By on August 21, 2018

Writing up a post about GM’s activities in Uzbekistan got us thinking about badge-engineered cars. Not just those produced by The General, although there are plenty of examples of those, but all of the just-different-enough models around the world.

What models immediately spring to your mind when someone starts talking about badge-engineering?

The lead image above gives away my answer. The front-drive A-body cars, new for 1982, were offered in just about all manner of GM’s flavors, from Chevy to Pontiac to Buick to Olds. Some lived longer than others, with the Celebrity being usurped by the Lumina in 1990, but with the Century soldiering on until 1996. An argument can be made that enough unique DNA was injected into each of the four to make them different enough, as the all-wheel-drive 6000 STE shown above is miles away from a bench-seat Cutlass Ciera.

Another bizarre chapter in GM’s badge-engineering was the Canadian experiment of the Asüna brand. The oddly-umlatted cars were a response to Pontiac-Buick-GMC dealers who cried foul foul because the Chev-Olds-Cadillac did big business with the import-fighting Geo brand. GM marketed three cars under this brand, one of which didn’t even have a name, just a trim — SE/GT. Oy.

The original Chevy Tracker must’ve been one of the most badge-engineered vehicles in the world, as its names included: Chevrolet Tracker, GMC Tracker, Geo Tracker, Asüna Sunrunner, Pontiac Sunrunner, and Suzuki Sidekick. And that’s not counting its variants in foreign markets. Unlike the A-body cars we mentioned, there was hardly a hair of difference between all these variants.

What models pop into your mind when the conversation turns to badge-engineered cars?

[Image: General Motors]

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58 Comments on “QOTD: Who Wins the Name Game?...”

  • avatar

    Chevy Nova. Olds Omega. Pontiac Ventura. Buick Apollo. N-O-V-A…Nova!

  • avatar

    I think the Isuzu Rodeo and Trooper might take the cake, everything from being an Isuzu Bighorn, to an Acura SLX, to a Holden Jackaroo, etc.

    It’s a bit beyond just badge engineering, but on the topic of Uzbek-made cars, until fairly recently you could still buy a new Daewoo Nexia (Opel Kadett E), which the US in turn got as the legacy-destroying Pontiac Lemans. Another long-lived Daewoo gem is the Lanos, which was sold as a Chevrolet Lanos in Russia for much of the 2000s, and is (I think) still being produced in the Ukraine in the former Zaporozhets factory with a domestically designed/produced engine. On a similar note, the old Aveo and Lacetti (our Isuzu Forenza) lives on in much of the CIS under the new “Ravon” brand. Confusingly, the Aveo body is now called the Ravon Nexia. You can go deep down the Daewoo rabbit hole lol. Sorry if I stole your incoming article’s thunder!

  • avatar

    I think the first car that made me painfully aware to what extent badge engineering could cross the line into absurdity was the Cadillac Cimarron. I mean even the most auto-ignorant person wasn’t buying a Chevy Cavalier as a Cadillac. It became very difficult to trust anything offered up by GM after that. Always wondering, “What’s it really?” With every new car debut

  • avatar

    I always found the endless variations of the 1977-1985 GM full sizers to be the most prevalent examples of badge engineering. My family owned a two-tone 1978 Chevrolet Impala Station Wagon with a V-8, three rows of bench seating and awesome plaid cloth seating. There were many varieties of this GM beast; Chevrolet Caprice, Chevrolet Impala, Buick Electra, Pontiac Bonneville, Pontiac Grand Safari, Oldsmobile 88, and Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser. They were made as sedans, coupes, and station wagons. I still see some driving around even up here in MN, where old cars die early deaths of corrosion. That 1978 wagon was the first car I ever drove. My parents had theirs from 1978 until 1992. It was a great car.

  • avatar

    The true bottom of the abyss: Cadillac Cimarron. [Shaking head]

  • avatar

    Anything made by Mercury in my lifetime.

