Blog: Dave LeggettFiesta swerve to Verve?

Dave Leggett | 28 August 2007

What’s in a name? When it comes to model names it’s interesting to reflect on how some names stick around for a very long time and generate a certain level of brand equity in their own right.

The debate going on inside Ford over the use of the Fiesta nameplate in Europe for the next Fiesta replacement is another of those big decisions that Ford seems to periodically wrestle with.

A model name change can send out an important message: it’s an explicit break with the past. When Sierra replaced the long running Cortina nameplate in 1982 that change suited a model that was, at the time, a revolutionary design in its segment. But the jelly-mould Ford Sierra wasn’t exactly a raging success so replacing that name with Mondeo in 1993 was probably not going to be a huge debating point.

As it turned out, Mondeo was a raging success, so retaining that name in Europe – even for the latest model – probably makes sense. It’s debateable though. The conservatives will say that the historical nameplate associations reinforce the model in the market. The supporters of a change will counter that those same associations work against taking the model to a new constituency of customers or repositioning the Ford brand’s presence and image in a key segment of the market.

What about replacing Fiesta with Verve? Tough one. Fiesta has been around a long time – since 1977 – and ‘Ford Fiesta’ rolls very easily off the tongue. Plenty of people will prefer to play safe and not mess with the name.

But the same could have been said of the old Ford Escort. The name change to Focus in 1998 helped build a totally new image for Ford in the lower-medium segment of the European car market – Europe’s largest volume segment. The name change also accurately reflected a step-change on the product, with the new Focus widely lauded on its driving dynamics, quality and value.

It was a contrast with the tired old Escort and the name change reinforced that.

So, back to Fiesta. Stick with Fiesta or go for something else, like Verve? If the new model were really a step-change from what went before, as Focus was, I’d change the name. To stick with Fiesta would simply suggest that the latest in a long family line has arrived. Fiesta is, in short, a bit unexciting. I drove a Mark 1 myself a few decades ago. Practical and cheap to run. No fuss.

And subsequent Fiestas, though improved, have also been very practical and cheap to run. A new Ford Fiesta would always struggle to overcome preconceptions that it is capable but not exciting.

The supermini segment in Europe is intensely competitive. To stand out in Europe’s supermini segment, it takes something special. If the next Fiesta replacement really is special, like the Focus was in ’98, then a new name would surely do it justice.

And Ford could do with a new hit model that builds a successful, global and fresh sub-brand, just as Focus did. Verve could be it.

EXCLUSIVE: GERMANY/UK: Will Fiesta swerve to Verve?


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