ROWE_GRILLEcr.JPGHaving
lost out to Ford in its bid to win the rights to use the Rover marque,
China's largest carmaker SAIC has chosen “Roewe” as the name for its
first line of home-grown cars, which are derived from MG Rover models.

At first hear, Roewe sounds suspiciously like Rover. But don't let SAIC's brand designers hear you say that.

We
are supposed to be pronounce Roewe as “roo-eevee” which “includes
references to the Spanish word for lions” and to the English word “we,”
meaning “power of the masses”, according to this AP story. The Spanish for lions is “leones” so any references are pretty obscure ones.

Roewe apparently transcribes as “Rong Wei”
in Mandarin and stands for “honour” and prestige”, according to the
Daily Telegraph. Now, Rong Wei sounds like “Wrong Way” to English
speakers, which is likely to raise guffaws in the west — but not in
China which is after all, the principal market for Roewe, at least
initially.

As well as sounding like Rover, Roewe sounds
suspiciously similar to Loewe, another luxury western brand,
particularly when pronounced by Asian tongues that struggle to
differentiate between “l” and “r”.

Loewe, the Spanish maker of
luxury leather goods, has a few stores in China but I guess it will
have its work cut out convincing anyone that consumers are likely to
confuse a Roewe car with a Loewe handbag.

roverbonnet.jpgThe
shape, size and colour scheme for Roewe's badge (above) is also
suspiciously similar to Rover's. Roewe's consists of two lions rampant
combatant — as they say in heraldic circles — framed by a
red-and-black shield. Rover's badge (left) shows a Viking boat.

According to China Daily, SAIC will unveil its first Roewe-branded car on October 24.
Called the Grande Prestige, the new model is based on the Rover 75,
whose IPRs SAIC acquired from failed British carmaker MG Rover. It will
go on sale in China before year end.

The car industry has a long history of coming up with brands with unfortunate meanings in other languages. See the SnarkHunting blog for more.

SAIC's Rover saga was covered earlier on EngagingChina.

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