If big is beautiful, why aren’t there car model names with more than four digits?
People expend a lot of breath on the topic of vehicle names. Until quite recently many held that a name (Silver Shadow, Miura, Astra) presented fewer challenges to the memory than a number. A distinct minority believed numerical model identifiers (518, 911, 75 and 75) represented a cooler style that suggested greater objectivity.
With the devastatingly consistent sales success of the 3-series, Mercedes letter-series cars and Porsches 9-prefix cars, many firms have thrown out their Brougham, Town Car and Caprice nameplates in favour of cold, shiny three-digit alphanumerics. Renault, oddly, went to names as the 80s ended, ditching their 11s, 14s, 18s and 25s in favour of Clios, Meganes and (for a time, Safranes). Those first two now are celebrating their second decades in use.
Car and Driver are running a Kia K900 long termer. I noticed this name as it reminded me of Saab’s other great saloon the 9000 (I misread the name in the article). That in turn made me think of Pontiac’s very excellent 6000 from the 80s. There have been a few 2000s: the Lancia 2000, BMW 2002, the Triumph 2000, the 2500 and Rover had a 3500. Audi tried to sell cars with a 5000 badge but creeping gears stopped that. Apart from the 6000, 5000 and 9000, these names referred to engine size in some way (BMW was being obscure).
This general consideration of numbers as names makes me ask if there’s an acceptable upper limit to numbers as model designators. This is not the case with names. Skoda sells a very good Superb quite unabashedly. Triumph was a very confident name as was Standard before standard came to mean ordinary. Lotus had an Elite.
So why not a five digit car model designator? Saab’s 9000 replacement should have been the 90000. We’d be at 900000 by now. Is there a 125000 out there? Or even a 9999? Bootlids are quite wide enough to carry a Cadillac 500000 nameplate, aren’t they? I’m sure more than a few wealthy drivers would like a nameplate commensurate with their salary.
The answer to my question is a fear of hubris perhaps. And maybe getting enough adhesive on to a really long name is a challenge when makers have a hard time getting rubber door seals to stay attached.