Same car, different label

A Mazda is really a Fiesta, a Proton is a Mitsubishi. What's happened to brand values?

The other day I discovered that my favourite designer tie is now available in a well-known high street store, wearing that well-known high street store's label. I'll now probably run into endless other guys wearing exactly the same piece of silk around their necks. Well, things could be worse, I thought. When I was told that their ties will have cost them half what I payed, I confess to being more peeved than surprised. We all know that designer labels have bigger mark-ups than high street store's own-brands. The greater exclusivity and "brand value" kids us into believing that such extravagance is worthwhile. Nonetheless there still seems to me something dishonest about two goods with different labels actually being one and the same. My BMW of ties is now re-badged as a Ford.

There a few marketing tricks unknown to the car industry, of course. Any business so adept at turning tin boxes into sex symbols (as the motor industry has done over the years and is now doing with renewed vigour in its advertising), cannot be regarded as anything other than shrewd. No surprise then that, when it comes to the tie-type trick, the car industry has been there before.

We British have been particularly exposed to it. BL's many different cars in the Sixties were invariably just a small pool of models wearing different disguises. Rileys were just Morrises which were just Austins. Just as, until recently, Rovers were just Hondas with more wood inside and a smarter grille.

But the same car/different label trick is now reaching almost epidemic proportions. And, just as with me and my tie, I suspect that the poor punter, who pays great heed to brand values, is being misled.

The most recent example is the new Mazda 121. The old 121 was an oddball little thing, made in Japan. Not many were sold in Britain but those who took the plunge, I'm told, were mostly very pleased. They no doubt valued the 121's made-in-Japan honesty and reliability, and its ease of operation. Mazda ownership promises (and usually delivers) a hassle-free relationship between company and customer.

No doubt those 121 owners, when it comes to the trade in, will first think of the new 121. They'll visit their Mazda dealer and be assured of the many virtues of the new model (not disingenuously either, for it's a good car). They they'll probably sign on the bottom line. I wonder how many Mazda salesmen will voluntarily admit that, in fact, they're buying a Ford? Designed by Ford, developed by Ford, and built by Ford (in Dagenham). The new 121, you see, is nothing more or less than a Ford Fiesta with different badges and minor changes. It's a clever move, by Mazda, to circumvent import restrictions on Japanese-made cars: being made in Britain, the new 121 is outside the quota. Ford, too, benefits: in effect, it's now making more Fiestas.

Ford is rather good at playing the this game. Its Ford Maverick 4x4 is a re-badged Nissan Terrano. The Ford Probe is a Mazda MX-6 coupe. The Ford Galaxy Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV) is the same as a Volkswagen Sharan, and the upcoming Seat Alhambra. That it is the best MPV is little consolation. At least when you buy a Renault Espace, you know that no non-Espace driver has one.

There are myriad other examples. The latest Rover 400 ("the best long distance ride on earth") is a Honda Civic 5-door . The Citroen Saxo, unveiled with much pomp and ceremony at the recent Geneva Show, is just a Peugeot 106 in drag. The Vauxhall Monterey 4x4 is an old Isuzu Trooper (not that it matters too much: nobody buys either). The new Citroen Synergie MPV is the same as a Peugeot 806 or a Fiat Ulysse. The heavily promoted new Daewoos, whose catchy ads are helping rack up impressive sales, are merely old Vauxhalls. Malaysian Protons are just old Mitsubishis.

Does any of this matter? Does the punter really care, as long as he gets a decent, reliable car? On the face of it: yes it does.

If you buy a Galaxy MPV, you've probably made a conscious decision to buy a Ford. Then you find out that your neighbour has just bought a Volkswagen Sharan and you're dismissive ("dour, stodgy Volkswagens. Look at the Beetle: what a joke! And besides they're German").

Then somebody tells you it's the same car. The only difference is that a little man in Portugal, where they're made, puts VW badges on some and Ford badges on the others. If all this doesn't matter, then brand values - a Holy Grail of marketing, a basic tenet of our capitalistic system - must be complete and utter baloney.

On second thoughts, brand values are often complete and utter baloney, determined either by history (which Henry Ford admitted was bunk) or by clever advertising. They often do not reflect the quality of the product. A Ford is just a car, just as a VW is a car, and just as a Daewoo is an old car.

Oh well, at least I know where to go shopping for ties next time.

Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

    £17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

    Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'