By on March 20, 2009

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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28 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: Sub-Brands?...”


  • avatar
    wsn

    These are not intended for foreign buyers. Instead, I guess they will sell higher-trim rebadged Chery cars under these brands and let these new brands become the new mainstream cars. The existing brand design and logo aesthetics are too bad for Chery.

  • avatar
    wsn

    Oh, you forgot to mention Infiniti.

  • avatar
    analyst

    This is a disaster, really a shame for a Chinese car company that was seemingly going to the right direction. Hopefully Chery has someone listening to feedback and hopefully reading this and correct this mistake.

    These new brand names sound terrible and the logos look like too derivative (Riich = Bentley, Karry = Ford, Rely = Infiniti). They should definitively fire whoever came with the names which sound horrible in English and the logos too. If they have ambitions of expanding out of China; they’ll have to scrap these and hire foreign consultants to come up with better names and logos.

    What a HUGE disappointment.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    I’m pretty sure the near luxury brand that they are going after is Infiniti.

    MINI made huge sense since BMW could not make a FWD BMW, but couldn’t really make a practical RWD MINI sized four seat car.

    I think Scion makes sense, at least in theory. Toyota has a lot of freaky variations of its compact car platforms in Japan, and Scion allowed it to bring some of those variations over while still playing it safe with the vanilla versions of those platforms under the Toyota badge.

    The Japanese Luxury brands make sense for Toyota and Nissan because they offer very different dealership experiences, and because the luxury brands have full lineups.

    Acura makes no sense anymore, less than Scion.

  • avatar

    A majority of people don’t know that BMW is behind MINI. MINI does not also have a marketing path to get folks out of MINI’s and into BMW’s, it’s not the same market.

    I always thought SCION made sense too, offering cheaper, economical products without diluting or hurting the main brand image, but because of their unabashed association with the Toyota parent company, it helps them.

    And Acura is pretty meaningless like no_slushbox says. They really need to take that brand seriously.

    But with the Chinese here… I really do love how unashamed and obvious they are with their knock-offs and cloning of products & brands. Hey, they can do whatever they damn well please in Communism land, and no one can touch them!

  • avatar
    wsn

    I would say that’s more capitalistic than the funding and taxing AIG bonuses.

  • avatar
    AKM

    Cute to see how marketing and branding emerges. Cute and laughable now, ferocious 10 years from now.

  • avatar
    carguy

    There has been too much focus on the badge and brand – the success of sub-branding depends on the product. In the case of Mini and Lexus the products were well planned and a hit with the target demographic. With some other attempts such as Mazda’s Eunos – not so much.

    If the Chinese makers think they can escape their brands bad reputation without the required engineering effort then they will fail. As with everything, the brand encapsulates the product values but the product ultimately defines how the brand is perceived.

  • avatar
    Paul W

    Back in the day, the Japanese went to Germany and America to watch and learn from what was regarded as the best car manufacturing countries at the time. Then they asked themselves: “how can we improve the manufacturing methods and make even better cars?”.

    The Chinese on the other hand seem to have asked themselves: “how can we cheapen our manufacturing methods and make a quick buck?”.

    The rip-offs they get away with keep boggles the mind.

  • avatar
    menno

    Wow, that’s rich…

    (sorry, gang; I just couldn’t resist)

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    My favorite sub-brander is British Leyland. In the 70’s, virtually every name plate in the portfolio was a sub-brand. Mini, Allegro, Marina, Princess, Vanden Plas, and so on. Why, I don’t know, but there it is.

  • avatar
    moedaman

    “My favorite sub-brander is British Leyland. In the 70’s, virtually every name plate in the portfolio was a sub-brand. Mini, Allegro, Marina, Princess, Vanden Plas, and so on. Why, I don’t know, but there it is.”

    Actually they were sub-par brands.

  • avatar
    PickupMan

    Change the Rich plate’s letter from an R to a C and you could have the new Chrysler wings…

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    I will, without sending an invoice, proffer some counseling to Chery, given that their main market here is very likely to be China, to begin with.

    (And I shudder to think at the number of hours of discussions, brain fermenting, focus grouping and general groping that went into those two abominations, but that’s besides the point.)

    From the fine people at OneStopEnglish, much used by Chinese students. It appears those two brand names are wading right into this one:

    Advice an suggestions of how to help students overcome the confusion between L and R.

    I am teaching some Japanese and Chinese adults English and as you may know, one of their main problems is the pronunciation of the L and sometimes the R, especially in combination, e.g words like recently, relief, related, clearly, celebrate, learn, etc. You can hardly hear the difference in L and R. We are working on that, but I would like to know: how can I practice this in a nice/funny way, instead of just repeating the words or putting them in sentences?

    I was thinking along the lines of a poem or limerick with L or R words that they have to repeat / learn by heart. I know some in my own language, which is Dutch, but I don’t know any in English. The only one I know in English is: she sells seashells at the seashore. Do you know any of those with L or L/R words? (The L is more of a problem than the R) Or would you perhaps know a game which we could do, involving as many L and/or R words as possible?”

    Aletta Blaise
    It’s interesting that you call this a vocabulary problem. It’s most often thought of as a pronunciation problem, but of course you’re quite right: it is also a vocabulary problem because it can prevent learners making effective use of vocabulary they know, and trap them into saying different words from the ones they intend.

