Badge engineering in India : Cars from different brands that look similar

There are plenty of cars from different brands that look surprisingly similar. While it may tickle the inquisitive brain, the reason is simple. It is because in most cases, they are basically the same vehicle sold under the name of two different brands. It is done through a process called badge engineering. It is a rebadging mechanism that applies the badge of a new brand and markets the product as a newly released model of that brand. There are obvious reasons of this process which is followed by certain advantages and disadvantages-

  • Badging has different levels. While the first level is only about the logo change, second level would mean minor modifications to style and interior and the third level would mean there is mechanical intervention in the model.
  • Badging comes with an obvious advantage. A new model development takes a lot of designing and manufacturing costs. Hence, it is easy and cheap to redo the manufactured design with minor stylistic add-ons. It saves a lot of investment in the production of a brand new design.
  • While this is good for a certain amount of sale, excessively continuing the process would mean a decline in the manufacturer’s sale. As the new models need different dealership circuits, it would increase the selling cost. Also, if the marketing goes wrong for these models, these cars will not be identified as separate by its customers. Hence, one of these models may suffer heavily and things can turn really bad for the manufacturer.
  • Renault duster is a car that has striking similarity with Nissan Terrano. The duster costs a lakh less than Terrano because of Nissan’s stylistic enhancements. As duster is positioned lower, the brand value of Nissan demands more money from the customer.
  • Another of such rebadged pair is the Tata Indica and CityRover. Tata Indica, a common car on Indian roads, was very popular in Britain too between 2003 and 2005. Only it roamed the streets under the brand of Rover in the UK. CityRover although did not fare well in the Auto Express list, it was deemed as reliable by the reliability index and was a surprise entry in the reliable cars category.
  • Similar cases are there with Nissan Micra and Renault Pulse. Here too, Nissan is positioned higher than Renault because of the young age of the market. While in foreign countries. The sporty cars are deemed as high valued than their sober alternatives. It is exactly the opposite here. Pulse with more aggressive look, automatic headlights and overall better designed is surprisingly cheaper by a 40,000 rupees.
  • Another common example is the Matiz model from the Korean company Daweoo and the Chevrolet Spark. Spark is basically second generation Matiz as GM took over the company Daweoo later on. Of course, spark misses out on the round headlamps and their beauty, but still has a name in the list of entry-level cars.
  • The partnership of Renault with Mahindra and Mahindra led to the launch of Logan in 2007. Although it was a flop and was taken off from the market, it was later relaunched with small alternations in style.
  • Skoda Rapid and Volkswagen Vento are two other models having a strange badge engineering connection. Although the lower models of rapid are cheaper, the higher models of rapid are more expensive than Volkswagen. Sadly, poor business of Volkswagen in India continues because of the similar identity. It is also because of rapid’s features and looks with different dark colours that posit Skoda ahead of Volkswagen. Skoda comes with a price that is one lakh lesser than Volkswagen in this case, hence Volkswagen is failing in the Indian market.
  • The Subaru forester is a rare car even when it was sold in between 2004 and 2007. It is actually sold as Chevrolet Forester now after its rebaging and has a much better compatibility with more ruggedness. With poor marketing, bad designing it was already out of favour. Once the Subaru roots were known, things were too late to heal and the model was taken off.
  • A classic example of such rebadging is the premier Padmini. It was completely based on Fiat 1100 and was in the market during a long period of 36 years, from 1964 to 2000. Although the Fiat model existed initially, 1973 saw the model being sold as Premier Padmini. The sale declined after Maruti Suzuki offering better cars.
  • The oldest of the classic Indian cars, Hindustan Ambassador, was a model taken right out of Morris Oxford Series III which was in production from 1956 to 1959. A British car through and through, this model contributed a lot to the design of ambassador. The legendary car that continued its production for 46 years from 1958 to 2014 is a historical case of badge engineering.

·         While there are many such cases, a study of models through history shows that badge engineering is not a recent process that has come up as a new marketing strategy. Rather, the idea of Ambassador and Padmini being sold in India as rebadging of British cars show that it has been a continued tradition. Although it is clearly seen that success is not always guaranteed, it is more often than not a decent business that helps to curb expense and big investment more often than not.

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