Tuesday, January 26, 2010

This is the reason why badge engineering sucks, by Gavin Green

One of the most talked-about cars of the recent Detroit Show was a Chrysler Delta. It sounds like an elite US military unit. In fact it is an idiosyncratic little Italian hatch (a Lancia Delta) with a beaver-like American (Chrysler) grille.

Now there will be those who salute Chrysler’s boldness, by grabbing attention at a motor show in which it had absolutely nothing new (the ‘Chrysler’ Delta is just a concept). They grabbed headlines, certainly. Sergio Marchionne, boss of Fiat, new controller of Chrysler, and one of the boldest and most intelligent leaders in the car industry – Fiat now rocks – reckons that there are some parallels between Lancia and Chrysler (which may be true). Some journalists, whose opinions I normally covet, were nodding sagely, explaining that this is a clever and inexpensive way for cash-strapped Chrysler to launch new cars. (I always worry when car journalists sound more like accountants than enthusiasts.)

Nonsense! Badge engineering is always bad. It deceives the public, an insult to their discernment and intelligence. And it buggers the brand. Successful car nameplates always stand for something. What precisely does a brand (Chrysler) that slaps its badge on a quirky Italian hatchback (as well as on imposing and expansive saloons) stand for, apart from delivering low-cost convenience for itself?

Failing car companies badge engineer, because they cannot afford – or simply cannot – design decent cars for themselves. The bad boys of badge engineering were Rover/BL, GM and old-school Chrysler. You’ll notice they all have one thing in common. They went bankrupt.

Read full article here

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