Minding the Qs and QXs: Infiniti changes its car names for 2014

Infiniti recently announced that it was changing its "nomenclature philosophy," and with that pronouncement, all cars going forward will be named Q and SUVs will be named QX. And no, this isn't April first.

For more than a decade, there has been a trend to shift car names to alphanumeric designations, thereby creating inoffensive names that can be used worldwide. By mirroring long-held German traditions, with a simple letter denoting the vehicle and number for the powertrain, automakers could avoid missteps like the Chevrolet Nova. Or odd creations like the Volkswagen Tiguan.

But this move goes a bit further. Infiniti is breaking from this convention to label all cars "Q" and all SUVs "QX," distinguished just by a two-digit number to signal hierarchy.

Old name

New name

Car type

M37

Q70

Luxury sedan

G37

Q60

Sports coupe/convertible

With this move, Infiniti is scuttling the model recognition in its current models. The shame is, some models, such as the G37 sports sedan, have a great reputation. But going forward, shoppers will struggle to determine which Q they are researching or test driving.

This seems to take the name game to new extremes. And to think, I was bewildered when BMW removed the hyphen from its names long ago, going from "5-Series" to "5 Series" and thereby creating new copy layout challenges. More recently, Mazda confounded database managers by removing the space from its names, resulting in "Mazda5" and "Mazda6."

Like this calendar year, the time of great names is winding to a close. I grieved when Acura replaced "Vigor" and "Legend" with "TL" and "RL." And Cadillac abandoned Eldorado, DeVille, and Seville for strings of letters.

Now, I will miss being able to recognize a car by its designation and know what powertrain it was equipped with. For whatever navel-gazing research and high-paid consultants lead to this conclusion, it seems that the company is presenting its product in a more generic way. All cars are Qs. Whatever.

From a long-term strategy perspective, this limits the ability for the brand to rename vehicles should a product fail. If a model has a significant issue (think: safety or reliability), its shadow will be cast across the entire product line.

A ton of advertising and marketing material, stationery, and trinkets will need to be replaced in this effort. It remains to see whether they fix the spelling of the brand name, Infiniti. Or perhaps shorten it to "I."



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