Renault 5 E-Tech electric, via RenaultRenault 5 E-Tech electric, via Renault


What’s in a name? Get set for nostalgia to play cynical part in sales fight

Car Dealer’s associate editor has a theory as to why manufacturers are digging out previously used names – despite their unfortunate pedigree in some cases

Time 6:15 am, April 27, 2024

What’s so special about names?

Well, it would seem they’re rather a big deal right now for some of our most well-known carmakers.

I’m not talking about the Funky Cats and Seals of this world but the badges that have had a place in the history books.

Renault has already begun to go down the tricky terrain of memory lane.

The reinvigorated French brand has brought back the Scenic name for 2024 – it’s not attached to a spacious, curvy and slightly dull people-carrier but a very of-the-moment SUV that’s powered by electricity.

The car has some practical touches to keep it in step with its namesake and it’s certainly roomy inside, but there’s a lot of nostalgia going on here.

If that wasn’t enough, Renault feels the world needs another 5, so one is coming along later this year complete with a plug to charge it up via and a wicker basket in which to store your baguette (no, I’m not making that up).

It’ll quickly be followed by a new 4 with a more rugged, rational persona in contrast to the fashion-conscious 5, and Renault has also shown off a desire to bring back the Twingo with looks that ape the clever original.

And Renault’s boss has hinted that even more golden-oldie names could make a return.

Volkswagen has pledged that the Golf, Tiguan (strangely) and GTI names are all safe and will have a future once the whole car world has gone electric, and it’s strongly rumoured that Ford is bringing back the Capri.

But before you race to grab your Bay City Rollers LPs from the loft, bizarrely the name is set to grace the rump of a coupe SUV that’s based on a Volkswagen ID.5.

Then there’s Vauxhall. We know that Monza and Insignia are due a revival, but the British brand has yet to confirm their return.

In the meantime, we have the Frontera. Unlike Capri, the Frontera name is remembered for all the wrong reasons.

While the three-door Sport did have an element of 1990s frivolity about it, the normal five-door version was a painfully dull truck that was imbued with little style or grace.

Factor in abysmal reliability, woeful driving dynamics and interiors that crumbled just by looking at them, it was hardly a triumph. And yet Vauxhall has decided to bring the nameplate back.

Someone in marketing obviously reckons this is a good idea, but I think it’s strange because the basic ingredients of the car seem spot on and yet it’ll wear a name that I think isn’t fondly remembered.

Admittedly, the new Frontera looks an awful lot better than the first one and a damn sight better than the hideous Crossland it replaces. It’s the latest design from Brit Mark Adams’ sketchpad and it’s yet another good-looking Vauxhall.

Of course, there’s an electric version and it’s bound to be less off-roadery than the original Frontera, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh here but I am genuinely interested to see if the revival of a name that to my mind has negative connotations will be a success.

What’s more interesting is that I think we’re going to see more and more of this.

With many new entrants arriving on the scene, primarily from China, and the parameters of making electric cars different from others pretty slim, the ‘legacy’ carmakers are going to be raiding their archives like mad.

It’ll be cynical, but brands such as Ford will be desperate for people to choose their cars over the upstart newcomers, and a name that tugs on the heartstrings of nostalgia will be the way to win over buyers.

This column appears in the current edition of Car Dealer – issue 194 – along with news, reviews, features and more! Click here to download and read it for FREE!

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.

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