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

Doug DeMuro
by Doug DeMuro
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?

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  • Jim Bonham Full EVs are not for everyone, they cannot meet all needs. Hybrids do a much better job of providing the benefits of EVs without most of the drawbacks. I have a hybrid sedan with plenty of room, plus all the bells and whistles. It has 360 hp, AWD, does 0-60 in just over 5 sec.(the instant torque is a real benefit), and I get 29 mpg, average. NOT driven lightly. I bought it used for $25k.Sure, it's a little heavier because of the battery, motor, etc., but not nearly as much as a full EV. The battery is smaller/lighter/cheaper and both the alternator and starter motor are eliminated since the motor assumes those functions. It's cool to watch the charge guage show I'm getting energy back when coasting and/or braking. It's even cooler to drive around part of the time on battery only. It really comes in handy in traffic since the engine turns off and you don't waste fuel idling. With the adaptive cruise control you just let the car slowly inch along by itself.I only wish it were a Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV). Then, I'd have A LOT more EV-only range, along with even more of that instant torque. The battery would be bigger, but still a fraction of the size of a full EV. I could easily go weeks without using much, if any gas (depending upon my commute) IF I plug it in every night. But I don't have to. The gas engine will charge the battery whenever it's needed.It's just not as efficient a way to do it.Electric companies offer special rates for both EVs and PHEVs which lower your operating cost compared to gasoline. They'll even give you a rebate to offset the cost of installing a home charger. You can still get federal (up to $7,500, plus some state) tax credits for PHEVs.What's not to like? My next daily driver will be a PHEV of some kind. Probably a performance-oriented one like the new Dodge Hornet or one of the German Hybrid SUVs. All the benefits, sound, feel, etc., of a gas vehicle along with some electric assist to improve fuel economy, performance, and drivability. None of the inherent EV issues of cost, range anxiety, long charging times, poor charger availability, grid capacity issues, etc. I think most people will eventually catch on to this and go PHEV instead of going full EV. Synthetic, carbon-neutral eFuels, hydrogen engines, and other things will also prevent full EVs from being 100% of the fleet, regardless of what the politicians say. PHEVs can be as "clean" (overall) as full EVs with the right fuels. They're also cheaper, and far more practical, for most people. They can do it all, EVs can't.
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