Home » What Car Deserves To Be Its Own Brand? : Open Thread

What Car Deserves To Be Its Own Brand? : Open Thread

Edsel Chat Top

Until a few weeks ago, the phrase “Camaro brand umbrella” meant the actual Camaro-branded umbrella your stepdad Steve has to go with his Camaro hat, his Camaro T-shirt, and the 2019 Camaro ZL1 in his garage with 9,000 miles on it because he’s secretly too terrified to drive most of the time. Soon, however, it’s about to carry a more figurative meaning at General Motors: defining the Camaro as a sub-brand, of sorts, that includes an assortment of cars that reflect its persona.

Cadillac’s Escalade is getting the same treatment, too, according to Car and Driver. Both moves make a lot of sense; the Escalade has always kind of been its own thing within the Cadillac lineup, even with a unique name when the rest of the brand went to stuff like XT5 and ATS; plus, America loves trucks and SUVs, so more of those will print money for GM.

The Camaro is a more interesting proposition. Everyone knows that name. But the current, sixth-generation Camaro has been a sales disaster, the poster child for the declining sports car market. GM might as well use that valuable name, styling and history for something else, purists be damned. Plans for the Camaro brand could include an electric coupe and convertible, another more high-end sports car, and a performance crossover; I’d put my money on options one and three, personally, but this is all “under evaluation,” as C/D says.

It’s an interesting thought experiment and it brings me to this question: What car, or cars, deserve to be their own brand? (And hopefully in a more successful way than poor Edsel, pictured up top.)

2021 Mustang Mach E Gt Performance Edition

We’re already seeing automakers do this more and more. GM, of course, has huge plans for “Corvette” as a standalone brand. SEAT’s Cupra nameplate is becoming that VW Group’s performance brand in certain markets; I saw ads for Cupra all over the place when I was in Mexico City recently. Ram split off from Dodge years ago. The Grand Wagoneer doesn’t wear a Jeep badge. And the Ford Mustang Mach-E is kind of doing this; I haven’t heard if more Mustang-branded models are coming beyond the EV crossover and the traditional coupe, but I wouldn’t be shocked if things go that way.

Toyota Compact Cruiser Yellow 16

Let’s use Toyota as an example here. The smart-brain play, an idea that came from our own Thomas Hundal in Autopian Slack this morning, is to turn Land Cruiser into a brand and give Americans a bunch of weather-ready SUVs of multiple sizes and shapes to enjoy. You know that would do well—I doubt Akio’s worried about putting his grandkids through college, but a Land Cruiser brand would ensure they’re squared away.

But I woke up and chose violence this morning instead, so here’s my suggestion: make Supra a brand. I think the current Supra is a better car than people give it credit for, but I still recognize its many flaws. If people still aren’t happy, Toyota could Supra a bunch of stuff—another Supra flagship coupe, a Supra performance crossover, a bigger Supra performance crossover, a Supra performance minivan, you name it. Make Supra the Japanese performance brand—think Lexus, but it wants to punch you in the throat. I could get behind that.

Your turn. What car deserves a family of like-minded cars of its own to hang out with?

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95 Responses

  1. This slightly off point but there are two major luxury marques from domestic manufacturers that cry out to be rebranded, particularly as they migrate to EVs toward the end of the decade. I can tell you for a fact that no young person with even a modicum of automotive DNA in their being aspires to own a Cadillac or Lincoln when they grow up. I can guarantee there are no aspirational automotive drawings of fantasy future Cadillac or Lincoln models on the walls in bedrooms of young pre-teen to teen motorheads and there have not been any for decades. These brand names should be dumped unceremoniously.

    Presently, Cadillac has decided on two future EV models branded as Lyriq and Celesestiq. Note the presence of the ‘iq” at the end of each of these names. GM would be well served by rebranding all future Caddies simply as ‘IQ.” The marque IQ is simple, catchy and rather smart in a clean double entendre sort of way.

    Likewise, at one point in our country’s history American presidents were admired and held in high esteem. Well, no more. Time to move on. Lincoln needs to go. Ford already has a history with the previously used model name of “Futura.” This would be an ideal name for its new EV marque.

    You heard it here first!

  2. I guess you could take the logical next step and finish what FCA started when they peeled off the commercial vans, pickups, and Viper and just get rid of Dodge – every single Dodge model becomes its own, stand-alone, single-model brand. Sort of like what Rover Group did when they killed off Austin, but refused to move the Montego and Maestro under the Rover badge, you had two marque-less models sitting in kind of a no man’s land in the showroom.

    Or, end the silly experiment and fold Ram back into Dodge, one way or another.

  3. I feel like I’m almost alone in thinking that they don’t fool anyone with this stuff, even though they’re all doing it, they don’t need to.

    Ram’s success isn’t because they Spun off Ram and distanced themselves from dodge.
    Rams success is because in 2009 they redesigned the ram and it was actually a better truck than the competition. It caught on.

