Why are so many car makers changing their badges?

Published: 12 December 2014

Mercedes is the latest car maker to shake up its naming policy. You can read a fuller explanation of Merc’s rebadging here, but in a nutshell they’re trying to cluster car names together, with badges showing from which branch of the family tree they’ve sprouted.

So the GLS is the new name for the artist formerly known as Mercedes GL. The logic is that all SUVs have GL at the beginning of the name. And the S signifies that this is part of the S-class family (i.e. it’s a full-sized SUV).

Similarly, the GLE Coupe unveiled this week does what it says on the tin, argues Merc: it’s the offroader (GL) sized like an E-class (E) and it’s a Coupe.

So far, so comprehensible. There is a logic at play here and I commend Daimler for trying to apply cool Teutonic order to the problem.

But a problem it remains. I still find myself having to refer to Merc’s handy crib-sheet (below) before I decipher what some of the more baffling names mean.

The rigidly sensible logic falls apart for certain cars. Why does the G-wagen dodge the new world order and continue to be called the G? Why is the CLS not called a CLE – doesn’t its name clash with the new S-class Coupe’s? And shouldn’t the SL, strictly speaking, become an SLS (ahem)?

How Mercedes' new badges work

Complex names for complex ranges

It brings home just how complicated car ranges have become. Mercedes’ line-up has multiplied several times over since the good old days of being able to count all their products on one hand. And they’re far from alone.

Audi CEO Rupert Stadler told me this summer that Audi’s range proliferation will soar to 60 models by the end of the decade. BMWs and Fords and Peugeots continue to morph into new shapes and niches, as marketing gurus spot new long-tail market segments and engineering advances make it easier to spin off extra bodystyles from the same hardware.

Deciding what to call them all is a moot point. Infiniti recently shook up its naming policy, but can you honestly identify every car in its line-up? Do you know your Q50s from your Q70s and Q60s?

A simpler kind of car badge

Who’ll be brave enough to launch the most Ronseal of all car names? Imagine a world in which we saw the new Vauxhall City Car, the Porsche Super-SUV and the Volvo Big Estate? I wonder if it might just work…

Who has the most logical names of all? Click ‘Add your comment’ and sound off.

By Tim Pollard

Group digital editorial director, motoring news magnet