computer or clever focus group to create a brand new monicker, or alternatively resurrect one from the past that already has some built-in resonance.
However, it’s more tricky if you use combinations of numbers and/or letters, because if you don’t get it right to begin with, you can run into all sorts of problems further down the line.
It’s easy to imagine that a brand expert at Merc’s headquarters has looked at the big whiteboard with ‘future product plan’ scrawled at the top of it and extrapolated a scenario when model names start getting confusingly complicated, in doing so baffling potential customers who have neither the time nor inclination to unpick the range to determine which one they really need.
This partial resetting of Merc’ naming strategy should go some way to future-proofing the brand’s growth prospects. And with as many as 12 all-new models in the pipeline between now and 2020, that’s crucial.