The Car You Want…for less?

Buying a car is not usually a thrilling experience, in fact it can be pretty painful and agonizing if your budget is tight! However, today we’ll talk about a nuance of the car industry which may make getting what you want… a little bit easier.

Badge engineering is a term which describes the production of one car to be marketed and sold as a number of different cars, under different marquees. This method of rebadging cars isn’t new or revolutionary at all, it’s actually been done for years, such as the 1958 Studebaker/Packard Hawk. But it does offer up one great big benefit – resale value. If a car is manufactured for two different companies, chances are that one has more prestige or quality associated with it – if this is the case, you should be able to get the mechanically identical counterpart for less… much, much less. Let’s take a look at a few late model and older examples.

vibematrixPontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix

The Matrix and Vibe hatchback wagons were developed at the NUMMI production plant in Fremont, California. The NUMMI plant is a joint venture between Toyota and GM to cut costs in vehicle production but jointly engineering vehicles. Both cars are mechanically identical, differing only in front fascia and other body panel designs. The Vibe and Matrix have received rave reviews by owners and still command a premium on the used car market due to reliability, fuel economy, and versatility. Both versions are available with plenty of options, including all-wheel-drive and a sporty six-speed transmission. If you’re looking to pick one up, go for the Pontiac. Although Pontiac is now a defunct marquee, any Toyota Service department will be able to service the vehicle and supply parts. Expect to see prices of used Vibes much lower than comparable Matrix’s. Why pay a premium for Toyota reliability?

saabaruSaab 9-2x/Subaru Imprezza

This one is slightly stranger than the Matrix/Vibe from above. Saab began struggling in the later part of the 20th century and was subsequently bought out by General Motors as a subsidiary franchise. In order to keep production costs down (GM already sank $125 million in the company) the Saab engineers were given a vehicle from another GM relative, Fuji Industries, the parent company of Subaru. Thus the Saab 9-2x was born, and aptly named the Saabaru by fans. Mechanically the Saabaru…erhm… the 9-2x shared it’s platform, engines, and drivetrain with the Imprezza WRX and STI. So if you’ve ever wanted a WRX but cant cough up the money for one, check out this rally-grade Saab 9-2x Aero. Like Pontiac, Saab is no longer with us, however Subaru Service departments will be able to take care of any 9-2x.

trollblazerSaab 9-7x/Chevrolet TrailBlazer/GMC Envoy

Yet again, GM gave Saab another badge engineered “bil” (Swedish for “car”). The 9-7x SUV was built in conjunction with the TrailBlazer and Envoy at GM’s Moraine Ohio plant. Like the other cars on this list, it is mechanically identical to its Chevy and GMC counterparts, aside from it’s distinctive front and rear fascia, lights, and interior. It comes with a straight-6, and two V-8 options (one being the Corvette’s 6.0 liter LS2). TrailBlazer’s and 9-7x’s of the same year differ about $1000 in price with similar mileage, but for an SUV that has the luxury look with the bargain maintenance – search no further than the 9-7x. All Chevy service department’s will know their way around this Swedish sport ute.

A few more…

Mazda Tribute/Ford Escape: The CUVs

Tribute holds a better resale value, has more options and trim levels. Buy the Ford, it’s significantly cheaper with less option frippery.

Eagle Talon TSi/Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX: The Small Sport Coupes

Mitsubishi badge holds a premium with prices much higher for the same car. Buy the Eagle, it’s slightly rarer than the Mitsubishi and who doesn’t want to own a car called…THE TALON.

Toyota Corolla/Chevy-Geo Prizm: The Small Sedans

Toyota reliability is great… until it inflates resale prices sky high. Make the smart choice and buy the Prizm. Yes its not a desirable badge, but it’s a Corolla in a plain white T-shirt and blue jeans.


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About zdoell

Graduate of Ithaca College, rowing coach, car fanatic.

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