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Alfa Romeo Milano causes controversy because of its name – Radio SRF 3

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Alfa Romeo Milano causes controversy because of its name – Radio SRF 3

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The most recent example of Alfa Romeo shows that a model name determines the success or failure of a car. Manfred Gotta, who comes up with car names himself, knows how important sensitivity is when finding a name.

Octavia, Golf, Yeti: Car manufacturers often let their creativity run wild when it comes to the names of their car models. But anyone who thinks that such a name was developed quickly is mistaken. Baptism is often a months-long process. However, the end result is not always satisfactory, as Alfa Romeo recently found out.

Italian car made in Poland

The first electric car from the traditional brand should actually have been called “Milano” instead of “Junior”. But the Italian Industry Minister Adolfo Urso intervened. The name “Milano” is illegal because the SUV is produced in Poland and not in Italy and consumers are being misled by the “Italian-sounding” name.

Although the car company Stellantis was convinced that the name “Milano” met all legal criteria, the company decided to change the name “in the interest of mutual understanding,” according to an official statement.

Naming is often underestimated

The Italian car brand isn’t the only one making headlines because of a failed car name. Well-known companies have already caused a stir in the past.

These car names backfired

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Ford Kuga: In Slovenian and Serbo-Croatian, “Kuga” means “plague”.Audi e-Tron: “étron” means “heap of shit” in French. Audi obviously didn’t care: since 2019, all of the brand’s purely electric vehicles have had the suffix in their name.Hyundai Kona: Anyone who pronounces the word “cona”, which sounds completely the same, in Portuguese is using a vulgar expression for the female genitals. Hyundai’s solution to the problem: Now sold in Portugal as “Kauai”, a main island of Hawaii.

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But why do even large, global companies make mistakes when it comes to the names of their car models? “Naming is often underestimated,” says advertising copywriter Manfred Gotta, who has developed numerous car names himself. In recent years he has invented the names Vectra, Actros, Twingo, Smart, Cayenne and Panamera, among others.

Different brands – different mistakes

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Legend: Toyota MR2 MR2 is pronounced like “merde” in French: “Scheisse”. IMAGO/Betto Rodrigues

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Legend: Fiat Uno The previous model of the… IMAGO/Pond5 Images

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Legend: …Fiat Punto, which had a new name from 1995. IMAGO/Pond5 Images

Gotta himself has never made a mistake, but mistakes can quickly occur. “Companies often create some code word from which they derive the name – without checking again whether the name has a wrong meaning.”

Uno becomes Punto

This is what happened at Fiat Uno, for example. Actually, the name should demonstrate that it has what it takes to be number 1. In Finland, however, the little Italian remained a slow seller. There, “Uuno” colloquially means “idiot.” The Uno was finally followed by its successor Punto in 1995.

To prevent this, Gotta takes enough time to create new product names. Up to two months “to gain distance from the product and be able to reassess it,” says Gotta. This is also the reason why he can only accept a maximum of 40 orders per year.

A name for all senses

Listening to what the customer wants is the be-all and end-all for name developer Gotta. Only then can he fully engage with the product. “To do this, I let myself be locked in the car and have to be alone with it,” says Gotta. “I lie down in front of it, sit in it, smell it, touch it.” This is the only way he can experience sensually what the end customer should ultimately experience.

The name should be unique, mean the same thing in all countries, and not already exist.

With the help of freelancers and group discussions, potential names are then tested and verified through research. “The name should be unique, mean the same thing in all countries, and not already exist.”

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Ultimately there are around 15 names on the table. «And that’s the most difficult thing; make it my personal recommendation.” This mainly has to do with feeling, says Gotta. Clients pay him up to 150,000 francs for this feeling.

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