Car News:  Oversteer

What Happens When Car Manufacturers Run Out of Numbers?

RELATED INVENTORY
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class 4MATIC Coupe
Used 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
$68,991
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class 4MATIC
Used 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
$46,385
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class 4MATIC
Used 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
$42,049
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class 4MATIC
Used 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class
$23,997
RELATED READING
See all Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG articles
RESEARCH BY MAKE
Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs
Acura cars, trucks and SUVs Alfa Romeo cars, trucks and SUVs AMC cars, trucks and SUVs Aston Martin cars, trucks and SUVs Audi cars, trucks and SUVs Bentley cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Bugatti cars, trucks and SUVs Buick cars, trucks and SUVs Cadillac cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Chrysler cars, trucks and SUVs Daewoo cars, trucks and SUVs Datsun cars, trucks and SUVs DeLorean cars, trucks and SUVs Dodge cars, trucks and SUVs Eagle cars, trucks and SUVs Ferrari cars, trucks and SUVs FIAT cars, trucks and SUVs Fisker cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Freightliner cars, trucks and SUVs Genesis cars, trucks and SUVs Geo cars, trucks and SUVs GMC cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs HUMMER cars, trucks and SUVs Hyundai cars, trucks and SUVs INFINITI cars, trucks and SUVs Isuzu cars, trucks and SUVs Jaguar cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Kia cars, trucks and SUVs Lamborghini cars, trucks and SUVs Land Rover cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Lincoln cars, trucks and SUVs Lotus cars, trucks and SUVs Maserati cars, trucks and SUVs Maybach cars, trucks and SUVs Mazda cars, trucks and SUVs McLaren cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs Mercury cars, trucks and SUVs MINI cars, trucks and SUVs Mitsubishi cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Oldsmobile cars, trucks and SUVs Plymouth cars, trucks and SUVs Pontiac cars, trucks and SUVs Porsche cars, trucks and SUVs RAM cars, trucks and SUVs Rolls-Royce cars, trucks and SUVs Saab cars, trucks and SUVs Saturn cars, trucks and SUVs Scion cars, trucks and SUVs smart cars, trucks and SUVs SRT cars, trucks and SUVs Subaru cars, trucks and SUVs Suzuki cars, trucks and SUVs Tesla cars, trucks and SUVs Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Volvo cars, trucks and SUVs Yugo cars, trucks and SUVs
RESEARCH BY STYLE
AWD/4WD
Commercial
Convertible
Coupe
Hatchback
Hybrid/Electric
Luxury
Sedan
SUV/Crossover
Truck
Van/Minivan
Wagon
ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Doug DeMuro March 2017

Hello, everyone, and welcome to your favorite part of Friday! It's Ask Doug, the best weekly part of Oversteer, where you write in your questions and Doug answers them -- sometimes humorously, sometimes angrily, but virtually always incorrectly.

As always, if you'd like to participate in Ask Doug, you can! Just send me an email with your question at OversteerDoug@gmail.com, and I will happily read your email and decide if you are worthy of being featured. If you aren't, I will print out your email and burn it as I cackle to myself.

Anyway! This week's email comes to us from a reader with a normal name, such as David, or possibly Roger -- however, you'll see in his letter that he requested a German nickname, so I've called him Hans. Hans (aka David or Roger) writes:

Hey Doug,

Quick question: What is going to happen when manufactures run out of numbers in their naming scheme? The closest one I can think to hitting the mark would be the Mercedes C63 AMG, which uses a 4.0-liter engine, mind you. The Germans, for obvious reasons, can't make a badge number go down because that would make the new car be perceived as worse. Are the last three iterations of the Mercedes C class going to be a C97, C98 and C99 -- all of which use the same 1.3-liter engine?

Lastly, I would prefer a German nickname.

