Why did Peugeot only have a problem with the Porsche 901?

I have questions, and sadly no answer

Most of us know that Porsche originally intended to have the 911 called the 901, in fact, a handful of early models were sold with 901 badges. But Peugeot made noise to Porsche about owning the rights to the number-zero-number (#0#) naming scheme as seen with the Peugeot 205, 406 and 108. So, as to cause no trouble, Porsche changed the 0 in the 901 to a 1 and the 911 name was born. Porsche went ahead and retroactively began to rename some of their other models as well such as the Porsche 904 (renamed the Carrera GTS) and the Porsche 906 (now called the Carrera 6). Porsche however did not go ahead to change the names of some of their race cars: like the Porsche 804, 907, 908 or 909. I assume because they were never intended to be sold to the public. But, why is it (as far as we know) that Peugeot only made this threat against Porsche?

Not an underpowered air cooled German race car (Photo by Dave Merrett on Flickr)

Not an underpowered air cooled German race car (Photo by Dave Merrett on Flickr)

History tells us that Peugeot were not the only ones using the number-zero-number naming scheme. In 1952, when BMW restarted automobile production after WW2, their first car was dubbed the BMW 501. BMW also had variants of the 501 which also had a number-zero-number naming scheme, the 502, 503 and the ever gorgeous 507. Maybe BMW could have gotten away with the 503 and 507 seeing as they were built in very small numbers and only in the USA. Or maybe they saw the 503 and thought hmmm that's an odd looking Facel Vega. Whatever the reason, BMW ditched this naming scheme after 1959, going with names that better reflected the engine size (eg 3200 CS). BMW did briefly encroach on another Peugeot naming tradition (number-zero-zero-number) with their 2002 shortly after, but has since switched to the current '#Series' naming tradition they're using to this day.

Not a German limousine concept

Not a German limousine concept

What else is interesting is that Peugeot has not used any of these names at all. BMW had the 501, 502, 503 and 507, while Peugeot used the remaining numbers: the 504, 505 and 508 (BMW did have a limo concept called the 505, but it never made production). As for Porsche's numbers, with the exception of the 908 race cars, Porsche and Peugeot never shared numbers.

Not a mid-engined, V8, Italian supercar (Photo by Ramiro Pianarosa on Unsplash)

Not a mid-engined, V8, Italian supercar (Photo by Ramiro Pianarosa on Unsplash)

And then in comes Ferrari. They had the Dino 206, 208 GT4, 308 GT4 and 308 GTB/GTS (and yes, Peugeot used all of these names.) Maybe the low sales numbers never brought up alarm. Maybe the fact that they also were known as the Dino, the GT4 or the GTB/GTS skirted them from problems. Or maybe Peugeot just knew Enzo would have ignored any letter they got from them if they confronted him. There's a lot of variables, but ever since the 308 GTB, Ferrari have not adopted a 'number-zero-number' name.

It really isn't clear as to what is going on with the Peugeot naming scheme and I am no legal expert or have any experience in trademark law. Evidently, Peugeot has made claim to it in the past, which Porsche acknowledges, did happen. Maybe Peugeot did send complaints to BMW and Ferrari. BMW probably didn't get this letter because they weren't able to pay for their P.O. Box and Enzo very likely just did not care. The fact that legal measures weren't called into enforce it, leaves me to believe that the trademark Peugeot claims was either: 1) only a gentleman's agreement, 2) only came into effect in the 60's and expired before the 70's, 3) only respected within the confines of France or 4) just a big lie.

As usual, with all mysteries, there must be an answer, even if only God and Peugeot alone knows why. What do you guys believe is the answer? Cause I surely don't know.

Join In

Comments (14)

  • How about Zastava 101? Never sold abroad as 101, but UK got 311, 313, 511, 513... eastern block got Zastava 1100/1300, France got Nogaro etc.

    I don't think that Peugeot considered Zastava as a threat :)

      10 months ago
  • Well, the answer is quite easy.

    Porsche wasn't as big as Peugeot back in the days. Therefore, it would have been easy for Peugeot to say "Hey, I don't like the way you guys number your cars" and Porsche to just agree on it. On the other hand, BMW was big enough to compete with Peugeot. Ferrari would have been the usual Ferrari, and I'm pretty sure if Peugeot asked them to change their naming process, Enzo Ferrari would have responded with a big F you.

      10 months ago
    • BMW at this time was nowhere near as large as Peugeot during the 50's. BMW was struggling to sell the thousands of 501's while Peugeot were selling 100's of thousands of 203's. I think it's more likely that the opposite may have been true, BMW...

      Read more
        10 months ago
    • Well, if we're talking about the 501 itself, yes you are right. However, Porsche introduced the 901 name in 1964, and by that time BMW was producing the New Class and the 700, which pretty much saved them from financial despair of the 50s. For...

      Read more
        10 months ago
  • I drive a 308. And when people ask me about my car, and I say I've got a 308, they always go like "Oh, its that crappy French hatchback?", and I always look offended "No, its an Italian mid-engined supercar!"

    Actualy, no. Its a 2013 1.6 petrol 308 hatch, and noone has ever mistaken it for Ferrari, or me - for a Ferrari owner.

      10 months ago
  • The 904 and 906 were actually called Carrera 4 and Carrera 6 to appease Peugeot. When the 907 and 908 came around Porsche's prototype racers were no longer road legal, so I guess the French didn't mind those. And the 804 was an F1 car so it doesn't even enter into it.

      10 months ago
  • Why did you leave out the most important information ?

    Peugeot is using this coding because the 0 is where the whole for the lever to start the engine was fitting.

    Porsche never needed to do that as they started post WW2

      10 months ago
    • a) I've never heard this before

      b) None of the images I saw of the 201 (the first to use the naming scheme) had the badge anywhere near the hole

        10 months ago
    • Ok, after a little more research I saw that this was done on the second generation of Peugeot #0# cars. The -02 series. While it is a neat design feature, I believe the name came first, deciding to position it at the crank hole came after. It's a...

      Read more
        10 months ago
14