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Analyzing Chevrolet and Buick Model Names

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What's in a name?

A "Hello My Name Is" sticker, on which people typically write their names.
Photo: Eviatar Bach via CC

If you recently embarked on the gauntlet that is shopping for a new vehicle, you’ve probably experienced the massive variety of names out there. What’s interesting is that different automakers seem to take drastically different approaches to what monikers they assign to their vehicles. Some are fairly literal, while others are essentially alphanumerical soup.

I posit that both Chevrolet and Buick managed to choose an effective set of names, albeit in very different ways.

A name you can trust: The Chevrolet Equinox

The Chevy way

chevy bowtie badge
Photo: The News Wheel

Looking at some of the vehicles Chevrolet has on offer it seems that many of them bear names that describe their nature — sometimes in a very direct way. The most obvious example is the Bolt EV, which not only states its all-electric status point-blank but also uses “bolt” to drive the idea home even further. Only slightly less pointed is the Trailblazer, which is meant to, you know, blaze trails.

On a slightly less literal level, the name “Impala” conveys the idea of sprightly performance, and the Suburban is meant for families that live exactly where you would guess. At the risk of overthinking things, I think the Equinox channels the idea of changing seasons to signify its position between the compact Trax and larger models like the Traverse and Tahoe.

Not all of Chevy’s models subscribe to this naming convention, but there does seem to be a pattern.

The impressionistic Buick

Buick Badge Logo
Photo: The News Wheel

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Buick seems to prefer names that convey a feeling rather than a purpose. When your favorite musician leaves the stage, it’s customary to clap until they come back out for an encore. Similarly, the Buick Encore symbolizes the automaker’s intended return to the forefront of the luxury market. Lexico defines an enclave as “A place or group that is different in character from those surrounding it,” which situates the Buick Enclave as a unique status symbol.

Spending time analyzing the significance of the “Regal” hardly seems necessary.

A few bad “names”

Other names — generally attributed to luxury automakers — seem to mean absolutely nothing. Here are a few of the best/worst.

  • Lexus’ sedans: IS, GS, GS F, and LS
  • Audi’s SUVs: Q3, Q5, SQ5, SQ7, and RS Q8
  • Mercedes Benz’s coupes: CLA, CLS, C-Class, E-Class, and AMG GT
  • Pretty much every BMW: X1, X2, X3, X4, X5, X6, X6, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, Z4, i3, and i8

Like I said, confusing alphanumerical soup.

Different by design: The 2020 Buick Enclave