Question of the Day: Is Badge Engineering Ever Good?

Illustration for article titled Question of the Day: Is Badge Engineering Ever Good?

In the early 1970s, GM created versions of the Chevrolet Nova for practically all of its brands, spelling out N-O-V-A in the variants' names: Nova, Omega (Oldsmobile), Ventura (Pontiac), Apollo (Buick). It was downhill from there, as that strategy (minus the name scheme) turned each of the brands' lineups into virtual clones of each others' by the 1980s. It was no different at Ford and Mercury and Dodge and Plymouth and Chrysler, all of the Big Three attempting to benefit from economies of scale during one of the most difficult periods in the companies' histories. These days, we call such sharing badge engineering, or (in extreme cases) badge prostitution. We assume it's always bad, but is that accurate? Was there ever a case of a car company creating truly unique products or boosting its brand image by way of swapping models? Discuss.

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[via Bill's Nova SS page]

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DISCUSSION

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A lot of it has to do with the quality of the vehicle in the first place. Put whatever emblem you want to on the grill, it has to be desirable on some level (or better yet, levels) to sell in the first place.

One example of a good platform being sabotaged (and I think this is where badge prostitution is apt) was the Chevy Trailblazer. GMC, Isuzu, Buick and even Saab all got a piece of this, and I think more harm was done than good. I remember thinking of the entire exercise as a pretty big indicator of hubris on GM's part. Really, the consumer isn't smart enough to see 5 versions of the same SUV and blindly think that we've been blessed with all this variety?

Look at the interior of the Saab 9-X; sure they put the ignition in the right place but if you can ignore that and cover the Saab emblem on the steering wheel, it's an unmistakable GM interior, down to the chintzy fake wood and tupperware dash material. Just to see that as an answer to the American automotive industry's state (even back then) didn't instill much confidence.