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The Infiniti Q60 and Other Stupid Car Names

According to Motor Trend, Infiniti is set to unveil its all new "very, very, very, very close to [production]" Q60 at the upcoming Detroit Auto Show around mid January next year. Without condemning the yet to be revealed vehicle too much, the fact that I am not eagerly awaiting the all new 2016 "G37” or “G38” has left a bad taste in my mouth, possibly the remnants of curse words. I am more than a bit annoyed that I will not be able to refer to the impending vehicle as the “G Coupe”. I’m troubled in part because people who truly like cars probably get what's in a name and understand that a rose called 'protoplasma' [sic] smells a little less sweet.

The annoyance has led to this post and the following free points for automobile manufacturers: (1) I don't care what Don Draper or the ying-to-his-yang from Wharton tells you, people remember words best, and, (2) where fortune smiles on you and more than a modicum of success exists with an arbitrary silly alphanumeric nomenclature, leave it alone. 

Before we tackle Infiniti, let us first consider Acura, who beat their competitor to ruining a good model name. The number one reason espoused by Acura years ago for the ridiculous name change of their best selling model, was dilution of the manufacturer name. This justification continues today. Car manufacturers seem to be worried that whenever a particular model name within a brand becomes too popular, it may cause confusion in the market place, and or dilute the parent brand or manufacturer name. They are afraid of a trademark issue between a popular model within the make and the maker itself, as if in the case of Acura, the “Legend” would have seceded from the brand if it got too big for its britches. In other words, crazily, manufacturers are afraid of competition from themselves. 

What this madness looked like in practice was the transformation of the Acura Legend into the Acura RL. Worse, with the hideous name change to "RL" (which may or may not stand for “Real Lard”) the vehicle itself followed suit, becoming more portly and generic. You only need to look at the Legend picture here to understand how Acura managed to suck the life out of a once vibrant machine. There has been talk of returning to the Legend badge in the face of slumping RL sales and potent lack of enthusiasm surrounding the slab-of-a-car. It is difficult to understand the appeal of assimilation and homogeneity, in the face of overwhelmingly positive reasons to distinguish one’s self, not the least of which is acquiescing to your customer base, many of whom express nostalgia for a familiar name. I’ll also never understand the unwillingness of car manufacturers to give the people what they want. It can only be that they are held hostage by some jenny or jackass emperors-new-clothes-type-designer working for some marketing agency, who will convince the powers that be among other things, that a gargantuan bird beak grille looks great. Marty Khan is real.

This brings us back to Infiniti. Not to be left behind by the jack-ass train, Infiniti has followed suit by changing the name of every vehicle to “Q” one thing or the other. Mounting even more of a front against logic and common sense. They have managed to pull both the opposite and the same caper as Acura. Skillful to be sure. Allow me to interject a bit of history for context. First, and to be fair, Infiniti has long since used letter number combinations alone to distinguish its models. This likely led to more manufacturer brand recognition initially. Still, most people I knew with an “Infiniti Q45” came to refer to their vehicles as a “Q45” or just a "Q". The “Q” is where it was at for Infiniti, and eventually no one cared what Infiniti you drove if it wasn't a “Q”. Over time, the “Q” nomenclature overwhelmed the Infiniti brand name. I've always hoped NaS contributed to this in someway by echoing the words “If I ruled the world and everything in it, sky's the limit I push a Q-4-5 Infinit”, by placing the "Q45" first and partially truncating the name of the parent brand.

As popular as the Q45 model was, eventually the it lost its luster with consumers, as Infiniti failed to dial-in to buyer's desires, and eventually Infiniti stopped updating the Q model. Now back to today. So what does Infiniti do with a Model that was at least for a time renowned and came to define their brand? Do they build a boss 2016 Q45? No. They do not. Instead they chose to name all their models “Q”. Think of Oprah Winfrey saying “you get a car, you get a car…”, only this time its Infiniti saying “you get a Q, you get a Q…”. I am convinced that the reason for the decision to go with this naming convention was from the episode of Oprah. If they paid one soul a dime for research connected to the scheme it was 9 cents too much for their thoughts.

Disturbingly, the new Infiniti naming scheme appears to be completely arbitrary, making models even more difficult for consumers to keep track of. For example, in the case of the model name "Q60", the "60" no longer refers to displacement. The second character in the scheme, denotes coupes from sedans, where even numbers denote coupes, and odd numbers denote sedans. However, the scheme as applied to SUVs get turned-on-its-head, where all such vehicles have at least 4 doors, yet are named QX50, QX60 and the like with the "X" denoting SUV status. However the "X" in the naming convention does not denote "all wheel drive" as one would expect, and you can in fact purchase two-wheel drive SUVs. It is a mess, and renders the "Q" heritage meaningless.

The real Q had its day, and notwithstanding the name change move made by Infiniti, could have very likely had a rebirth, with a big hoopla around its reintroduction. In recent times the “G” models became the new Q. Similar to owners of the Q45, owners of the G35s and G37s referred to their vehicles as a “G” or “G-coupe” or “G-sedan”. I owned a G-coupe and that's just how I, and everyone else I know referred to the vehicles.

As I await the unveiling of the Q60 one thing comes into sharper and sharper focus: I already impatiently await the day when the Infiniti Q60 can finally stop being "The Artist Formally Known As The G37 Coupe". 

The Writer

New York