    • 0 avatar

      Which raises the age old question, were Mercurys made by Lincoln or were Lincolns made by Mercury? Careful, it’s a trick question

      • 0 avatar

        “Which raises the age old question, were Mercury’s made by Lincoln or were Lincolns made by Mercury?”

        Mercurys were clearly made by Ford, which was always the brand’s problem.

    • 0 avatar

      You know, that said, I owned a grandfather-handed-down Mercury Mystique, and I really, really liked that thing. The interior was pretty nice for its time, the materials were good, the seat fabric was great, and it had this cool grey/blue/purple iridescent paint. I feel like the minor badge effort fixed the car up enough to improve a lot of the weak bits.

      It still ended up being pretty unreliable by 100k, unfortunately.

      • 0 avatar

        My brother daily drives a ’96 Mystique GS 5spd (Zetec motor) with 250k miles on it, bought from a meticulous original owner and I had similar impressions when taking it for a test drive. A very comfy and well made interior, and a very competent handling/riding car with a fun drivetrain/powertrain.

      • 0 avatar

        My old Mystique is now owned by someone across the street. Has over 200K on it. Tie rod broke at about 130K. New alternator at some point. Starting to have rust issues.

        Interior still looks great. Very solid vehicle if you put some minimal amount of effort into maintaining it. The real problem with the Mystique is that most of their owners just beat on them.

    • 0 avatar

      The Mercury Cougar, 99-02, wasn’t sold in your lifetime? Wow.

      Yes, it was sold as the Ford Cougar in Europe where Mercury didn’t exist.

  • avatar

    The RWD G-Body brothers: Monte Carlo, Regal, Cutlass, and the Grand Prix.

    And all the variations, The SS/LS/GNX/Regal/442

    And the Malibu wagon/sedan, El Camino, El Caballero, ’82-’86 Bonneville

  • avatar

    Opel Astra, Saturn Astra, Chevy Malibu….

    • 0 avatar

      Was Asta smaller? I though it was the Opel Insignia, Saturn Aura, Chevy Malibu. However close they were, I liked all three.

      For me, Aston Martin went full ‘Cimarron’ with the Cygnet – a tarted up Toyota Iq

  • avatar

    Plymouth Voyager, Dodge Caravan, Chrysler Town&Country.

  • avatar

    I know this is about cross border duplication of products but brand loyalty has always been important in the domestic market. When I was growing up in the ’50s there were DeSoto families, Mercury families, Buick, Chev etc. They bought new cars every 3 or 4 years and never changed brands. I saw that the makers had to offer each successful car in all their lines or lose the customer. Loyalty doesn’t seem as strong now.

    • 0 avatar

      I think there’s still some manufacturer loyalty, GM vs Ford or the like, but certainly not for the individual brands. GM’s cost-cutting and badge engineering really killed their market share, IMO.
      On a tangent, there was a great commercial in the 80s I think. Fancy couples come out of restaurant to valet, and one says “that’s my buick”, “no, that’s my olds”, etc. Then, slightly fancier couple comes out and retrieves his (somewhat) more distinctive Lincoln, leaving the rest embarassed at their conformity.

  • avatar

    The most blatant – but not the most widespread among models – was the Dodge/Plymouth Neon. They didn’t even change the name of the car! All they had to do was change the stick-on hood ornament

  • avatar
    Carroll Prescott

    A-cure-uh and Honduh – selling the EXACT same car with different names in the late 1990’s and 2000’s – the Honduh Accord. You see the very same Honduh Accord sold in Europe and elsewhere was rebadged as an A-cure-uh without any shame. Honduh saw fit to build a fattened model as the Accord here, but idiots buying one of the A-Cure-Uh’s were really getting a Honduh.

    • 0 avatar

      But is it “badge engineering” when they don’t sell both brands in the same market? I say no. Even the Acura NSX was badged a Honda NSX in markets where Acura brand is not sold.

      Contrast this with the Cimarron. Cadillac was trying to convince people to pay Cadillac money for what was clearly a Chevy Cavalier, also sold in the North American market.

