Pump the brakes! Audi e-tron name review


Audi has had a few electric versions of their existing models for a while, using the descriptor “e-tron” to designate electronic (e.g., the Audi A3 e-tron). But now, they are gearing up to offer an all new, all-electric SUV that is simply called the Audi e-tron. Now that the brake screeching noise has cleared out of my brain, I figured I would write a little bit about this name.

It’s easy to see what they hoped for. They hoped for a name that conveyed electric vehicle, and also sounded futuristic and maybe even hip. It wasn’t quite as easy to see how they arrived at e-tron because I got hung up on the movie/comic (Tron) for a while, but then I realized they took the word electronic (or just electron), kept it lowercase, and replaced a few letters with a hyphen. As a version descriptor, e-tron is debatably okay. But as the name of a new line of cars? Notwithstanding the confusion they may create by using it in different contexts, I think it was a mistake. Here’s why.

First, any crash test dummy will tell you that the “e-“ prefix feels very dated. E has signified electronic (in the digital sense) for a long time — a la eBay, eHarmony, eHow, and just plain email — and that’s a bad thing. Feels like they have thrown it into reverse with using an old, uncreative naming convention.

Second, using the hyphen is total bush league! It is meant to take the place of “lec” in electronic, but — permit me a schoolmarmish grouse here — that’s what apostrophes are supposed to do. And more unfortunately, hyphens are not sexy. If I ranked punctuation on how sexy it is, hyphens would not make the top five. They make the name seem cut-rate.

Third, it is a mistake that nothing is capitalized. It makes the name look weak and inelegant. I can get on board with non-capitalized names for, say, a coffee shop or shampoo — something that wants to be cute or quirky — but not an electric car, which needs to do everything it can to suggest power and strength (because as drivers will tell you, electric vehicles have a reputation for pretty wussy performance on the freeway.)

So, why didn’t they start an E Series to fit with the rest of their naming architecture? I think it’s simply because they had been going with e-tron as a descriptor for a while and thought that it carried some cachet. But, how much better would an alphanumeric have been! The Audi E1 or Audi E3 would have been intuitive, elegant, and powerful.

Not to be a back seat driver, they still could have done much better even if they didn’t want to start an E Series. Just playing with the word electronic, I would have preferred the Audi Elect, the Audi Tronic, or the Audi Lectro better than the Audi e-tron. At least those have capital letters in them.

Yes, a lot of consumers’ draw towards one car or another has to do with the brand. You’re a Toyota person, or you’re a Ford person, etc. Audi has always relied on the strength of the Audi name, and not on model names, so the e-tron line will be protected because it will always be yoked to Audi. However, with electric vehicles, I think automotive brand allegiance doesn’t carry the same weight. It’s a different ball game (after all, one of the market leaders is Tesla, which has never made combustion cars). As a result, Audi should have been much more careful with picking the name of their electric vehicle.

Not to be a back seat driver, but just playing with the word electronic, I would have preferred the Audi Elect, the Audi Tronic, or the Audi Lectro better than the Audi e-tron. At least those have capital letters in them.


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