Opposite Lock: What’s in a Name?

I recently learned that Peugeot, translated in Chinese, sounds an awful lot like “prostitute.” Now there’s a car name. The 2012 “-fill in the blank-” Peugeot. I advise you avoid driving your Peugeot along muddy Chinese roads, for fear it become dirty. And drive carefully, you certainly don’t want to bang up a Peugeot. In a socially conservative country such as China, the French automaker may want to launch a new sub-brand so as to increase their, shall we say, “social acceptance.”

The name on the deck lid of our respective cars and trucks has greater influence over our ownership of said vehicles than you may believe. Most of us are quick to dismiss any superficial inclinations or biases we may have based on the badge – but the truth of the matter is that we are all innately aware of the image we project to others – be it by the clothes we wear, or in this case, the car we drive. Theoretically speaking, one could drive a car that is powerfully dominant on the road, while sporting a very lame badge. Enter new carmaker Panda and their flagship supercar, the “Cub.” These names are fictional, but just picture a 730 rwhp 232 mph seductive monster with a fury baby panda figurine affixed to the hood. Whatever – I would drive it: it has 730 rwhp.

Carmakers spend millions of dollars in their marketing departments, stewing over nomenclature while downing countless cups of coffee. Names, in fact, do sell cars – and my apathy over the topic represents the exception in the market, not the rule. Whereas many drivers and I steadfastly search for substance in a vehicle, most car buyers start off with color selection, right after picking a suitable badge on the trunk-lid.



In tonight’s Opposite Lock, we are not going to analyze the macroeconomics of automotive nomenclature – as interesting a topic as that may be. No, tonight we are turning our attention to the enthusiast crowd, and their response to the naming conventions of the automakers they adore. Let’s set a suitable bull’s eye: the forthcoming M3.

BMWBLOG has learned that BMW is looking to launch yet another layer to their lineup: the 4 series. The 4 series is set to demand a premium price tag by one-upping the 3 series chassis with exterior, interior, and performance enhancements. Essentially, it is a poised to create a greater margin of profitability for the automaker, and in turn, BMW stock holders. So far this is corporate business as usual, though BMW did get along just fine with the 3 series badge since its initial launch in 1975.

Enthusiasts of the brand will likely swallow this pill, but they will, however, take issue with the introduction of the 4 series when it rolls onto hallowed ground in Garching, Germany. When the 4 series finally arrives at BMW M’s headquarters facility, both fans and engineers alike will have to face a trampled naming convention. It is quite likely at this point that the much revered M3 coupe will have its badge offered up on the alter of marketing. The question is, will the re-naming of BMW’s iconic M3, to be named the M4, benefit or hamper this car’s success in the market place.

While I place the emphases on substance, and I’m confident the new M4 will be a phenomenal car – I do hold the M3 badge very close to my heart. Forgive my sentimentality, but I will shed a single tear for the loss the this badge – stopping just short of an automotive badge burial, all attendees dressed solemnly in black. Perhaps it’s the quality time I’ve spent behind the wheel of numerous M3s of several generations. Every time I’ve stepped out, I’ve lovingly looked back at its sheet metal – and admired its badge. Are you now accusing me of being biased towards the M3 badge? Guilty as charged, I submit to you that I will not feel an immediate kinship to the M4 as I would if only it subtracted 1 from its name. At this point the naming is still speculative – but word through the grapevine suggests this is a relevant discussion.

BMW look poised to launch two new M3 vehicles in two and four door variants, using different internal code names: the F80 and F82. While the four door F80 will retain the M3 badge (which makes sense, because the car it’s based upon retains the 3 series badge), the F82 will be a two door coupe M vehicle based upon – you guessed it – the coupe 4 series.

The new M3 and M4 sports cars are sure to impress with significant weight reduction and even better handling. After a few minutes behind the wheel – you won’t care what it says on the trunk – prostitute, panda cub or otherwise. And yet, I do lament the likely loss of an iconic badge.

How do YOU feel about the M3 coupe being labeled the M4? Share your opinion in the comment section now!

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