For a list of vehicles that were badge-engineered, see List of badge-engineered vehicles.

Rebadging, sometimes called badge engineering, is the application of a different brand or trademark (badge, logo or manufacturer's name/marque) to an existing product (e.g., an automobile) and subsequently marketing the variant as a distinct product.[1][2] Due to the high cost of designing and engineering a new model or establishing a brand (which may take many years to gain acceptance), economies of scale make it less expensive [3] to rebadge a product once or multiple times than to create different models.

The term badge engineering is an ironic misnomer in that little or no actual engineering takes place.[4][5]

The term originated with the practice of replacing an automobile's emblems to create an ostensibly new model sold by a different maker. Changes may be confined to swapping badges and emblems, or may encompass minor styling differences, as with cosmetic differences to headlights, tail lights, front and rear fascias and outer body skins. More extreme examples involve differing engines and drivetrains. The term badge engineered does not apply to vehicles that share a common platform architecture but are uniquely designed so that they may look completely different from each other. This is achieved by not sharing visible parts, and maintaining a host of underlying parts specific to their respective applications.

Although platform sharing often involves rebadging, it also often extends much further than that, as an automobile platform may be used with many different applications; for example, using a single platform as the basis for sedan and sport utility vehicle model variations.

Rebadging in the automotive industry can be compared with white-label products in other consumer goods industries, such as consumer electronics and power tools.


The first case of badge engineering began in 1917 with the Texan automobile assembled in Fort Worth, Texas, that made use of Elcar bodies made in Elkhart, Indiana.[6][7]

"Probably the industry's first example of one car becoming another" occurred in 1926 when Nash Motors' newly introduced smaller-sized Ajax models were discontinued in 1926 after over 22,000 Ajax cars were sold during the brand's inaugural year.[8] The Chairman and CEO of the company, Charles W. Nash, ordered that the Ajax models be marketed as the "Nash Light Six", Nash being a known and respected automobile brand.[9] Production was stopped for two days so Nash emblems, hubcaps and radiator shells could be exchanged on all unshipped Ajax cars.[8] Conversion kits were also distributed at no charge to Ajax owners to transform their cars and protect the investment they had made in purchasing an automobile made by Nash.[10]

Starting with the beginning of General Motors in 1923, chassis and platforms were shared with all brands. GMC, which historically was a truck builder, began to offer their products branded as Chevrolet, and vehicles produced by GM were built on common platforms shared with Chevrolet, Buick, Oldsmobile and Cadillac. Exterior appearances were gradually upgraded between these vehicle brands.

A later example was Wolseley Motors after it was bought out by William Morris. After World War I, the "Wolseley started to lose its identity and eventually succumbed to badge engineering."[11] This was repeated with the consolidation of Austin Motor Company and the Nuffield Organisation (parent company of Morris) to form the British Motor Corporation. The rationalization of production to gain efficiencies "did not extend to marketing" and each "model was adapted, by variation in trim and accessories, to appeal to customer loyalties for whom the badge denoting the company of origin was an important selling advantage ... 'Badge Engineering', as it became known, was symptomatic of a policy of sales competition between the constituent organizations."[12]

Different types

Badge engineering often occurs when an individual manufacturer, such as General Motors, owns a portfolio of different brands, and markets the same car under a different brand. It may be done to expand the ranges of different brands in one market without developing completely new models, such as selling one car as a Chevrolet, a GMC and a Cadillac by GM in the United States; for example, the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon and the Cadillac Escalade. It may also be done to sell the same model in different regions and markets simply under a different name. For example, cars built by Daewoo, now owned by GM, are no longer badged as Daewoos. Instead, they are now badged as Chevrolets. Similarly, in Australia and New Zealand, where Daewoo was unsuccessful, they are now rebadged as Holden models. The Australian car manufacturing industry experienced major badge reengineering during the 1980s and 1990s as part of the failed Button car plan.

