Rebadging is a process where a consumer product is renamed without any changes -- except superficial alterations, usually limited to the product's logo (or its "badging") -- having been made to the product itself. The phenomena is most prevalent in two industries: automotive and computer hardware.

Automotive - Car manufacturers rebadge their products regularly. Usually, this is done when a company wants to relaunch its line of vehicles. If a new car can't be developed in time to revitalize the fleet, then auto companies go for the second-best thing: making an old car new again.

There are three types of car rebadging:

  1. Phasing out a make - Car makes disappear and reappear from decade to decade. Some models, however, outlive their original brand and persist under a new banner. When General Motors phased out the Geo line after the 1997 model year, the Tracker and the Metro we rebadged over to Chevrolet. (The hood ornament for the Metro briefly was the Geo logo, with a small Chevy bowtie superimposed at its center.)

    When DaimlerChrysler dropped the Plymouth nameplate -- also after the 2001 year -- all of the Plymouth cars were badged over to Chrysler (the Prowler and the PT Cruiser) or Dodge (the Neon).

  2. Importing an established vehicle into a new market - Unlike the above example, introducing a model into a new market may result in a change in the make or model name. Sometimes, language barriers make rebadging attractive; Chevrolet Impalas are sold under the name "Nuevo Astra" in Latin America, for instance.

    Sometimes, automotive corporations will avoid the stigma that comes with a foreign car company by rebranding imported models with a domestic nameplate, or even a market-specific nameplate. In 2004 or 2005, DaimlerChrysler will replace the Ram Van with a rebadged version of the Mercedes Vito.

  3. Rebranding auto parts - These days, most car companies are entwined in a set of complex alliances and corporate relationships with each other. These alliances have led to co-operative designs which incorporate features and parts from two (or more) manufacturers. That replacement part you got from your Ford dealership may have the Blue Oval on it, but it's quite possible it came from a Mazda plant.

Computer hardware - The rebadging of computer hardware is usually limited to peripherals: hard drives, modems and their ilk. This process can lead to problems, however, if you need to update the drivers and/or firmware for a rebadged component. If a modem (for example) has been rebadged due to the sale or merger of the manufacturer (like the 3Com rebadging after the company bought US Robotics), there shouldn't be any trouble. If the component was rebadged by a mass-market computer manufacturer like Dell or Compaq, problems could arise with finding the correct upgrades.

The rebadging phenomenon also extends to complete notebook PC systems. Twinhead and Hong Kong's Clevo are among the many vendors that offer notebook systems to smaller computer companies specifically for rebadging. Orinoco provides wireless cards to Sony, Dell and others, and often have their cards rebadged. (Thanks to wertperch for the assist here.)

Though technically not "rebadging," as there is no physical swapping of logos, (and technically its not hardware either) software rebadging is rampant. The most obvious culprit here is Microsoft, who spent most of the early 1990s buying software systems and slapping MS tags at various places in the code. Microsoft also rebadges its proprietary code, repackaging Windows CE as Pocket PC in 2000.

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