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No Wonder They Call It Branding

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If John Wayne were asked to mosey in to a design studio and help create a pickup truck, chances are he'd rustle up something like the Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn.

 

In a world of Honda Civics, Audi A4s and Ford Fusions, the Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn stands tall.

Stands tall, that is, among the Chevy Silverados, GMC Yukons, Jeep Wranglers and many, many more pickups, SUVs, CUVs and even minivans with names that conjure up ruggedness and spike the blood flowing through the heart of the manly American male with a shot of testosterone.

These rough-and-tumble handles hold the fort against an army of alphanumeric badges meant to evoke…who knows what? Perhaps the owner of an Acura ILX, or MDX, or RDX, or TL, or TSX, or ZDX, simply doesn't emotionally connect with his vehicle as does the owner of, say, a Dodge Durango.

A Western monicker, however, doesn't necessarily confer two-fisted swagger. A Ford F-150 Lariat or King Ranch “edition,” yes; a cute-as-a-bug Hyundai Santa Fe, not so much.  (Not to completely dismiss Asian auto makers who, when it comes to our aspirations toward Big Sky robustness, show they get it with badges such as Honda Ridgeline.)

But if John Wayne ever was asked to mosey in to a design studio and help create a pickup truck, chances are he'd rustle up something like the Laramie Longhorn.

A 2013 WardsAuto 10 Best Interiors winner, there’s nothing subtle about the Laramie’s alpha-dog appointments: more leather than a herd of, well, longhorns (a leather-care guide is included, to keep it looking nice); gauges with copper accents, a term that sounds somewhat girly in this context; filigreed metal strips on the dashboard and doors; a seatback pouch that looks like it belongs on a saddle and buckles shut to secure your spare Colt .45, or whatever; a leather-grain touchscreen background. This is a partial list.

Industry types sometimes refer to a vehicle’s interior as the cabin. With the Longhorn, it’s literal.

Western imagery in vehicle names over the years includes geographic locations (Chevy Tahoe, Chevy Colorado, GMC Sierra Denali, Dodge Dakota, Pontiac Montana); geographic features (Toyota Tundra, GMC Canyon); geographic phenomena (Chevy Avalanche); cities (Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sedona, Chevy C/K Scottsdale, Jeep Laredo, Chrysler Aspen); Native Americans (Jeep Cherokee, Jeep Comanche, Chevy C-10 Cheyenne); and animals (besides the aforementioned Longhorn, the Ford Mustang, Ford Bronco, Ford Maverick and, yup, Ford Pinto).

A Yosemite pickup is featured in the Grand Theft Auto video game. How did the auto makers let that badge get away?

By now you may be envisioning wide open spaces and humming “Don’t Fence Me In,” which you may not be doing with a GS, 200, LS, XC90, RAV4, iQ or MKZ.

Alphanumeric and non-iconic names such as Ford Flex, Jeep Compass and Toyota Avalon may dominate the vehicle-nomenclature landscape, but what jumps out in the course of our research is the underrepresentation of the Eastern U.S.    

A couplenames are easy to rattle off: Chrysler New Yorker, Chrysler Newport, Buick Park Avenue. Nary a pickup truck. There’s the Subaru Tribeca CUV, but as far as sense-of-place goes I suspect most Americans don’t know a Tribeca from a Traverse.

General Motors seemingly tries to reference the great outdoors by dubbing a GMC cross/utility the Acadia, but succeeds only in the sense that it shares its name with a national park in Maine not far from the easternmost point in the U.S.

One Eastern-location car name nails it, though: Dodge Daytona. It’s not a pickup, but you can pick up that testosterone buzz 2,000 miles southeast of Laramie.

jirwin@wardsauto.com

 

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Drew Winter

Drew Winter is Editor-in-Chief of WardsAuto World magazine and a Senior Editor at WardsAuto.com. He was won numerous awards for his work in both print and digital media and has been...

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is executive editor of WardsAuto World magazine, with an emphasis on technology and suppliers. He leads selection of the Ward’s 10 Best Engines and Ward’s 10 Best Interiors...
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