In Japan, Toyota, Nissan and Honda used this approach to expand vehicle production by offering one car at multiple Japanese dealerships. Toyota took the Corolla, which was exclusive to Toyota Corolla Store locations and sold it as the Toyota Sprinter, which was exclusive to Toyota Auto Store locations. Nissan followed suit with the Nissan Cedric, and sold an identical bodystyle of the Cedric, called the Nissan Gloria, and sold the Cedric at Nissan Bluebird Store, while the Gloria was sold at Nissan Prince Store. Honda also pursued this marketing approach with the Honda Accord, sold in 1984 at Honda Clio locations and sold it as the Honda Vigor at Honda Verno locations. The difference to this method as opposed to the North American and European implementation of selling one product under different brand names with minor changes to exterior bodywork is that the Japanese sold the same car under the same brand name, but with a different model name.

Another way badge engineering may occur is when two separate companies trade off products that each brand lacks in its lineup. A prime example of this would be the first-generation Honda Odyssey being rebadged as an Isuzu Oasis because Isuzu needed a minivan, while the Isuzu Rodeo was rebadged as the Honda Passport because Honda had the need for an SUV. Another example would include the Mitsubishi GTO/3000GT, that in the North American market, was sold as a Dodge Stealth.

Badge engineering may occur when one company allows another, otherwise unaffiliated, company to market a revised version of their product, as with Volkswagen marketing a re-skinned version of the Dodge Caravan or Chrysler Town and Country as the Volkswagen Routan, or the joint venture of Mitsubishi and Chrysler resulting in the short lived Diamond-Star Motors.

Two different automakers can also pool resources by operating a joint venture to create a product, then selling it each as their own. For instance, General Motors and Toyota formed NUMMI. The vehicles produced from this venture (though not necessarily at NUMMI itself) included the Toyota Sprinter/Chevrolet Prizm, and later the Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe. Another example was the cooperative work between Volkswagen and Ford to create the VW Sharan, Ford Galaxy and SEAT Alhambra.


General Motors used extensive re-engineering starting with the Chevrolet Caprice to produce more smaller and more efficient cars which retained the nameplates and brand equity of larger cars, effectively using the same name on an entirely new car.[13] An alternative strategy to give the impression of improving the efficiency of a new car without the expense of engineering changes was to move the badge of a larger car to a smaller vehicle, sometimes with mild styling changes, as nameplates such as the Ford LTD and Plymouth Fury were successively applied to smaller previously midsize and then compact platforms.

Luxury vehicles

Badge engineering occurs in the luxury-type market segments. An automobile manufacturer will use a model from its mainstream brand, upgrade it with more features, technology, luxury and/or style, then market it as a more expensive model under a premium marque. The luxury models may have more than just cosmetic differences; they may receive improved engines and drivetrains.

An example of this is that the Ford Motor Company took its well-known Ford Fusion, and sold it as the Lincoln MKZ, or the Ford Expedition being sold as the Lincoln Navigator. Another example is General Motors rebadging the Chevrolet Tahoe, a shorter version of the Suburban, as the Cadillac Escalade and GMC Yukon. An example of "Fake Prestige" was the Cygnet city car marketed by Aston Martin, with a price of more than $45,000 in its most basic version, but the vehicle was actually the Toyota iQ, and except for the Cygnet's special trim and special luggage set, sold for $17,000.[2][14][15]

The business strategy of Volkswagen is to standardize platforms, components, and technologies, thus improving the firm's profitability and growth.[16] For example, Audi uses components from their more pedestrian counterparts, sold as Volkswagen Group's mass market brands.[17] As an effort to place Audi as a "premium" marque, Volkswagen introduces new technologies in Audi-branded cars before fitting them to mainstream products (such as the Direct-Shift Gearbox). Nevertheless, Volkswagen uses platform sharing extensively. For example, the basic A platform underpins the Golf, Jetta, New Beetle, Audi TT and A3, SEAT Leon and Toledo, as well as the Škoda Octavia, while the "top end" D platform served the VW Phaeton and Bentley Continental GT in steel form, and the Audi A8 in aluminum form during the 2000s.[18]

Japanese carmakers have followed this practice of rebadging as well, such as Honda's Acura line, Nissan's Infiniti brand, and Toyota's Lexus marque, as the entry-level luxury models were based on their mainstream lineup. For example, the Lexus ES shares the drivetrain and is based on the same platform as the Toyota Camry[19] (and from the 2013 model year, on the stretched version used by the Avalon[20]); the Lexus LX is an upgraded rebadge of the Toyota Land Cruiser, and the Acura TSX is a rebadge of the JDM Honda Accord.

