Mercedes-Benz said in its press conference at the New York auto show that it was changing the name of its SUV lineup. In this case, the SUV formerly known as the "ML" is now called the GLE.
All models will now carry a "G" in their name as a respectful nod to its legendary G-Class. The full name will be a combination of three letters, with the "G" always followed by an "L." The third letter designates the model's place in the SUV line-up.
Here's a quick guide to the new Mercedes SUV names:
- GLA = A-Class segment
- GLC = C-Class segment; formerly GLK
- GLE = E-Class segment; formerly M-Class
- GLE Coupe = E-Class Coupe segment
- GLS = S-Class segment; formerly GL
The long-lived, military-derived G-Class gets to stand on its own. Elder statesmen have privileges, you know.
However, the ML has been a steady seller for Mercedes since the 1990s. Why risk the potential alienation of loyal customers with a confusing naming structure?
And are manufacturers well-served by switching things up? Look at Infiniti. Nissan built this brand from scratch, and eventually produced some honest street cred with the G-series sports sedans and coupes. We liked the G. A lot. In fact, the G37 was once a Consumer Reports Top Pick. Then the G was gone and replaced by the Q. Now, all Infinitis are a Q or QX. Good luck identifying them by name.
And over at Lincoln, all models except the Navigator begin with "MK." The problem is, consumers can struggle to tell the MKS from the MKZ with a casual glance.
Years ago Acura also changed it nomenclature from established marques like Integra, Legend, and Vigor to plain letters. It is debatable how that worked out.
But think about some of the most successful nameplates in the last 30 years or so: BMW 3 Series, Chevrolet Corvette, Ford F-150, Honda Accord, and Toyota Corolla. Do you think that any of these automakers would mess with such success?
Pity the Mercedes salespeople who have to spend their time explaining the new names. But, now you know.