Cadillac's New Naming Convention Is Proof Alphanumerics Are Finished

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Cadillac has been getting a fair amount of guff for their new CTx naming convention, both from us, and even less-car oriented media outlets. I don't necessarily think it's because the letters C, T and a numeral are that much worse than any other; I think it's because the whole alphanumeric trend has run its course.

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Here's what it boils down to: for whatever reason, makers of premium cars have convinced themselves that they need to name their cars like astromech droids or no one will take them seriously. It's a holdover from the days when the premium sedan market was overwhelmingly dominated by the Germans — BMW and Mercedes, for example, have long been exclusive letter/number-namers of their cars. When other brands started to compete, it still wasn't considered a necessity to have these sorts of names — think Acura's Legend, Integra, and Vigor, for example.

But as time went on, the idea of alphanumeric names became considered the only "safe" way to name a luxury sedan — so much so that when Kia introduced their K900, they were willing to give it a name that sounded like a robotic dog.

American premium car makers haven't traditionally fallen into this pattern, which may be why Cadillac's decision to do it (which they've been doing for a while, really, with letters) is rubbing so many the wrong way. Sure, we may not be craving the return of the Bodystyle de Someplace-European-Sounding naming of Cadillacs past, but what about names like Eldorado? A legendary city of gold and danger? That's a pretty badass name for a car.

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With so many premium car companies resorting to technical-sounding alphanumeric strings for their car names, we're hitting a saturation point where the names are all starting to blend together. Sure, when done right, they can be handy ways to tell where in a marque's lineup the car fits, but I'm not even certain why that's so important.

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This is also one of those things, like fear of vivid colors, that hits the middle/upper middle of the spectrum more so than the low/high extremes. At the ends (and even the middle-middle), you can still get Mirages and Huracans and Sparks and Veyrons and Jettas or whatever. This plague of numbers and letters is pretty well set in that most insecure of car segments, the premium.

Audi, Lexus, Infiniti, BMW, Acura, Mercedes, Jaguar, and just about everyone else in this segment is stuck in a soup of number and letter combinations. For some, it's tradition, but for others, it's based on nothing more than a fear of being different.

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It's time for at least one of these companies — and Caddy, it's not too late for you — to grow a pair of potent genitals and pick something else to name their cars after. Animal names, for example, were once popular, but other than some long-term holdouts (like Mustang), there's not many left. And those can be great! Why hasn't there been a car named after a Lion in so long? A Cheetah? Hell, a premium SUV named after a Gorilla would be awesome. There's sharks and bats and hawks and all kinds of fast, dangerous, "premium" animals out there. And if you're still nervous, just do the trick of making the name not in English: Mangusta. Calamaro. Aquila.

It doesn't have to be animals. Cars have been wonderfully named after weather, planets, astronomical phenomena, mythological figures, feelings, powers, emotions, and probably the occasional vegetable or adverb. There's so many words and concepts and ideas out there, and not all of them can be easily rendered on a calculator's screen.

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So, here's my plea. Enough with the algebra-problem droid names for your cars. Just one of you companies has to have enough guts to take the leap and give your cars names, real names, names that we don't care if they don't hint at where in your Byzantine hierarchy the car fits, and just makes us interested and excited just because of the name.

Sound good? Now I'm going to start saving for my 2017 Cadillac Mayhemweasel.

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