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CAP Trade watch: The name of the game

With the pursuit of UK car market share by manufacturers from the emerging economies, there is increasing interest in the impact of the Far Eastern offerings.

The overriding issue faced by the incumbent brands here is whether these manufacturers pose a significant challenge to their dominance of the UK.

This will depend on whether they are able to shed practices that have served them well at home but which do not as comfortably fit the UK market dynamic.

Take, for example, the Korean practice of the regular vehicle name changes that accompany significant model revisions or new launches. There is much in a name and it is understandable that carmakers wishing to project a forward-looking and dynamic brand will change a model name to mark each significant step forward.

However, the UK market is notoriously conservative and prone to confusion. British car buyers are comfortable with established names and use them to recognize a car’s lineage.

Of course there are examples of brilliant name changes – such as the switch from Escort to Focus for Ford’s C-sector offering. And Toyota’s change from Carina to Avensis achieved a dramatic change in perception for what is essentially a little-changed vehicle. But there are some Far Eastern manufacturers that lose the opportunity to build brand awareness faster by changing names before they have sunk deeply enough into the public consciousness.

For example, research suggests that public awareness of Kia’s current C-sector model – and its lineage – is somewhere behind that of its European rivals. It is possible to make an argument that even the unarguable improvements in build quality seen in cars from Far Eastern manufacturers is not enough to change brand perceptions.

What’s in a name? More than meets the eye.

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