How a man came up with a lot of car names: ‘Even let me get locked in cars’ | NOW

Manfred Gotta is a master at coming up with car names. Mégane, Smart, Twingo, Vectra, Cayenne, Panamera: they were all created by him. But how does he do it?

His company is located in a historic half-timbered house in the Black Forest. Because Manfred Gotta, who came up with resounding names for several car manufacturers, believes that “atmosphere is important for creation”. The 74-year-old German has not only created several car names with his company Gotta Brands, he is also not afraid of names for detergents, furniture or cat food.

Gotta started coming up with car names in the second half of the 1980s, after working in advertising. It was a period when many car manufacturers abandoned cold numbers as type designations and chose a word instead of a combination of numbers on the tailgate.

His big breakthrough came with the name Vectra for Opel. “Out of financial necessity, I came up with the idea of ​​writing a book about building brand images, and it sold out in a flash. Then Opel called, where my name was doing the rounds.”

“Arrogant as I was, I put a hefty price tag on coming up with a new car name: 45,000 German marks.”

The call would prove to be a turning point in Gotta’s career. “Opel was working feverishly on the development of a successor to the Ascona. Because that car was to usher in a new era, the management wanted a new name. However, it was not ‘so said, done’. Arrogant as I was, there was a spicy price tag : 45,000 German marks. The offer was initially not honored because it was too high. But apparently Opel felt the pressure to come up with a name in time.”

He must keep his legs stiff. “A month later, I still got the assignment,” he says with a laugh. His fee at that time was high for just a name. But Gotta kept his word and came up with a fantasy name that signals novelty and arouses interest: Vectra.

More and more people in the car industry heard that Gotta was good at coming up with product names. Following Opel’s lead, Renault was knocking on his door. It led to his probably most famous feat of arms: the creation of the name Twingo.

Manfred Gotta is now 74 years old.

Manfred Gotta is now 74 years old.

Manfred Gotta is now 74 years old.

‘Sometimes we test three hundred names’

Gotta had already discovered during his work as an account manager at an advertising agency that he is good at coming up with names for products. ”It starts with listening: what does the customer want? What kind of business should we come up with a name for? What kind of culture is there? A company is made up of people; we sometimes forget that. So we have to click, build a relationship.”

A team then sets about the creation: about twenty employees who come up with ideas. Must: ”We combine all possible letters using the computer and we discuss in groups. Then comes a long process where sometimes as many as three hundred names are tested. A name must sound good everywhere in the world. On the one hand, it must polarize, but at the same time not provoke aggression. And he shouldn’t mean anything inappropriate. That way, only the striking names remain.”

“A name must sound good all over the world. On the one hand, it must polarize, but at the same time not provoke aggression.”

It is also important to visualize the selected names, says Gotta. Therefore, he often wrote such a name with chalk on a blackboard and asked the employees for an answer. He also wanted to see the car in question as early as possible. Then I walk around the car. Check out the headlights, the grille, the face. For me, a car has a soul. I let myself get caught up in it. That’s how I absorb the scent, I feel the materials.”

‘This profession always requires innovation’

Gotta not only came up with dozens of model names like Panamera and Cayenne (Porsche), but also model names like Smart (for Daimler-Benz) and Xedos (for Mazda). Sometimes he was also tasked with coming up with the name of a gearbox, such as Tiptronic (Porsche) and Sensonic (Saab).

The German favors fantasy names instead of existing boy or girl names. He also condemns modern designations such as E-tron (turd in French) – while Audi uses the name for its electric models. And he finds it incomprehensible that expensive mistakes are made with trivial type names, such as with the Toyota MR2 (cagesaka poo in French) and the Mitsubishi Pajero (Spanish for masturbation).

“Isn’t it scary to call a truly innovative product AXR?”

Gotta is now officially retired. He now mainly leaves the work to his son, who now has power over the company. But he can’t help but get involved every now and then.

“The interesting thing about this profession is that it always demands innovation. My challenge is to set new standards every time. I like companies that dare to stick their necks out. Because it’s scary to call a truly innovative product AXR” Is it not creative poverty?”

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