Brand Name as Turbocharger: Chrysler SRT Name Review

In general I’m not a fan of initialisms in product and company naming. Unless they form real words (acronyms), they usually convey nothing at first blush and they make the customer work too hard. Of course, if you’re a world-renowned brand like AT&T, IBM, or BMW, it doesn’t matter that no one remembers what your initials stand for (American Telephone & Telegraph Corporation, International Business Machines, and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG). Or that they were adopted as a convenience, after your original brand name was well-established. The initials become the brand. But if you’re a new brand struggling to emerge, hitching your star to a bunch of initials can be risky business.

Which brings me to the initialism that recently caught my eye. SRT is Chrysler‘s initialism for “Street and Racing Technology”, and it’s been around since 2003. It started as a high-performance badge Chrysler bestowed on certain models of its Dodge Viper roadster, RAM truck, Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger sedans, and even some entry-level Neons.

Now Chrysler has shifted gears and elevated SRT from a model descriptor to an exclusive brand (drivesrt.com), in the tradition of BMW’s prestigious “M” brand (where M stands for Motorsport.) All of Chrysler’s SRT models will have V8 (or V10!) engines, performance brakes, and 900-watt Harman Kardon stereo systems (among other high-end components). The 2012 lineup consists of the Chrysler 300 SRT8, the Dodge Charger SRT8, Challenger SRT8 392, and Viper SRT10, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8—and it has taken to the road for various car events.

So what kind of traction are those three little letters likely to get for the line (and Chrysler)?

On the plus side, the fact the name already has some va-va-vroom equity is a good thing. And the term “Street and Racing Technology” deftly spans a lineup ranging from sedans to racing cars. Also, as letters go, the sounds of these three convey appropriate associations for the brand (the long sibilant “S” evokes smooth, gliding motion; the “T,” precision.)

On the other hand, the name’s hardly memorable. The reference to “street and racing technology” will soon fade into oblivion. And when it does, the name will become just one more alphabet soup brand (like the Mercedes AMG line). Of course by then the brand may have acquired enough cachet that the name won’t matter, as with its prestigious German brethren.

In the meantime, the clunky model naming conventions for this brand could use a tune-up. Who wants to brag about owning a Dodge Challenger SRT8 392?

Overall Grade: B-

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