    One well-known English tongue twister with L and R is: “Red lorry, yellow lorry”. Try repeating that thirty times at high speed! There are also variations on this, such as “Red lolly, green lolly”. If learners want to have a go at these, then of course they can, by all means. But the trouble with tongue twisters is that even native speakers find them tricky – that’s the whole point, after all! – and some learners might just find them demotivating. So I’d also suggest making use of some short phrases and sentences which do include the problem sounds but which are less tricky than tongue-twisters – e.g.:

    Do you read a lot?
    I’m really grateful
    They’re clearly related
    I’m nearly ready
    Do you feel all right?
    You can always rely on Leroy
    I was last in a relay race
    O’Reilly and Leary
    Kerry or Kelly?

    The French Revolution

    In fact, they can easily make these up themselves, perhaps including vocabulary they are currently learning (there’s another good L/R phrase: ‘currently learning’!) and then learn them by heart and practice them whenever they have a spare moment.

    Limericks are also quite easy to make up – especially if you aren’t too fussy about quality! Here’s one I’ve just invented, including quite a few Ls and Rs:

    There was an old man from the Rhine
    Who failed to walk in a straight line
    To the left and the right
    He lurched through the night
    After drinking a barrel of wine

    The stresses should be on the underlined syllables – one or two of them are a bit unnatural, but that’s normal with limericks!

    ===

    Let me highlight this: especially if you aren’t too fussy about quality!
    Should be “just like home” for Chery, that.

  • avatar
    Martin B

    China’s Chery motors decided
    That its brand names, although derided,
    Of Riich and Rely
    Were really rather fly,
    And would get the consumers excited.

    (OMG, that’s awful, even if you aren’t too fussy about quality.)

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Stein X Leikanger –

    My wife is Asian and has the R/L problem. It seems a paradox to me that she can make the sounds correctly, but will almost always do it at exactly the wrong time. IOW, she makes perfect L sounds when should should make R sounds, and vice versa.

    After 30 years I haven’t really found anything that helps much. The only partial success I’ve had is in getting her to understand that if her tounge isn’t touching her teeth, she can’t possibly be making an L sound.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    @Dynamic88

    The reason is that when she grew up, she didn’t have occasion to distinguish between those two sounds, and therefore didn’t develop the instant “motor skills” required to move the tongue accordingly. And if you have to think about it, you get it wrong.

    No shame in it – but really something that Chery should have thought of, methinks.

    I come from a culture where we tend to substitute the W-sound for V, in English. Saying Whykings instead of Vikings, for instance.
    Similarly, we often use d instead of the fricative th, in words such as the.
    You’ll hear many Norwegians say De Whykings, when in Minnesota.

    :-)

  • avatar
    Lokki

    Try this one:

    Larry very rarely really loves….

    They really hated this one when I was teaching in Japan…

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    Where will Chely sell the Lery and the Leech?

    :-)

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Scion makes sense (I own a Gen 1 xB). The brand offers no-haggle pricing and lots of customizing opportunities that the mainstream Toyota/Lexus does not.

    The stale tC is losing relevance, and the Gen 2 xB is way overbloated – so Scion is in jeopardy if they don’t return to their 2004 roots.

    Lexus has always made sense.

    Acura has nearly lost it.

    Mercury should have died in 1980.

    GM doesn’t have too many brands; it just has too many models. Each brand could be distinguished from the other, but rebadging has always threatened that concept.

  • avatar
    Rev Junkie

    I guess you can’t really blame the Chinese for ripping off nearly all of their automotive designs, logos and even names, like Chery’s A3. Look at what happens when Chinese car companies try to be original. Just Google “Geely GT Concept” and you’ll know what I mean.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    Interestingly, both the Koreans and the Japanese have at times presented the world with very fine brand names from their own languages — but the Chinese seem to be mining English for theirs.

  • avatar
    50merc

    “Rely” will work OK as long as shoppers don’t assume it’s the new Reliant.

    For those who know nothing about Model A’s: in those days hubcaps really were hub caps; they just covered the wheel’s hub. Hubcaps tended to get banged up against curbs, loosen and fall off, etc. A company wanted a piece of the large market for replacement genuine Ford hubcaps. It made hubcaps that appeared to be just like the ligit caps with the famous Ford script (still used today in the blue oval). But when you looked closely, you saw the word was “Fool.”

  • avatar
    analyst

    @Rev Junkie :

    Most of Chery and Brilliance’s new cars are pretty decent. Also check out the concepts from Beijing Auto (700R, 800).

    The Geely GT wasn’t bad either. Just the grille was a bit overdone and the proportions seemed a bit off. But tt was actually light years ahead of their laughable past efforts.

  • avatar

    @ Martin B:

    The makers of China’s new Riich
    Soon encountered a copyright hiitch;
    With great indignation
    Bentley claimed defamation
    And sued, proving payback’s a biitch.

  • avatar
    mcs

    I’m not sure if I’d use the brand name Rely. It’s been used before. Several women died in 1980 because of the product and it was pulled from the market. Consumers probably wouldn’t remember, but personally I wouldn’t risk it.

    They really need to hire a US marketing firm before picking a name for the US.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    A branch brand won’t hold up without a trunk.

    First, you have to be a consistently successful brand. If not, you don’t know how to make a brand work, so starting a second is just stupid.

    Second, knowing what you have proven you know, you figure out what strengths you have that could allow you to expand into another brand successfully.

    Third, execute.

    It’s a three step process, and you can fail at any point. Failing at the first one should get you fired by your stockholders.

  • avatar

    But, the Chinese already have some great brand names!

    Flying Pigeon!

    Rong Wei!

    Clustering Bee!

    Take advantage of the existing classics, I say.

    Bah. Who are we kidding. Our upcoming new Chinese autos will be called “Buick”.

    And in another 25 years, us ‘muricans will all be in Flying Pigeons and liking it (all made in The Greater North America Free Trade Protectorate, of course).

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