China’s Chery motors has apparently decided that its fruity moniker isn’t strong enough to carry its market ambitions, and it has launched two sub-brands, creatively named Riich and Rely. Riich’s Bentley-aping winged “R” makes no secret of its premium brand ambitions, and China Car Times reports that the sub-brand will offer “technologically rich vehicles at a low price.” Rely looks to be more of a Buick or Volvo-style, entry-luxury brand. Perhaps Chery would like consumers to think of its sub-brand as “reliable”? From the US-market perspective, these branding exercises are quite crude. Not only do they closely copy existing brand imagery (did I mention that the Riich badge looks like Bentley’s?), but their names are also overly literal. So it’s not likely that these two brands will lead Chery’s charge into the global market, but their presence begs a question that cuts to the heart of automotive marketing: are sub-brands ever a good idea? Or are they just usually poorly executed? For every Lexus or MINI which show that major OEMs can branch out of their core competency, there are two Merkurs or Scions warning how pear-shaped branding exercises can get. The fall of the house of General Motors proves that too many brands can be bad juju, but are there niches for brands out there that haven’t been considered? Or do niche vehicles strengthen mainstream brands rather than distract them?
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