QOTD: What's the Most Cynical Rebadge of All Time?

Doug DeMuro
by Doug DeMuro
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qotd what s the most cynical rebadge of all time

Today, we are going to talk about an automobile called the Chevrolet Voltz. Never heard of it? Few have. That’s because it was one of the most bizarre and unusual rebadges of our entire automotive lives.

Here’s what happened: Toyota made both Matrix and Vibe at this factory located somewhere in Northern California. At some point, Toyota decided it liked the Vibe better (as we all did), so it snatched up some Vibes, converted them to right-hand drive, and sold them in Japan as the Toyota Voltz.

That’s right. The Vibe and Matrix were twins, but Toyota took the Pontiac version and sold it in Japan with a Toyota badge. They didn’t even change the Pontiac front grille – or the Pontiac emblem template, which remained on all the Toyotas when they sold them in Japan.

This is a pretty cynical rebadge. But I don’t think it’s anywhere near as cynical as some of the awful, inappropriate, horrible rebadges that have been forced on us over the years. So today I’m asking you: what’s the very worst rebadge you can think of?

There are some obvious answers here – like practically everything that came out of America in the ’70s and ’80s. So many different cars were literally just the exact same vehicle with different badges and – sometimes, but not always – different wheels, sold together under a different brand name just to try and convince as many possible people they were different vehicles. Don’t like the Oldsmobile Achieva? Here, try the Pontiac Grand Am!

If you go back through the long history of rebadging, you’ll find it very hard to name one that’s the absolute worst example – but a few attempts come to mind. There was, for example, the Chrysler “LH” cars, which included not just the Dodge Intrepid and Eagle Vision, but three different Chrysler versions – the New Yorker, the LHS, and the Concorde – all based on the same platform.

That was a bad time in Chrysler’s history, and they paid dearly for it later when the bankruptcy regulators came in and Chrysler told them, “Sorry, the reason we went bankrupt is because we have two platforms, one engine, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee.”

Although rebadges don’t happen as much anymore, there have still been some real whoppers in the last few years. Does anyone remember the Suzuki Equator, which was literally just a Nissan Frontier with a Suzuki badge inexplicably placed in front? How about the Volkswagen Routan, which was a mediocre minivan rebadged by an even more mediocre automaker and sold through its mediocre dealers? And then there’s the Nissan NV200, rebadged as the Chevy City Express, and sold to contractors whose cousin is the sales manager at Todd Johnson Chevy-GMC in suburban Fresno.

We also can’t forget some of the weakest 1990s rebadges. Remember the Honda Passport, which they tried to pawn off as a “Honda SUV” in the same vein as the Toyota 4Runner and Nissan Pathfinder? Remember the luxurious Acura SLX, which was a rebadged Isuzu Trooper? And then, do you remember what Isuzu got in return for these rebadges? The Oasis minivan, which was based on the original Honda Odyssey, with four opening doors, four cylinders, and zero interested buyers.

I personally think the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S are pretty stupid rebadges, too. The automotive community has spent the last two years debating which of these two cars is better, and I’m still trying to figure out how to tell them apart. C’mon, Subaru and Toyota. The least you could do is change the freakin’ wheels.

So I’ve clearly devoted several long minutes to thinking about this issue, and now it’s your turn. What do you think are the most cynical rebadges of all time? What can you not believe they actually thought the consumer would put up with?

Doug DeMuro
Doug DeMuro

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  • Wolfwagen I lived in Long Island and worked in Manhattan for several years. I had to drive as my job required me to also go to NJ, Westchester/Rockland Counties and Long Island, sometimes at a moment's notice. This applied to almost the entire office staff and our technicians. Congestion pricing is a tax if have to commute into the city. This is just going to raise costs on everything. The city is already starting to lose people including those that used to commute in including by train. Covid showed that you didn't need a floor (or several) to run your business. As NYC and NYS continue to raise taxes more people and businesses will flee. Hell even the NYSE was considering leaving.
  • Redapple2 No interest in HK products. Lexus/Toyota/Subaru/Honda are superior across most metrics. And have better resale.
  • Redapple2 Note to self. Seft, buy them already sorted.
  • ChristianWimmer A city which makes life for motorists hell is not worth living in. Here in eco-communist Europe the lefties are constantly talking about “improving our quality of life” - by getting rid of cars and making cities car-free. Sorry, but I despise public transportation and the weirdos you meet on it and prefer to take my car or my bicycle around the city. In the winter I only take my car.
  • Jwee What is wrong with taxing people twice? Gov't cost money, and it is the fairness of the taxation that matters most not the frequency of the toll booth. Personally, I rather they tax me less and the wealthy/corporations more, but someone has to pay. We used to tax the wealthy, but they have successfully lobbied so now we the people, pay interest to the wealthy on their low-taxed earnings, so that we can fund the government.