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New Renault Austral: what's in a name?

 Published 23rd December 2021
General Guides  New Launches 

Have you ever wondered how car names are decided? We know it's a bit of an odd question, most of us probably assume it's a ‘names in a hat kind' of process. Turns out it's a bit more complicated than that. Take the brand-new Renault Austral for example.

We can't really tell you anything at all about the car itself because all Renault has done is announce what it will be called.

We know it's a replacement for the Kadjar so it's going to be a compact SUV. We also know it will sit in Renault's new E-Tech range - alongside the Arkana hybrid and the new all-electric Megane – so it's a safe assumption electricity will be involved somehow. We know it's 4.51m long and can comfortably carry five people. Renault has also said the actual car will be unveiled in spring 2022, so at least we don't have to wait too long to see what it might look like.

And that's pretty much it on the car.

So, Renault has chosen to explain how the names are derived instead

And the level of detail is actually quite staggering.

You'd be right to think that names are chosen to conjure up emotions in the hope it will sell more cars. Renault used to just use numbers to designate its cars, but those days are gone. Names like Espace and Clio almost become more well-known than the badge they wear, and clever advertising campaigns can sear those names into the public consciousness. At least, that is the aim of people like Sylvia Dos Santos, Model-naming Strategy Manager for Renault.

Derived from the Latin word ‘australis', according to Sylvia, “Austral conjures up the vibrancy and heat of the southern hemisphere and extends an invitation to explore, which makes it an ideal fit for an SUV. The word is built around a harmonious balance of sounds that are easy to pronounce by people all around the world, giving it a truly international feel.”

Sounds simple, but the name you hear when a vehicle is launched is actually the result of many years of research to achieve the right balance between the new vehicle's name, identity, and target market.

Apparently there are three main ways of finding a name

The first option is to bring back an iconic name to link the brand's past with its future. Renault has just done exactly that with the new electric Megane that will go on sale early next year, but it's a common option for all the manufacturers.

The second option is to choose one of the many names from the growing list of names trademarked by Renault. To give you some idea of how many names might be on that list, and how long they may sit there unused - The Renault Austral we're talking about right now will be unveiled in 2022. Renault trademarked the name Austral in 2005, it's just taken 17 years to get around to attaching it to a car.

The third option is to sit around and brainstorm new names, but honestly, if you've got that many names already trademarked it sounds like that happens quite a lot anyway.

An initial list with dozens of names is gradually whittled down based on a battery of legal, linguistic, and cultural “litmus tests” performed in all countries where the vehicle will be sold - probably to avoid those little quirks of language that saw Toyota executives back in the 1950s briefly consider the name “Toyolet”, until someone remembered some of their customers might speak English. Ultimately, three names are shortlisted and submitted to the executive managers and the CEO, who has the final say on the name.

And this time, the name that came out on top for the new SUV was Austral.

So, we can't tell you very much about the Renault Austral, but if the same amount of attention to detail goes into the car as into the naming process, it should be worth considering if you're looking to lease a new car next year.

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