Last week was the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, one of the top trade shows in the automotive industry. The highlight of the show for car buffs was the new Ford GT, which I will try not to drool too much over its beauty and power. You can see below and hear for yourself.
If you have been reading at all about the industry, you may be aware of a perceived pivot by car manufacturers towards a collaborative approach among brands in developing and implementing new technology. First, there was Tesla’s claim to make its patents open source with Musk’s “All Our Patents Are Belong To You” blog post. Then Toyota at the Consumer Electronic Show offered to release its fuel cell patents in a similar manner.
But what we haven’t seen in awhile is a fight among car manufacturers over badges. This week CAR Magazine brought me just that – Audi and Fiat are fighting with one another over the Q2 and Q4 model names. As Aaron Keller pointed out in a post last year, sometimes it can be a little difficult to distinguish between two vehicles when their badges are removed.
German manufacturer Audi sells a line of Q-branded crossover vehicles including the Q3, Q5, Q7 (the Q7 starting around $48,300). Typically, in car badging, the smaller the number, the smaller the car relative to its fleet siblings. Other examples of this are the BMW 3-series, 5-series, 7-series; the Audi A4, A6, A8; and the Volvo S40, S60, S80. Of course the use of the Q badges is always with the four-ring logo, and an example of that use is shown here:
As consumers favor smaller utility vehicles over larger ones, brands have started to introduce smaller-numbered vehicles (for example, the BMW 1-series) to denote relative size in the fleet. So with that in mind, Audi wished to fill out its fleet with new, smaller concepts under the Q2 and Q4 badges.
Unfortunately for Audi, here Italian car manufacturer Fiat already has the Q2 registered as well as filings for the Q4 (including the stylized version shown below).
But Fiat’s own use of its Q-series marks poses questions…The Q2 and Q4 marks are used by different divisions of Fiat, which some may not recognize as actually being owned under the same umbrella. Q2 and Q4 have been used on Alfa Romeo hatchbacks such as the Alfa Romeo 159 sedan (about a $35,000 car when originally sold).
For Fiat, its Qs distinguish not between sizes of vehicles but drivetrains – much like QUATTRO indicates an all-wheel drive vehicle in the Audi fleet. The Q2 designates a front wheel drivetrain, while the Q4 designates an all-wheel drivetrain.
But current use of Q-series badges is not limited to a German auto manufacturer and an Italian one. There’s also the Q- line of sedans (Q40, Q50, Q70, etc.) from Infiniti, a division of Japanese automaker Nissan.
Do you think there is a likelihood of confusion among consumers for an Audi Q2 and Q4 in its crossover fleet in view of Fiat’s use?