Chinese carmaker Trumpchi mulls less political name

Trumpchi GS4 at the Detroit Auto Show Image copyright Getty Images

The name Trump is familiar to all Americans, but the name Trumpchi might not be.

Although it sounds eerily similar to the name of a certain sitting US president, it's actually a Chinese car-maker that hopes to start selling to American drivers in 2019.

The name, it insists, is merely a coincidence, and dates from 2010, well before Donald Trump embarked on his presidential campaign.

However, it's reported to be considering a rebrand for the US market, to something that sounds less political to American ears.

Trumpchi is the local brand of the GAC Group, a state-owned manufacturer operating out of Guangzhou that also makes cars for a number of international brands.

Earlier this year, the GAC Motor Design Director Zhang Fan told Reuters: "We saw people were laughing at this and took pictures looking only at this detail, and also put on Facebook or other websites.

"When we read all that feedback, we realised it might not be very positive promotion for the brand," he said.

Trump-branded everything

The president's name has been drawn into a number of disputes over names and intellectual property.

During the 2016 election campaign, a large number of Chinese companies put Mr Trump's name on their products without his permission, or the permission of his company.

Perhaps the most famous was Trump Toilets.

Image copyright Getty Images

Since then, Donald Trump's company the Trump Organization (which is being run by his children while he's in office) registered 38 trademarks in China in March and an additional nine in June, adding to roughly 70 it already owned.

This appears to be a mostly defensive move, aimed at stopping other organisations from using the name.

More broadly, intellectual property is a major bone of contention between the US and China.

In the case of Trumpchi, however, the name appears simply to be a translation spin-off from its Chinese name which is Chuanqi, which is a play on the word "legendary" and loosely translates as "spreading good fortune".

It first got international attention in at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show, where executives were reported to be taken aback by the reaction it got and talked about mulling a name change then.

Regardless of the name, the company hopes to put forward the first Chinese car that could break into the American market.

China is both the world's biggest market and its biggest manufacturer, turning out more than 24 million cars last year.

However, the great majority are sold domestically, and Chinese brands have struggled to gain a foothold in the US.

What's in a name?

If renaming a car company for a new market seems a little strange, perhaps it shouldn't.

Western companies have been rebranding for years when they set up shop in China.

The linguistic divide between Western languages and Chinese means that names are often nonsensical when they're translated.

So, they come up with names that at least sound neutral, or which might appeal to Chinese consumers.

Pampers, for example, is 帮宝适 or "bang bao shi", which means "helps make baby comfortable".

Car companies do it too.

BMW's Chinese name is 宝马, which transliterates as "treasure horse".

Trumpchi wouldn't be the first Chinese company to rebrand for a wider audience.

Chinese messaging app WeChat, for example, was rebranded from Weixin specifically to appeal to a more global audience, a move that helped it dramatically increase it's overseas user base.

More on this story