    • 0 avatar
      Prove your humanity: 9 + 8 =

      CP, you are to Honda what DW is to Cadillac, except that your signature insult is on the level of a 7-year old on the school playground.
      You probably also consider the term “lib-tard” a clever intellectual analysis worthy of repeating.

  • avatar

    An industrial dumpster and the Ford Windstar.

  • avatar

    The Chryco minivans mentioned above were K cars. What about all the others? Do different grills and tail lights disqualify them from this discussion? I wouldn’t think so.

  • avatar

    Just logged in after years for fun

    Austin 850
    Austin Cooper
    Austin Mini
    Austin Partner
    Austin Seven
    Innocenti Mini
    Leyland Mini
    Morris 850
    Morris Mascot
    Morris Mini
    Riley Elf
    Wolseley 1000
    Wolseley Hornet

    And Rover Mini in Japan

    • 0 avatar
      Prove your humanity: 9 + 8 =

      I think we have a winner! One vehicle with 14 different names.

      The reverse of the question – “What single name is given to the most different vehicles?” is answered by “The Ford ‘F-Series\'”.

  • avatar

    GM U-body minivans. They changed names with each generation of the U-body chassis, and nearly identical versions were sold by so many GM brands. Just in the North American market there were:

    Chevy Lumina APV
    Olds Silhouette
    Pontiac Trans Sport
    Chevy Venture
    Pontiac Montana
    Buick Terraza
    Chevy Uplander
    Saturn Relay

    Amazingly no Cadillac or GMC variant! Also sold elsewhere as Opel Sintra, Vauxhall Sintra, Buick GL8

  • avatar

    GMT 360-6 Marques-
    2002–2009 Chevrolet TrailBlazer
    2002–2009 GMC Envoy
    2002–2004 Oldsmobile Bravada
    2003–2007 Isuzu Ascender
    2004–2007 Buick Rainier
    2005–2009 Saab 9-7X

  • avatar

    The English BMC ADO 16 1100/1300 was offered under six different makes simultaneously in the home market – Austin, Morris, Riley, Wolseley, MG, and Vanden Plas. You’d have a hard time telling them apart if you couldn’t see the grille.

  • avatar

    Badge engineering tells me there’s nothing special about this car and the manufacturer is trying to fool as many people as possible into buying it.

  • avatar

    Two came to mind that our family owned.

    I had an ’84 Chrysler Laser Turbo, that was identical to the Dodge Dayton Turbo, except for the steering wheel, backup lights, and spoiler. There were of course many other examples of badge engineering by Chrysler.

    My wife owned a Subaru WRX, a version of which was sold as the Saab 92X.

  • avatar

    Pretty much any of the Big 3 across individual platforms from the mid-‘70s-early 2000s. (That’s when GM committed the unforgivable sin of putting a Chevy engine in an Oldsmobile, etc.) From the Sloanian progression at GM to FoMoCo value (Ford)->little dressier (Mercury)->all the toys (Lincoln), and similar stuff at Fiatsler.

    Obviously, this didn’t happen across ALL platforms (no Oldsmobile Corvette or Lincoln Mustang equivalents), but take a profile photo of a “bread and butter” vehicle from Detroit from that time period, photochop the pic to a “body in white,” then put a generic front and rear clip on it, and try to identify the make and model. Unless you’re versed in model-specific details (the shape of the rear side windows of a 1984 GM G-Body Regal versus the Cutlass Supreme — no way to distinguish between the Monte Carlo and Grand Prix of the same year) you’re going to be guessing!

  • avatar

    Not quite badge engineering, but the Chrysler Crossfire closely based on a Mercedes SLK just didn’t remotely fit the brand.

  • avatar

    I know GM gets a lot of grief for badge engineering but historically, the different GM divisions had considerable autonomy and did, at one time, produce distinctive vehicles. On the other hand, Ford/Mercury and Plymouth/Dodge were strictly branding exercises.

