Kia Asks What’s in the Name

Finally featuring some exciting, fun vehicles in the lineup, South Korean car maker Kia Motors is now considering another effort to refurbish their image by reversing to alphanumeric identifications rather than names for the North American market. With several of their vehicles sold in the Asian market already recognized for alphanumeric codes (the Forte is called the K3 and the Optima is known as the K5), Kia’s plans to assimilate products of the North American into a global lineup.

As automakers are proceeding to globalize their brands, the alphanumeric patterns and codes are growing in popularly not only has appearing distinctively hip but for being functional. By refraining from a proper name, automakers save hassles of translation issues (of course, the Chevy Nova fiasco transcends the risks of how words in one language could be misdirected in translation). Mercedes-Benz as well as BMW effectively used numbers and/or letters to move their products near effortlessly across the globe.

Through the years, some auto brands have expressed indecision on whether their future vehicles will going to be identified. Mazda entered the North American marketplace initially with alphanumerical nameplates (the Mazda Cosmo is an exception). However, starting with the Mazda Miata in 1990, Mazda North American Operations experimented with attaching actual names to their lineup replacing 323 with Protege. In fact, in Canada, Mazda vehicles were for a time through the mid-1990s marketed using both numerical and names (ie. the Mazda 626 Cronos). Fighting to declare their full brand identity, Mazda withdrew from use of proper names with only the Mazda Tribute being sold today (Though many roadster enthusiasts still refer to the Mazda MX-5 as the Miata).

While American auto companies continues to rely on the marketing image which a name can provide, some domestic brands have toyed with the use of alphanumeric coding. In the 1980s, Pontiac selected to define some of their smaller vehicles with numeric or alphanumeric codes (ie. the Pontiac J2000 and mid-sized Pontiac 6000) but discontinued the practice with more hallmark names like Firebird as well as the Grand Prix protected. Of course, through Pontiac’s twilight years, the alphanumeric scheme was revisited only for the whole arrowhead brand to be stricken from General Motors’ slate still comprised of several named products still in the lineup. On the other hand, GM’s premium division Cadillac completed a more successful transition to an alphabetic coding for all but one vehicle as the brand redefined itself through the past decade. The Cadillac Escalade is the only vehicle retaining a name. However, Cadillac did endured some bittersweet send-offs to classic names of Seville being replaced by STS. In the case of Kia, their adaptation of alphanumeric product identifications could be aided since is names like Rondo and Forte are far from fan-favoured monikers.

Kia Motors’ North American division has yet to make a final decision leaving products with proper names at least into the 2011 model year for the United States.

Information Source: Automotive News
Photo Source: Kia Motors

About The Author

Admiring automobiles ever since childhood viewership of the TV show Knight Rider, Chris Nagy grew as an enthusiast enroute to become an automotive and motorsport writer. Drawn to the rich world of motoring, Chris discovers charm everywhere in the industry from supercars like the Bugatti Veyron to a Kia Soul. Car design, engineering, performance and the passion itself fuels his daily existence.

1 Comment on "Kia Asks What’s in the Name"

  1. I think Kia may need to do more than just start naming their cars like BMW's. They may want to change their name entirely. I dont think Americans will ever take this brand name seriously, because of it's negative moniker, Killed In Action.

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