Problems and controversy

Although intended to save development costs by spreading design and research costs over several vehicles, excessive badge engineering can be problematic if not implemented properly. Having multiple car brands can greatly increase selling cost, as each brand must be marketed separately and often requires its own dealership network. Badge engineering can also hurt overall sales by resulting in "cannibalism" between two or more brands owned by the same company, by failing to develop a distinct image for each brand, or by allowing the failure of one version of a model to carry over to its rebadged "siblings." The failure of the short-lived Eagle brand sold by Chrysler is often attributed to it being crowded out by the company's other more established divisions and the failure to effectively incorporate the new marque into Chrysler's dealer network.

Origins of General Motors' badge engineering dates back to the early 1970s when the Chevrolet Nova compact was rebadged by the upscale Buick Apollo (Skylark after 1975), Oldsmobile (Omega), and Pontiac (Ventura II and Phoenix) divisions as entry-level cars. By the late 1970s, GM's downsized B-, C- and D-platform cars set the standard of the inevitable when badge engineering and platform sharing were fused together to trim excess production expenditures--similar-looking bodystyles with distinctive appearances which was a trend throughout the 1980s. This trend continued with subsequent platforms from the J-car to its redesigned front-wheel drive full-size sedans - later to include minivans, SUVs, and crossovers e.g. minivan versions of the GM10 platform (Lumina APV, Trans Sport, Silhouette) along with the Oldsmobile Bravada (an upscale variant of the S10 Blazer and Jimmy) which was a competitor to the upscale variants of the Explorer (Mercury Mountaineer, Lincoln Aviator) and Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee. The ill-received Cadillac Cimarron is one of the most widely cited examples of problems with badge engineering. The car was essentially identical to the Chevrolet Cavalier except for cosmetic differences, which resulted in poor sales, as the company found few buyers willing to pay nearly twice as much for a car that offered little more than the Cavalier. This resulted in damage to the Cadillac brand image. Other manufacturers have given badge-engineered cars distinct branding and style, high-quality interior materials, wide range of convenience features and performance powertrains, as these are key to distinguishing them from mass-market equivalents and making these appeal to consumers; successful luxury cars following this formula include the Lexus ES, Acura TL, and Audi A3.[21][22][23] For Toyota, "Camry's reliability and quality - and Lexus' dealership experience" helped the Lexus ES succeed in the market, but it reinforced negative connotations of Lexus vehicles being largely more upmarket Toyotas.[24]

The Lincoln Navigator, derived from the Ford Expedition, proved very successful. However, the Ford Explorer-based Lincoln Aviator failed. The fact that the Aviator was virtually identical to the Navigator in all regards but size made it difficult to generate attention among potential buyers, and the Mercury Mountaineer had already proved sufficient to cater to buyers wanting a slightly more upscale alternative to the Explorer.

As the U.S. entered into a recession, the Big Three automakers discontinued brand divisions as a cost-cutting measure. General Motors discontinued the Pontiac and Saturn models in 2010 (which was done earlier when the Oldsmobile brand disappeared in 2004), and Ford sold its Volvo division (which was previously a separate carmaker in its own right) to the Chinese manufacturer Geely Automobile (after it had sold its other luxury brands of Jaguar, Land Rover, and Aston Martin). Its Mercury brand was also phased out in December 2010.

In Indonesia, the Timor, derived from the South Korean Mazda 323-based Kia Sephia, proved very controversial. The fact that the Timor was not assembled in Indonesia, rather, it was imported completely built-up, stirred up annoyance among car companies, especially Toyota, which were producing many vehicles in the country.

Models produced under licence

A variant on rebadging is licensing models to be produced by other companies, typically in another country. One example of this is the British Hillman Hunter, which was license-built in Iran as the iconic Paykan, as well as Naza, building vehicles under license from Kia and Peugeot (Naza 206 Bestari).

