Badge engineering is a practice whereby a 'new' product or service is created by renaming an old product or service, in a such a way that the audience
is not told of this; it originates from, and is most commonly used in reference to, the motor
industry. Outside the motor industry the term 'rebranding
' is often used instead. Although manufacturers try to dress the practice up in fancy marketing language, it is almost always a cost-saving measure, usually the result of a company owning several automotive brands
but lacking the finances to develop separate models.
Almost all car manufacturers have indulged in badge engineering at some point, and the practice is still common. It is not specific to a particular market sector - luxury cars have been badge-engineered as often as cheap hatchbacks, and manufacturers as diverse as Ford, Rolls-Royce, Toyota (whose luxury cars are called 'Lexus' outside Japan) and Volkswagen have been and, in some cases, continue to be ardent rebadgers.
In the UK, the British Leyland group was the most infamous proponent of badge engineering - at various points in its life, Alec Issigonis' Mini was available with an Austin, Riley, Wolseley, Morris, or Mini badge, whilst in the 1980s what was left of BL started selling slightly-modified versions of their mainstream saloons as MGs, before eventually churning out mildly-facelifted Hondas, some of which were Triumphs, some of which were Rovers.
Nowadays, Volkswagen are the undisputed masters of badge-engineering, although they call it 'platform sharing'. The Audi A3, Audi TT, Seat Leon, Volkswagen Bora, Skoda Octavia and the new Volkswagen Beetle are essentially Volkswagen Golf underpinnings with different bodyshells. The old Seat Ibiza and Volkswagen Lupo had different noses, but were otherwise identical.
One of the most curious examples of badge engineering is in the field of people carriers - Ford's Galaxy, Volkswagen's Sharan and Seat's Alhambra are literally the same vehicle, manufactured in a factory in Portugal and differentiated only by badges and trim level; whilst Peugeot's 806, Fiat's Ulysse and Citroën's Synergie are also identical.
In the posher end of the market, the Aston Martin DB7 is uncomfortably similar to the Jaguar XJ8 (both are based on the ancient Jaguar XJS chassis); as previously mentioned, all Lexuses are badged as Toyotas in Japan, whilst between the 1940s and the late 1980s, Bentleys were simply rebadged Rolls Royces, just as almost all Daimlers were Jaguars with slightly more wood.
Badge engineering is also ubiquitous in the computing/technology sectors, as OEM devices. Although not technically badge engineering, the practice of renaming a vessel, company or location due to negative press is very common indeed; famously, the Exxon Valdez became the Sea River Mediterranean, whilst in the UK Windscale became Sellafield (a change which proved futile). One exception to this trend was Union Carbide which, in the wake of the Bhopal emergency, courageously retained its title.