Global names for Nissan models
Less latitude for U.S. marketing mavericks
NASHVILLE -- Nissan will press for more consistent global product names this year -- an acknowledgement that customers now read about foreign-market cars online.
The policy shift will affect the U.S. market, which has broken ranks on names in the past. This summer Nissan dealers will begin selling the 2014 Versa Note, a redesigned Versa hatchback that until now has been sold here as the Versa Hatchback.
But in Japan and Europe, it's the Note, and U.S. officials say U.S. planners no longer will operate on their own in declaring unique names.
"We have received clear direction from upper management in the company that global names are preferred," says John Curl, Nissan senior manager for product planning on the Versa Note. "It helps to build our name globally.
"It's a transparent globe today. With the Internet, customers now know what Nissan's doing all over the world."
U.S. managers have famously resisted names handed to them from the home market in the past.
The brand's 370Z hot rod was to be called the Fairlady when it arrived here in 1970, a name inexplicably inspired by the 1964 Audrey Hepburn movie My Fair Lady. U.S. sales executives scoffed at the name.
In the early 1990s, U.S. and Japanese decision makers crossed swords over the U.S.-built Altima mid-sized sedan. The home office decreed it would be called the Stanza -- the same name Nissan had used for its unsuccessful previous-generation Camry-Accord fighter. The car appeared for the first time as a 1993 model called the "Stanza Altima."
The name Stanza had itself been a U.S.-market move to get away from Japanese name for the mid-sized car: the Bluebird.
Early U.S. company officials avoided even the name "Nissan" -- calling the brand Datsun in the United States for more than 20 years.
Today there are worldwide name discrepancies for most of Nissan's U.S. products, including the Versa, Sentra, Altima, Maxima, Pathfinder, Rogue and Murano. The popular U.S. Nissan Rogue is based on the even more popular European-market Qashqai crossover, which sells in Japan and Australia as the Dualis.
Confused? Nissan wants to make sure Internet shoppers and auto enthusiasts are not.
"Search engines are already making the links between these models as they sell overseas," Curl says. "If you type in "Versa Hatchback," you will learn about the Note in Japan or Europe."
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