NICK GIBBS

Will buyers like the name Adam for Opel's new Fiat 500 rival?

Nick Gibbs is UK correspondent for Automotive News Europe.Nick Gibbs is UK correspondent for Automotive News Europe.
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Opel/Vauxhall's decision to name its new minicar Adam has not been well received.

"Straight out of the drawer marked 'silly names,' " was one of the harsher comments on Twitter. "First Renault Zoe. Now Vauxhall Adam. Did someone give car companies a baby names book for Christmas?" was another.

Opel is positioning the Adam below the Corsa subcompact and alongside the Agila small minivan, but it will be more upscale than either of them, rivalling the Mini and Fiat 500, the company hopes.

Opel announced the car's name to the press in the form of an awkward photo comic strip using real Opel/Vauxhall employees pictured in a casually attired business meeting. One character explains the reasoning behind the name, saying, "We like it because it has something universal. It's good, it's short, it sounds robust and technical. Not too sweet, not cuty. Not 'toyish.'"

A company spokeswoman told me that the Adam, which was previously known by its development name of Junior, had to have a male name, not a female one. "It's masculine and strong, which reflects the styling of the car," she said.

The comic strip talks of one other possible production name for the car: Allegra. That at least keeps the Opel/Vauxhall tradition of names ending in 'a,' like the Corsa, or Astra compact or Insignia midsized car, but the comic strip's characters dismissed Allegra as "boring."

Opels says the Adam is not named after the German brand's founder Adam Opel even though its unveiling comes in the 150th anniversary year of the company's founding.

The cars that Opel sees as the Adam's competitors have names and images rooted in history. Adam is also part of Opel's heritage, but arguably not in the minds of buyers, most of whom will have other Adams in mind. In the UK, Adam isn't even part of the brand's heritage. Vauxhall's founder was called Alexander Wilson.

Some of the more radical car names seen recently – the Nissan Juke, Skoda Yeti and Skoda Roomster – were tested with concepts cars shown at auto shows. Opel is unveiling the Adam as a production car at the Paris auto show in September ahead of its sales launch in early 2013.

Will Adam be accepted by minicar buyers? Hard to say. Other car names normally given to people are ridiculed still to this day, but cars such as the Nissan Gloria and Cedric didn't have to work outside of Japan. Renault was handed a lawsuit by two real-life Zoes when it revealed its electric subcompact, but it won and the name doesn't jar any more.

Small cars seem to accept bold names more easily: witness the Toyota Aygo, Ford Ka and VW Up. The latter neatly combines the trim level to produce Move Up, or Take Up etc.

The Adam, seen here camouflaged, needed a male name because of its masculine styling, Opel says.

Whether buyers will embrace Adam depends on a much bigger question. Will the Adam be good enough to be seen as a credible rival to the phenomenally successful Mini and Fiat 500? If not, there's no hope whatever its name.

You can reach Nick Gibbs at nick.gibbs@btinternet.com.

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