Home » Help Me Figure Out What Cars Were Rebadged From A Fancy Brand To A Downmarket Brand

Help Me Figure Out What Cars Were Rebadged From A Fancy Brand To A Downmarket Brand

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Car re-badging, euphemistically known as badge engineering, is one of those things that tends to baffle me, like using a yo-yo without getting a fat lip or the continued popularity of circus peanuts. I’m never exactly sure how money gets made by offering basically the same car with slightly different trim and a different name, but hundreds of thousands of Ford Pintos/Mercury Bobcats and Dodge Omnis/Plymouth Horizons and Volkswagen Sharans/SEAT Alhambras and other badge-engineered wonders are surely proving me wrong. Most badge engineering efforts either re-badge a car on roughly the same level of status or take a lower-tier car and upgrade it to a higher tier, like, say, a Toyota Land Cruiser becoming a Lexus LX or a Chevy Cavalier becoming a Cadillac Cimmaron. Very rarely do we see a premium marque re-badging a car as a budget brand. But there have to be a few of those, right? I can think of a few, but I wonder if there are more?

First, let’s just think about the low-to-high status rebadges we know about. There are many, once you start to think about it.

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In fact, many carmakers have entire separate brands that are about doing just this sort of thing, like Lincoln and Mercury to Ford, or Lexus to Toyota, Acura to Honda, Infiniti to Nissan, Audi to Volkswagen, and so on. This is really quite a common practice, taking one car and up-contenting it, making a few design and detail changes, and calling it a whole new, fancier name. Oh, and then selling it for a lot more money.


But the opposite direction, that’s a lot more unusual! Probably because it’s a lot harder to make money by taking a car sold as a premium brand and making it cheaper. And, my sources in the industry have told me that this “making money” business is a big deal to most, if not all, automakers. And yet, this premium-to-basic re-badging has happened a few times! Here’s the best examples I could think of:



So, these three basic examples were all I could come up with for a universally-accepted premium carmaker re-badging a car that they initially designed and sold under the nameplate of a clearly more downmarket brand. They include the most obvious one, I think, the Kia Elan, a re-badged Lotus Elan, the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen, which was also sold as a Puch G-Wagen (Puch did the engineering of the four-wheel drive system), and the Peugeot P4. Then we have the Land Rover Discovery, which was sold for a period in the ’90s as a Honda Crossroad.

There’s one other example that I’m not quite sure how to classify:


In non-American markets, the Porsche 914 was sold as the VW-Porsche 914. So, here, Porsche just said what the hell and put both up- and downmarket brands on the car! Does that qualify or not? I’m not really sure, and I can’t think of another example like it.


Am I missing some examples of this rare and beautiful riches-to-rags sort of badge engineering? Is it really just those three cars? I bet there’s a few more, and if there’s any group of car geeks who can figure it out, they’re right here, all you Autopians. So if you know of any, please, shove them in the comments!



Amazing Adventures In Car Badges: The Times That Volkswagen Took Their Own Name Off Their Cars

This Is Just Too Many Badges For The Back Of One Car

I Am Completely In Favor Of Re-Badging Your Car However The Hell You Want

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The World of Vee
The World of Vee
1 month ago

I got a great one, the Daewoo G2X!

Which is an Opel GT/Saturn Sky for the Korean market, very much like the Kia Elan. I’d totally rebadge a sky if I had one, those daewoo badges look fun.

Last edited 1 month ago by The World of Vee
1 month ago

Most of the ones I can think of have been covered. Maybe the Subaru BRZ to the Scion FR-S? Scion was supposed to be the cheaper/hip/cool sub-brand for Toyota, when it was shut down the FR-S stayed on as the 86.

Who is the Leader
Who is the Leader
1 month ago

Similar to the VW-Porsche hyphenated name, the Matra-Simca Rancho used an up AND down market brand name. It wasn’t rebadged though, so doesn’t count.

Mark Kress
Mark Kress
1 month ago

Acura Legend to Rover 800/Sterling 825. Mazda Miata to Fiat Spider.

Going way back, Cord 812 to Graham Paige Hollywood, Kaiser Henry J to Allstate (yes, that one. Sears owned it).

Then there’s dozens of US market cars that spent several years in production in emerging countries long after they were discontinued here.

1 month ago

Puch Wagon/Puke Wagon ha ha

1 month ago

In the 80s/90s US, the hierarchy of GM was Chevrolet–>Pontiac–>Oldsmobile–>Buick–>Cadillac. In the Mexican market, there was no Pontiac or Oldsmobile. This created a few “downmarket” rebadges.

The late 2nd Gen (early 90s) Pontiac Sunbird was sold in Mexico as the Chevrolet Cavalier Z24. It is odd to see the semi-hidden headlight beak with the botwie instead of the arrowhead badge. The interior, however, was 100% Chevrolet Cavalier Z24. https://www.reddit.com/r/regularcarreviews/comments/12g419y/1994_chevy_cavalier_z24_the_official_car_of/

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