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You call it Jaguar; I call it Lincoln . . . How to choose between automotive cousins

Some call them clones; others refer to automotive corporate cousins as nonidentical twins. Whatever term they use, they're referring to models from the same company that resemble each other, except for the division's brand name and price tag. It's less expensive for auto manufacturers to produce parts in bulk and share them than to build separate components for their various brand names. Ford and Mercury, for example, are under the same corporate umbrella, and their Taurus and Sable four-doors are among the company's twins.

Other cousins include luxury sedans from Jaguar and Lincoln, both subsidiaries of Ford. Jaguar sells its S-Type sedan for $44,895--almost $10,000 more than the Lincoln LS. The models are distinct in styling and performance, but they share the same platform and five-speed transmission.

At Nissan, the Maxima shares components with the bestselling Altima, which is slightly smaller and costs $9,650 less. And at Volkswagen, the Passat can be considered a lower-priced and less luxurious version of a stablemate, the Audi A4, at a savings of $2,500. Both German-built cars offer an all-wheel drive system or front-wheel drive.

While it's tempting to opt for a lower-priced version, keep in mind that resale values can differ. For example, the Sable costs more than the Taurus but has a lower trade-in value, so before you buy, compare the purchase price, features, warranties and anticipated resale values.

Editor and consultant Jill Amadio has been reporting on the automotive industry for 26 years.

This story appears in the May 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »