We are in March 2003, at the Geneva Motor Show. At the Fiat booth, the Italian manufacturer is playing big.
With the introduction of their new city car, the Italians must make people forget about the Panda, the huge success of the 80s, which has been produced for almost a quarter of a century!
More versatile than the Seicento, more modern and comfortable than the Panda, the new one has modern lines and bears the Gingo name.
All set for Jingo
It is everywhere at the brand’s stand. Shiny cars are stormed by specialist journalists from all over the world, press kits distributed by the hundreds, and catalogs aimed at 700,000 expected visitors.
When representatives of the brand’s European press, along with journalists, attend a press conference dedicated to the launch of this Fiat Gingo, no one suspects for a moment a little drama going on behind the scenes.
A few aisles later, at the Renault booth, grimace soup.
In Renault, pills don’t work well. According to the French brand’s PR team, the Gingo’s name is too reminiscent of their own small city car, the Twingo.
In the middle of the show, while the leadership of the French manufacturer and the Italian manufacturer are united under one roof, a few dozen meters apart, the disassembly begins.
The Renault delegation goes to Fiat. The Italians are then informed of Renault’s “official dissatisfaction”.
We at Fiat take no offense at these remarks, the threat, if there was one, is taken lightly.
At Fiat we are active
At the end of the show, everyone gathered. Marketing is scheduled for the start of the school year in September, and until then, brand communication has one goal: to make Gingo known to the general public.
Throughout the summer, presentations of the car are planned throughout Europe. In France, while thousands of catalogs are being printed for outlets, the French subsidiary is betting on the big event Fiat is partnering with, the Tour de France.
Thirty gingos are mobilized and goodies are distributed by the thousands on the roadsides. For Fiat, the implications are huge, everyone should be able to identify the Gingo before the end of the summer.
Fiat and Renault, collision
This media coverage made the management of Renault flinch. Obviously, the episode of the Geneva Motor Show was not taken seriously by the Italians, who stubbornly call their city car Jingo.
For Renault, this is too much, it is unthinkable to have a direct competitor with such a close name. After consulting with the manufacturer’s legal department, the French went on the offensive.
Fiat argues that cars with this name have begun to go offline, catalogs, manuals, and advertising have already been printed and used. But the threat of a lengthy and costly legal battle is weighing on the Italian manufacturer.
“The biggest risk was losing that battle and being forced to change the name in a year or two or three, when there would already be hundreds of thousands of copies on the street.” explains the representative of Fiat.
Return of the panda
On July 28, Fiat said in a press release that the manufacturer plans to change the name “due to too much similarity with the name of the Renault Twingo model.” There is a month left before the first shipments to customers.
Fiat has two solutions: call a specialist agency to find an affordable name that is brand-aligned and verified by everyone. Or just go back to the name Panda.
In mid-August, at a time when the automotive industry is on holiday, Fiat chooses a name that is so lucky for a manufacturer: Panda.