When it comes to "badge engineering" is there any benefit to buying a Honda over an Isuzu if the cars are basically the same vehicle?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 1998

Dear Tom and Ray:

I nearly got into an argument with a friend about "badge engineering." I know
the Honda Passport is the same as the Isuzu Rodeo. As far as I can tell, the
Honda and the Isuzu are identical except for three things: the nameplate, the
price (Honda costs more) and the warranty (Isuzu's is better). My friend insists
the Honda is made to a higher standard of some kind -- as if there's a Honda
coming down the Isuzu assembly line and the foreman yells out "Hey, Vinny, that
one's a Honda; give the bolts an extra twist!" I believe this is exactly what
Honda wants you to believe so you'll pay more and get less warranty. Do you guys
know the real story? -- Doug

RAY: Of course we do, Doug. They come down the same assembly line, have their
bolts twisted the same number of times, and, except for some cosmetic
differences, they're identical.

TOM: This is called "badge engineering," when one company takes another
company's car (to fill a perceived "hole" in its lineup), and simply slaps its
"badge" onto it. The Honda Passport is an Isuzu Rodeo in disguise.

RAY: This has been done for years; it's just more prevalent now. The Mazda B
Series pickup truck is a Ford Ranger with a Mazda sticker on it. The Chevy
Tracker is really a Suzuki Sidekick. And on the list goes.

TOM: In terms of price, shared vehicles tend to be priced pretty similarly.
Usually the company that actually makes the car (in this case, Isuzu), sells it
for a slightly lower price. But it is hard to really compare the prices because
the optional and standard equipment is rarely the same.

RAY: For instance, if you go to cars.com on the Web and look up the prices of
cheapest versions of each car, you'll find the Isuzu is about $4,000 cheaper.
"Wow!" you might say. "That's MUCH cheaper!" But when you look closely, you'll
notice that the Isuzu comes with a four cylinder engine, and the base Honda
version is only available with Isuzu's optional V6.

TOM: So you compare the base Isuzu with the V6 option to the base Honda, and
suddenly the difference is less than $2,000. "That's still a big difference,"
you say. But when you look carefully down the list of standard and optional
equipment, you'll find that for that $2,000, Honda throws in a bunch of stuff
that costs extra on the Isuzu; like air conditioning, power windows and locks,
and other gizmos. When it's all said and done, the prices are pretty similar,
with a slight advantage, as we said, to Isuzu, who makes this car.

RAY: When it comes to warranties, you're right that Isuzu's is better. When a
car company takes a car and "badges" it as its own, it almost always offers its
OWN warranty. In this case, Isuzu just happens to have a 60/60,000 power train
warranty, vs. 36/36,000 for Honda.

TOM: So which one should you get? In this case, if everything else is equal,
you'd save a little money and get a better warranty by buying the Isuzu. But all
things are not equal. And if you're the average American, you're probably much
closer to a Honda dealer than an Isuzu dealer. So in cases like this, we
recommend you ignore the badge and buy based on convenience.

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