A marque (French for "brand"; pronEng|ˈmɑrk) is a brand name, especially in the automobile industry. For example, "Chevrolet" and "Pontiac" are marques of their "maker", General Motors (GM). A company may have many marques: GM has used more than a dozen in the North American market alone.


There are huge economies of scale in the automobile industry. A larger company can develop and produce vehicles much more economically than a smaller concern. Product development, in particular, benefits from these economies; research and development costs can be spread out further, and contribute less to the cost of a vehicle. These savings can be passed on to the purchaser, or increase the profit margin of the manufacturer.

Because of these economies, the industry has a long history of consolidation. As a result, only a few companies worldwide produce cars in any great number. However, the number of marques has not reduced to anywhere near this degree. The reason is that automobiles are not purchased solely for utility; they are as much an article of fashion as clothing. Manufacturers therefore maintain marques (brands of automobile) even after consolidation, to serve differing segments of the market. While individual car models come and go, and even model names change over time, the marque remains constant. Manufacturers try to give each marque a distinct image and message; success or failure depends on how successfully this is done and how well it corresponds to customer desires.

Marque differentiation does, however, conflict with the manufacturer's desire for those economies of scale. A successful balance must be maintained between the desire for commonality with the economy it brings, and the differentiation necessary for customers to perceive difference between marques. At the extreme, the only difference between two marques from the same manufacturer is the name placed on it; marque differentiation in only surface cosmetic detail is known, somewhat pejoratively as badge engineering. Sometimes, such practices erode brand equity severely, while in other cases, the brands are strong enough that consumers do not distinguish a similarity.

Marques have also often developed halo vehicles — specialized desirable vehicles which they hope will cast a positive image on the marque as a whole. The Chevrolet Corvette, and the Bugatti Veyron are excellent examples. Occasionally, manufacturers have created single vehicle marques for special vehicles.


One extreme case of this problem came with Mazda's launch of three new marques in the Japan market in the early 1990s - Autozam, Efini, and Eunos. Mazda had hoped to capitalize on the Japanese car consumer's desire for differentiated vehicles, by selling the same few vehicles under five or more model and marque combinations. There were no fewer than 27 different versions of the Mazda Capella alone. This caused consumer confusion, and it hurt the brand, because resources (and consumer attention) were spread too thinly.


The American launch of the Acura, Lexus, and Infiniti marques were more successful. In these cases, the Japanese parent companies felt that it would be difficult to move upmarket (where vehicles are sold with higher profit margins) under their original names (Honda, Toyota, and Nissan respectively). All three luxury marques are now very successful and profitable.

Brand equity

Each year, "BusinessWeek" publishes its 100 Best Global Brands study, ranking the financial value of brands. Following are the automobile marques, ranked by this study for 2005.


ee also

* Automaker
* Car dealership and multimarque (independent) distributor.
* Car model
* List of automobile manufacturers
* List of automobile model and marque oddities
* General Motors Companion Make Program

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