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(Badge Engineering) Why make 2 identical cars under different names?

For example, Ford Fairmont vs. Mercury Zephyr
What was the point of that?

Real or imagined difference in features. Largely imagined in US brandmates. That’s why GM has folded so many marques.

GMC and Chevrolet still produce similar vehicles with different badges, I am looking at a new truck for work actually, and I tend towards the GMC over the similar Chevrolet, why, just a hope the GMC is better than a chevrolet. I have not fact checked, but in my 1 mind there is no difference, but then in mind 2 GMC is better. Like I have the time to research the specifics, I will probably go with GMC.

It is economical to manufacture one vehecle with cometic differences that both Ford and (then) Mercury dealers could sell. Dodge and Plymouth were usually seperate dealers but offered the same vehicles also.

So that a mechanically identical car can be styled to appeal to more then one group of people.

Saves a company from designing 140 different individual models, right or wrong. There is different looks with badge eng so someone who would not buy a (yawn) Mercury would buy a Ford.
The only car that I know of that was perfectly identicle except for badges were the Dodge Omni Plymouth Horizon sedans. Others had different grilles etc.

Barkeydog - your comments are exactly what GM wants. Identical vehicles, but different perceptions in the marketplace.

Making two or more identical vehicles under different labels has often meant the demise of one of the makes. Back in 1957, the junior Desoto was really a Dodge, while the senior DeSoto was basically a Chrysler. By 1961, no more DeSoto. The lower level 1958 Edsels were essentially the larger Ford Fairlane, while the the upper level Edsels were downsized Mercurys. By 1959, the Edsel was a glorified Ford Fairlane and by 1960, no more Edsels. IMHO, the strength of GM through the 1960s was the differences among the makes offered. For example, in 1950, Chevrolet offered an overhead valve splash lubricated 6 with torque tube drive. The Pontiac offered a pressure lubricated flathead inline engine with either 6 or 8 cylinders andhad an open driveshaft. The Oldsmobile offered a pressure lubricated flathead inline 6 different than the Pontiac engine and an overhead valve V-8. The Oldsmobiles all had an open driveshaft. The Buick engine was a pressure lubricated overhead valve inline 8 and the Buick had torque tube drive. The Cadillac had an overhead valve V-8 and an open driveshaft. Chevrolet and Buick had automatic transmissions that had torque converters and did not shift. The Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Cadillac had a fluid coupling backed up by a 4 speed automatic transmission. The nameplates were all different. Each division developed its own overhead valve V-8 engine by the mid 1950s and these engines didn’t interchange. When the GM nameplates became rebadged versions of each other in the late 1970s, the same thing happend to Pontiac and Oldsmobile that happened to DeSoto and Edsel 20 years earlier.
Even Chevrolet and GMC pickup truck engines were different in through the 1950s. In 1950, the inline overhead valve 6 engines of the Chevrolet and and GMC had different displacements. The 1955 Chevrolet V-8 pickup used the Chevrolet engine while the 1955 GMC V-8 engine was the Pontiac V-8. At one point in the 1960s, GMC offered a V-6 which wasn’t available in the Chevrolet. Now there is no difference and ultimately I would bet that one of the pickup labels won’t survive.

Its simple, people get branded. If someone wants a car like a Chevrolet Malibu but are branded to Buick, then GM puts some Buick badges and a little extra trim on a Malibu and voila, a sale.

Barkydog The GMC or Chevy difference is mostly looks and trim package. I have drove both and like the GMC SLT for the ride. If you can get the felx fule I would go with that. My couzin has one. If he keeps it under 70 with the cruze on he gets 22 mpg. Go over 70 and it 18 mpg. This is a 5.3 V8 4X4 EX Cab.

People generally remember the Colt as a Dodge (made by Mutsubushi), but there were a few years in the nineties where it was also sold by Plymouth dealers. It was confusingly marketed as both a ‘Dodge Colt’ and a ‘Plymouth Colt’. It just had ‘Colt’ on the car. That’s the only case I know of that particular confusion. Previously, Plymouth had subtly restyled, renamed Colts to sell. Remember the ‘Plymouth Champ?’ Neither does anyone else, so Chrysler Plymouth just gave up and let tbem have the Colt.

The Mercury versions of Fords were about the most obviously brand engineered of the last twenty years, with nothing more than grilles and lights to distinguish them. Mercury gradually lost its identity so by the sixties it was just a way for Lincoln dealers to sell a full line of cars (becoming Lincoln-Mercury dealers), but keeping Fords separate. Mustn’t have grubby Ford customers mixing with the Lincoln clientele (pronounced French-style.) As Mercury had effectively no customers, they didn’t matter.

Dont forget that the rear windows were different shaped on the Taurus and sable,one winner in the rebadge game was Isuzu,who required GM to give them 25000 vehicles to sell under thier badge in exchange for not marketing thier trucks in the US doesnt sound like a lot, but do the math(I dont think you would find a 2 yr old Hombre in one of thier fire sales either),also when Honda got the short end of the stick on the Passport and Isuzu won with the Oasis,Isuzu is pretty good at this type of thing,remember the Ascender?-Kevin (of course I’m referring to rebadging in general)

Back in the 70s when I worked in a Chrysler Plymouth dealership, one of the new vehicles that unloaded off the truck had Plymouth Valiant nameplates on one side of the car, and Dodge Dart nameplates on the other side of the car. Someone back in Detroit felt like pulling a good prank.

