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October 11, 2010

What's in a name? Chevy ponders question (again) with the Aveo

By David Kiley on Mon Oct 11 2010


In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the latter utters the infamous line: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet."
  That pretty much sums of the attitude of General Motors president Mark Reuss, who has yet another model-naming debacle on his hands. GM is trying, like Ford, to create a roster of global model names. The current problem on the table is Aveo, the little, cut-rate, slow-as-a-Rascal rental car Chevy now sells as its entry-level car (starting price: $11,965). An all-new and pretty respectable Aveo is due out next year. It looks and performs better than the current model in every way. It is called Aveo in other markets. But Reuss is contemplating a name change for the U.S.? Why? He says people aren't sure whether to pronounce it "a-VAY-o" or "A-vee-O" (rhymes with Fabio).
  At GM, naming meetings are the worst, according to insiders. The talk and the numerous PowerPoint presentations (you can't go to the bathroom at GM without a .ppt presentation) revolve around the cost of establishing a new name versus the baggage of the old name. Most meetings are guaranteed to have 50 percent on one side and 50 percent on the other. The most recent example of this was the Buick Regal. For most baby boomers, the dictionary meaning of Regal is "flaccid rental car. Also see: Uncle Morty's car from the '80s with the weird interior cloth that reminded us of Aunt Rose's couch … the one with the funny smell and color that had no name."

  Chevy clearly likes global names. It is launching the Spark next year, which is already called the Spark in other markets. And it is currently launching the Cruze, also a name that travels globally for Chevy. The Cruze's predecessor was called Cobalt, which sparked little excitement beyond rental counters—but worse than that, was a name for which GM couldn't get trademark protection around the world since cobalt is an actual word. (It's an element. Or wait, Element is a Honda.) You get the picture. Chevy has a history of these problems. Back in the 1970s, it tried selling the Chevy Nova in Latin American countries, forgetting that "no va" in Spanish means "doesn't go."
  Aveo has no meaning in the dictionary. Frankly, it had little meaning in the marketplace. But if they chose to rhyme the name with "Fabio," the mind boggles at the advertising and social-media possibilities. Indeed, why not crowdsource the correct pronunciation? I vote "A-vee-O" just to see Fabio driving one.


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