Hans

For those of you who have no idea what Hans-David-Roger is talking about, here's what he means: For many years, each time the German luxury brands (or Lexus, frankly) came out with a new model, they bumped up the number on the vehicle to correspond with its larger engine. So the C220 became the C230 when it went from a 2.2- to a 2.3-liter engine, and then it became the C240, and then the C250, and now the C300. The 7 Series went from 733i to 740i to 750i. The Lexus RX went from RX 300 to RX 330 to RX 350. We could go on for days, here, but you get the point.

So the question is: What happens now?

Hans asks this because, for the first time in decades, car engines are getting smaller rather than larger. Everyone is going to turbochargers, now, so automakers are accomplishing the same performance now from a 3.0-liter turbocharged engine as they once were from a 4.0-liter naturally aspirated engine. But of course, nobody wants to go backward: If you have a C400, you don't want to buy a C300 when your lease is up. You'll feel less successful. You'll feel stupid. You'll feel like an idiot. You'll feel like your name is David RogerHans.

So what are car companies going to do? I'll tell you what they're going to do, Hansvid Davrog: They're going to stop making the numbers correspond to engine size. Instead, the numbers are simply going to correspond with the car's relative position in the model lineup, regardless of what engines everything has.

Mercedes is already doing this. The base-level car is the C300, even though it has a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. The mid-level model is the C400, even though it has a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6. And then the C450 uses the same turbocharged V6 as the C400, but with more power. In fact, it's a wonder automakers didn't do this earlier: round numbers -- like 320i, 330i and 340i -- are a lot more memorable than ever-changing weird numbers, like 318i, 323i, 325i, 328i, 330i, 335i. I mean, at that point, who even remembers what they're driving?

The real surprise here is that car companies didn't do this sooner. Regardless of whether engine sizes are increasing or decreasing, it makes no sense to change the name of your model every year simply because you gave your car 11 more horsepower and it now gets one more mile per gallon -- because it makes it harder for people to keep track of everything. I've had more than one non-car enthusiast tell me that they have a "BMW five something," without knowing the actual name of the car they're presently driving. Nobody has even made that mistake with a Buick Rendezvous. (With a Buick Rendezvous, they've made an entirely different mistake.)

So, Roger HansDavid, that's the reality of this situation. But you haven't touched on the most interesting one: Porsche.

As you all know, Porsche gives their cars a "code number" in addition to the model name: the 996, the 997, the 991. Although these numbers originally were only known by the automaker for production purposes, they've become something of a marketing tool -- so Porsche is careful to have them make sense. But they've sort of messed it up: They got to the end of the "9s" way too quickly. There was the original 911, and then they replaced it with the 964, which already put them in the latter half of the 900s. Then came the 993, and the 996, and by then they surely must've realized they were running out of space. So after the 997 came the 991, which is hilarious. They retreated from the end of the line like a coastal resident moving his house as the beach is slowly eroding in front of him.

More hilarious is what had to happen with the Boxster and Cayman. The original Boxster was the 986, and it was followed with the 987, and then the 981 -- 10 numbers below the 911. But Porsche apparently decided this was untenable, and the new Boxster and Cayman are called the "718." Now they have 200 digits of room to play around with before they start hitting other Porsche model numbers, such as 911 and 918. Which begs the question: Does the 718 name stick? Or do they rename the next generation model "719"?

I'm sure HaRoDa will be excited to find out.

 Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

MORE FROM OVERSTEER:
EarthRoamer Makes Amazing RVs out of Ford Super Duty Pickups
Was It a Mistake to Buy the Cheapest Acura NSX in the United States?
I Saw a Nissan Leaf Taxi Cab, and Now I'm Wondering... Why?

RELATED INVENTORY
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class 4MATIC Coupe
Used 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
$68,991
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class 4MATIC
Used 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
$46,385
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class 4MATIC
Used 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
$42,049
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class 4MATIC
Used 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class
$23,997
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
What Happens When Car Manufacturers Run Out of Numbers? - Autotrader