Cadillac‘s cross-town rival, Lincoln, is using real names for its new wave of vehicles to try and create an “emotional connection,” between the vehicles and its customers, Lincoln marketing director Michael Sprague told The Detroit Free Press in a recent interview.
This strategy contrasts with that of GM‘s Cadillac, which uses alphanumeric names (eg. CT4, CT5, XT4, XT5 etc.) to name its cars and crossovers, with the Escalade SUV being the sole exception. That said, Cadillac has a number of historic names it could pull from the past to use on its modern vehicles, such as Fleetwood or El Dorado, just to name a couple, but it’s continuing to stick to an alphanumeric nomenclature for two reasons.
The first is that alphanumeric names can be used globally, particularly in non-English speaking countries such as China. In addition, the alphanumeric structure as implemented by Cadillac creates a clear hierarchy among the vehicles. For instance, it’s clear that a CT6 slots in above the CT4 and CT5.
Meanwhile, Lincoln’s names all follow a nautical theme, Sprague explained. He believes this cohesion helps to form a certain image within the mind of the consumer.
“The names we’re using all have a nautical or aviation theme” he told The Free Press. “Consistent names are like consistent styling: they help you deliver a message. Plus, a name is warmer and more human than ‘MK’ or ‘GL.’”
Previously, Lincoln used letters to denote its different models – a strategy that Free Press author Mark Phelan described as “particularly bad.” We’d have to agree – it was easy to get these different names (which included MKT, MKS and MKZ, among others) confused with each other and they were also uninspiring. To that end, the MKT, MKS, MKZ nomenclature doesn’t create a clear-cut model hierarchy like Cadillac’s CT# and XT# configuration.
We also can’t help but cite the rather tired joke that ‘MK’ sounds more like a line of washing machines or kitchen appliances rather than a line of luxury cars.
Cadillac is now looking to China for sales volume growth, though one that’s less profitable than sales in the U.S. thanks to a 50-50 joint venture (and associated profit split) with SAIC. Even so, it is highly unlikely that names like Fleetwood, or even modern ones that the brand has come up with for concepts, such as Escala or Elmiraj, will ever be used on production vehicles. The one exception, of course, is the Escalade – a name that is now almost as recognizable as the Cadillac brand itself and has been a staple of American pop culture since the early 2000s.
Proponents of Cadillac’s alphanumeric nomenclature state that all of Cadillac’s primary competitors use number- or alphanumeric-based naming conventions, including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Lexus, Infiniti, Acura, Volvo, and even Tesla. Hence, consumers clearly have no problem recognizing and buying vehicles with those names. In that regard, an “actual name” doesn’t necessarily make or break a vehicle’s success or market acceptance, and it certainly hasn’t helped models like the Lincoln Continental, which is dying on the vine from a sales standpoint. In 2018, Continental sales fell 27 percent over 2017, and sales are projected to fall another 30 percent in 2019.
Source: The Detroit Free Press