  • avatar

    Aston Martin Cygnet-Blatant……

  • avatar

    People have already mentioned the some of the General Motors J-Cars, but here’s a more complete list:

    Chevrolet Cavalier
    Pontiac J2000
    Pontiac 2000
    Pontiac 2000 Sunbird
    Pontiac Sunbird
    Pontiac Sunfire
    Oldsmobile Firenza
    Buick Skyhawk
    Cadillac Cimarron
    Chevrolet Monza (Brazil)
    Daewoo Espero
    Daewoo Aranos
    Holden Camira
    Isuzu Aska
    Opel Ascona
    Vauxhall Cavalier
    Toyota Cavalier

  • avatar

    I had a Chevette as my first car, and the T-series platform got a lot of names, some very unique.


    Chevrolet Chevette
    Opel by Isuzu
    Buick Opel
    Pontiac T1000
    Isuzu Impulse
    Isuzu I-Mark


    Pontiac Acadian


    Vauxhall Chevette
    Bedford Chevanne


    Isuzu Bellett Gemini
    Isuzu Gemini
    Isuzu Piazza Coupe


    Opel Kadett C


    Holden Gemini
    Holden Piazza Coupé

    New Zealand:

    Vauxhall Chevanne
    Holden Gemini


    GMC Chevette
    Opel K-180


    Chevrolet Marajó
    Chevrolet Chevy 500


    Aymesa Cóndor
    Chevrolet Cargo


    Opel Gemini

    South Korea:

    Saehan Bird
    Saehan Max
    Daewoo Maepsy
    Daewoo Max


    Grumett Color

  • avatar

    I think we’re getting platform sharing confused with badge engineering. Nothing wrong with platform sharing, no car company could stay in business without it, but badge engineering is when no attempt is made to change the sheet metal to differentiate between two cars, just the name badge

  • avatar

    The re-badge king must surely be GM.

  • avatar

    I also think it worth noting the unusual and confusing case of Bentley. After being bought by Rolls Royce their cars became little more than Rolls Royces with different badging and a slightly cheaper to produce radiator shell that resulted in a slightly cheaper price.

    What happened to Rolls and Bentley is complicated, but the condensed version is that ended up being sold off to two different buyers and have since evolved in separate directions with nothing in common. On a certain level we can be thankful that Rolls kept the Bentley name alive.

  • avatar

    Chevrolet Lacetti
    Buick Excelle
    Chevrolet Optra
    Chevrolet Estate
    Chevrolet Nubira
    Daewoo Nubira
    Daewoo Gentra
    Holden Viva
    Ravon Gentra
    Suzuki Reno
    Suzuki Forenza

  • avatar

    Since in Germany, both GM and Ford don’t offer but one “make” of cars, my standard bage-engineering examples are different. Keeping aside such beginners in the badge-engineering game as the Peugeot 108/Citroen C1/Toyota Aygo, VW Taro/Toyota Hilux, or Fiat Ducato/Peugeot Boxer/Citroen Jumper, the one that apparently tops everything is a lorry, namely the “club of four” small/midsize cabover that initially (1974) was sold as a Saviem, Magirus Deutz, Volvo, and DAF, but whose cab and often also frame and engine have been re-used by more than twenty lorrymakers all over the world. You North Americans may remember it as the Mack Mid-Liner, 1980-2001.

  • avatar

    The J-body. There’s the Chevrolet Cavalier, the Pontiac J2000/2000/Sunbird/Sunfire, the Cadillac Cimmaron (sigh), the Oldsmobile Firenza, and the Buick Skyhawk.

    My personal favorite is the Sunbird, since I own one (a ’90 LE coupe with 56k miles).

  • avatar

    As a kid I used to wonder why the heck does my neighbor’s Opel Corsa not have any ‘Opel’ or ‘Corsa’ emblems on it.

    Turns out it was a Chevrolet Chevy and how it managed to find its way into what was Yugoslavia, I have no idea. I imagine it might have something to do with the neighbor being a fairly well off lad and having access to more foreign good than most of us.

    There seems to be no mention of these cars in Europe anywhere online and I’ve seen a few of them about, back in the day. Of course, being Opels, they’ve all rusted into oblivion by now.

    Here’s how it looked:

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