Automotive competition is fierce, with manufacturers battling to capture consumers' fancies and achieve segment leadership, even if dominance is short lived. Billions of dollars are invested each year to create bold new models that hopefully will fuel consumer passions and drive showroom traffic. A single successful breakthrough model can give a brand a critical image boost and generate interest in its other models.

In this big-money game, automakers have become increasingly adroit at maximizing their investment through platform sharing, also known as using a common architecture. With either term, the concept is the same: Sharing components and design among different models means vehicles can be more rapidly produced and cost-effectively improved. Automakers benefit from platform sharing in many ways-and so do consumers.

Just a few years ago, rebadging was an industry-wide method used to fill dealer lots and offer more choices to buyers. With rebadging, one brand renames and markets a vehicle from another brand with only minor branding alterations or strategic sheetmetal differences. For example, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon twins are differentiated essentially by trim details, allowing both brands to cost-effectively come to market with an exhaustive choice of pickup variants, offering regular, extended, and crew cab models, each available in 2WD and 4WD.

Mazda also has used this approach, applying its own sheetmetal to the Ford Ranger, subtly adapting the truck to its own brand design values. On its own, Mazda would have struggled to make a business case for developing a stand-alone pickup model given its projected sales volume.

The most-overt recent examples would be within GM's midsize range, where the retired Oldsmobile Bravada became the Buick Rainier, and the GMC Envoy is sold also as an Isuzu Ascender. These products feature minimal differentiation, with no sheetmetal changes.