It’s all about perceptions, which–in all too many cases–are just plain wrong.

Many years ago, I knew an otherwise very intelligent man who bought a Dodge, rather than the mechanically-identical Plymouth, because “the Dodge is better-built and has thicker sheet metal”.
A few years ago, someone posted a question on this board about his problem-plagued Olds Bravada SUV, and was lamenting the fact that it was no better than the Chevy Blazer that he had owned previously. He said something along the lines of, “I bought the Olds because I knew that it was built so much better than a Chevy, but it has almost the same mechanical problems”.

Nowadays, people seem to be a bit more aware of badge engineering than they were many years ago, but as long as a company perceives that they can sell more cars in total by marketing the same design with two different badges, two different grills, and different tail lights, they will do it.

The Big 3 finally recognized that they were competing with themselves. Dealers were trashing each other with discounts to outsell each other offering the same product.

The multiple branding of essentially the same car was a tactic to add more and more dealers. GM and Ford really wanted a lot of smaller dealers spread out into every nook and cranny of the country. Multiple brands means you had a Ford dealer, Mercury dealer, Buick, Olds, Chevy, and GMC dealer in just about every small town in the USA. More dealers meant the car makers sold more cars. Ford didn’t worry about the final sale to a customer. To Ford the sale was made when the car was delivered to the dealer.

Toyota really changed the marketing model. They set up one dealer in a larger town/city and let that dealer get really huge. Toyota resisted the American model of setting up more and more dealers. People had to drive further to get a Toyota, but eventually that’s what they did. When Ford and GM realized the huge dealer network was no longer an advantage but in fact was costly to maintain they followed the new Toyota model and cut back on brands and also cut off a lot of smaller, marginal, dealers.

" GMC and Chevrolet still produce similar vehicles with different badges, I am looking at a new truck for work actually, and I tend towards the GMC over the similar Chevrolet, why, just a hope the GMC is better than a chevrolet. "

Another consideration is the dealer that you’ll be working with on the purchase and service/warranty work. Some time ago I knew a guy who always bought The GMC because he liked the GMC dealer over the local Chevrolet dealer and he wanted “Truck People” working on his vehicle and not “Car People.”

In my little town the Chevrolet truck dealer is a Chevrolet and Buick dealer. The GMC dealer is GMC and Cadillac. Do the dealers have technicians who specialize in trucks ?
It does make sense to choose a dealer that is easier to work with and has a good reputation.

Was this guy onto something ? Could there be a difference in technicians who are trained to work on trucks and work on them almost exclusively, compared with a car technician who trains mainly on cars and works on an occasional truck ?


The reason this often happens is that car companies merge or get acquired. The merged organization then tries to maintain the customer bases of both brands (many people are brand loyal, and it was much more so in the '50s, 60s, and '70s) by keeping both names alive, but cut coosts by sharing platforms. Eventually, that can result in the same car sold under different names with only cosmetic differences.

Back in the 20s GM went crazy with brand differentiation, with multiple brands in between Chevy/Pontiac/Olds/Buick/Caddy. Oakland, Viking, and LaSalle were slipped in between.

Here’s a list of all of GM’s former brands from wiki (several are non-US brands):

(Note on dates: the dates below are the years each brand existed, which are not always the same as the dates they were part of GM.)

Welch (1903–1911)
Rainier (1905–1911)
Welch-Marquette (see Marquette)
Ewing (1908-1911)
Elmore (1909–1912)
Rapid Truck (1909–1912)
Reliance Truck (1909–1912)
Welch-Detroit (1910–1911)
Marquette (1912)
Peninsular (1912) (see Marquette)
Cartercar (1905–1915)
Samson Tractor (1917–1922)
Scripps-Booth (1912–1922)
Sheridan (1921–1922)
Marquette (1930)
Oakland (1907–1931)
Viking (1929–1931)
LaSalle (1927–1940)
McLaughlin (1918–1942)
Yellow Coach (1925–1943)
Beaumont (1966–1969)
Envoy (1960–1970)
Acadian (1962–1971)
Ranger (1968–1976)
General Motors Diesel Division (1938–1987)
Passport (1988–1991)
Asüna (1993–1995)
Geo (1989–1997)
Oldsmobile (1897–2004)
Pontiac (1926–2010)
Saturn (1990–2010)
Hummer (1992–2010)
Daewoo (1982–2011)

Another advantage of different names of essentially the same vehicle …
is the ease of production of the running chassis or ‘‘platform’’ of the vehicle which most times is EXACTLY identical when the trim panels are off.

Chassis wise ;
Ford Ranger -is- an Explorer / Mountaneer ( Mercury )… and Aerostar !
Taurus -is- Continental and Sable…and Windstar !
An Explorer SportTrak…is NOT an Explorer ( by then the chassis were different). It is a Ranger 4 door !
and the list goes on…