Another example of licensed badge-engineered products would be the Volga Siber, a rebadged version of the Chrysler Sebring sedan and the Dodge Stratus sedan produced in Russia from 2008-2010.

See also


  1. Chambers, Cliff (4 November 2011). "What is badge engineering?". Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  2. 1 2 Fingleton, Eamonn (7 April 2013). "Same Car, Different Brand, Hugely Higher Price: Why Pay An Extra $30,000 For Fake Prestige?". Forbes. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  3. Sedgwick, David (4 August 2014). "Carmakers bet on big global platforms to cut costs". Automotive News. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  4. Orlove, Raphael (3 May 2014). "The Ten Best Examples Of Badge Engineering". Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  5. Martin, Murilee. "Badge Engineering". The Truth About Cars. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  6. Locke, William S. (2007). Elcar and pratt automobiles: the complete history. Mcfarland. p. 53. ISBN 9780786432547. Retrieved 26 August 2012. The Texas Motor Car Association had started building Elcars into their own Texan automobiles before the Great War
  7. Locke, p. 320. "The Texan automobile used Elcars with 'badge engineering'"
  8. 1 2 Kimes, Beverly R.; Clark, Jr., Henry A., eds. (1996). Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942. Krause Publications. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-87341-428-9. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  9. Lewis, Albert L.; Musciano, Walter A. (1977). Automobiles of the World. Simon and Schuster. p. 280. ISBN 978-0-671-22485-1.
  10. "Nash Motors cars, 1916 to 1954". Allpar com. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  11. Smith, Bill (2005). Armstrong Siddeley Motors: The Cars, the Company and the People in Definitive Detail. Veloce Publishing. p. 30. ISBN 978-1-904788-36-2.
  12. Church, Roy A. (2004). The rise and decline of the British motor industry. Cambridge University Press. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-521-55770-2.
  13. Chevrolet – the Story of a Global Brand Archived 3 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. Meiners, Jens (December 2009). "2011 Aston Martin Cygnet The only Aston with a CVT". Car and Driver. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  15. Estrada, Zac (10 January 2013). "The Aston Martin Cygnet Is Dead And Now We Want One". jalopnik. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  16. Seabaugh, Christian (20 December 2011). "Volkswagen Parts, Platform Sharing to Intensify Across Brands". Motor Trend. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
  17. Cunningham, Wayne (2 February 2012). "New platform brings Volkswagen and Audi models closer". CNET. Retrieved 1 September 2013. Volkswagen developed its MQB, or Modular Transverse Matrix, platform to improve manufacturing efficiency. Volkswagen, Audi, Seat, and Skoda models will be built on the MQB platform
  18. Csere, Csaba (June 2003). "Platform Sharing for Dummies". Car and Driver. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
  19. Elias, Mark (6 November 2012). "First Drive: 2013 Toyota Avalon [Review]". Left Lane News. Retrieved 24 November 2012. The new Avalon shares powertrains and platforms with its little sister, the Toyota Camry, and its cousin, the Lexus ES 350.
  20. Shenhar, Gabe (27 June 2012). "First drive: 2013 Le xus ES attempts to spice up its upscale sedan recipe". Consumer Reports. Retrieved 24 November 2013. For 2013, Toyota is bringing out a new iteration of its popular Lexus ES, that upscale relative of the Toyota Camry... Based on the rejuvenated and improved 2012 Camry platform, the ES350 remains about the same size but has added nearly two inches to the wheelbase.
  21. Frechette, Gerry (21 June 2010). "Test Drive: 2010 Audi A3 TDI -". Autos Canada. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
  22. Flammang, Jim (22 June 2005). "2006 Audi A3 Review". Retrieved 2 June 2013.
  23. Proudfoot, Dan (29 April 2010). "Audi luxury compact is ready for the future". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
  24. MacKenzie, Angus (November 2011). "The Big Picture: Saving Lexus - Toyota's luxury brand needs an overhaul". Motor Trend. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
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