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Car and Driver: Age of Consent: Charting the Longevity of Automotive Nameplates

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2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE400 4MATIC

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE400 4MATIC

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From the January 2016 issue
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Last year was the end of the line for the Mercedes-Benz M-class. There’s no more GLK, either. Soon, the GL and the SLK will likewise disappear. Oh, the vehicles will still be around, but the badges are changing as Mercedes overhauls its naming convention. G-wagen aside, its SUVs are now GLs, keyed by size to the core C-, E-, and S-classes: The GLK is the GLC, the M is the GLE, and the GL will soon be the GLS. The SLK will become the SLC. Cadillac is about to make a similar change, and many in our office still use Infiniti’s old names. “QX70? That’s the FX, right?”

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But automakers risk forfeiting individual models’ brand equity in such scorched-earth renaming schemes. We tallied the age of every model on the market today to see who’s clinging to the oldest names. Also to determine if value correlates to dotage and the recognizability that comes with it. In many cases, it seems, there’s a premium associated with an old-money moniker.

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Our Own Arbitrary Rules

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Car names are often in use overseas prior to their arrival in the U.S. Nissan’s GT-R is one such example. But while a select group of nerds—usually including us—might be aware of a car’s existence abroad, we dated names to their debut on our shores and, to keep things simple, ignored any gaps in availability. In cases where a name first appeared as a trim level or option—such as Renegade, originally an option package on the Jeep CJ—we counted from the year it first appeared as a distinct model.

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Age of Consent: Charting the Longevity of Automotive Nameplates

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Age Distribution of Nameplates

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›› Sierra first appeared in GMC’s vocabulary as the Sierra Grande option package in 1972. By 1975, the base GMC pickup trim was the Sierra, with the Sierra Grande above that. Sierra was officially recognized as a full model name in 1988.

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›› Ford’s first Mustangs are commonly referred to as model-year “1964 1/2,” but check the VIN (or the title or any other official record of the car). The first Mustangs are all officially 1965 models.

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›› Years before the Odyssey and Pilot were prosaic Honda family haulers, they were insane off-road go-karts. The Odyssey made its debut in 1977 with a 250-cc two-stroke, upgraded to 350 cc in 1985, and was succeeded by the 400-cc Pilot in 1989. The Odyssey became a minivan for 1995 and the Pilot a crossover for 2003.

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›› The sixth-gen Toyota Corolla (1987–1992) was known internally as the E90, preceding the E90 BMW 3-series (2006–2013) by about a decade.

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