    I really don’t think anyone is buying the Mach E because of the mustang name. Moreover, I think it could have been such a better car if they would have just designed it as the next Flex.

    I also don’t buy into this whole design language thing. I feel like they’re partially using these spin-offs to break free from established brand design themes.

    Look at Kia and Hyundai. They seem to just build whatever they think would be badass and proudly throw their badges on it.

    And guess what? They’re KILLING IT.

    1. Exactly! Chevy doesn’t need to make the Silverado its own brand, and there’s no way in Hell that Ford would make F150 a brand. Dodge spinning off Ram was idiotic. It is the quality and price of the product that makes sales. (Well, add in some amount of mindless brand loyalty. Especially with trucks) The Ram did well because it looked better and had a better interior while costing less than the Silverado.

    2. I remember hearing part of spinning off RAM was to have its profits and marketing budget solely focused on RAM vs having to be part of the of the Dodge brand profit/ spending

    3. I agree completely. It’s like Ford didn’t have enough faith in their first EV to sale without bastardizing their flagship product name.

      The Corvette is a special car for Chevy. It would be a shame to see it on a “sporty” SUV.

      1. Ok, here me out. The Wrangler has been getting rather bloated of late with the JK and JL generations. What if they kept the big Wranglers for all the soccer moms that want to look cooler than the others, and also make a barebones small Wrangler about the size of the TJ. Market it as an actual utility vehicle with few electronics and less safety. Throw in a more modern 3ish liter inline six and a manual gearbox and you’re good to go. I would put my money out for something like that, and I am NOTORIOUSLY cheap.

    1. Honestly this is the correct answer. Whatever the choice was it needed to be BOF so you could have the most modularity on the same platform. IMHO the Jeep Wrangler/Gladiator is the only actual Jeep brand Jeep sold today.

      First things first the Jeeps should come with Dana 44s front and rear at the minimum. Standardization should cut down on costs.

      Get rid of the aluminum BS that is causing lots of dissimilar metal corrosion, it kills Land Rovers all the time and it will kill Jeeps.

      Carpet is not an option. It’s a Jeep. Seats are waterproof by default, it’s a Jeep.

      The Jeep Wrangler/Gladiator could be made into so many things. It could be a new FC with a short stubby hood.

      The Gladiator platform could be used to make a Suburban type extended length SUV via deleting the bed and putting on a new body.

      The Wranglers and the Gladiators would be a great basis for a new 4X4 van.

      Bring back 2WD Jeeps like the old DJ series. The savings from having no transfer case and no driven front axle could easily pay for a new beefy dana 44 in the rear as standard, and it would allow you to have a very tight turning circle, or you could option it with a bolt on electric straight axle that would drive the front wheels. In doing so you’d have greater efficiency, AWD, while avoiding the complication of a traditional hybrid setup.

      Long bed Gladiators obviously.

      “Compact” Wrangler pickups to compete with the new FWD unibody pickups.

      Electric drivetrain option, that way you can get ANY model with an electric drivetrain, not just a specific model like how Jeep does their Hybrid Wranglers that you can only get in a 4 door variant. Range extender optional.

      Honestly I wonder how much money Jeep would save long term by getting rid of all the other platforms and just putting all that money into further developing the Wrangler and the Gladiator platforms.

      1. This would fail spectacularly. Everyone respects those platforms, but few actually want to drive them.

        The Wrangler and Gladiator are the halo that sells all the Compasses, Libertys, etc, and brings people in for the Cherokees, Grand Cherokees and Wagoneers. It’s the Wrangler off-road credentials that sell the ones that are actually decent but not great to drive on-road.

        1. Eh, I think if Jeep had more of a commercial vehicle focus with an emphasis on modularity, durability, longevity, simplicity, and ease of maintenance they could easily transition to an all Wrangler/Gladiator model provided they add a variety of body styles like vans, long bed pickups, etc. That market is mostly untouched nowadays. Noone who knows about new cars in the US buys a new car expecting to keep it for 25+ years, they’re all disposable POS.

          Economies of scale would reduce the price of the Wranglers/Gladiators and with further development of the platform you could make them pretty comfy with the proper options. The only two things I think the platform is severely lacking is a heavy duty frame variant and an IFS variant (because Jeep doesn’t make DJ style Jeeps anymore). It wouldn’t be all that hard to make a prerunner style long travel Jeep Wrangler provided they have a proper IFS setup for it which would make it more comfortable to drive in than most cars on road and off road.

          Jeep moving from a Commercial vehicle market to a consumer vehicle market is arguably the dumbest decision they could have made and sadly they made it. Now you gotta spend ~$45K at the minimum to get a New Jeep with Dana 44s front and rear.

          1. The 90’s Jeep lineup was exceptional. YJ/TJ, XJ, and ZJ. That covered three vehicle sizes all with solid axles and excellent capability. Adding in a wrangler based small truck and a Ram based Wagoneer would really complete the set.

  4. I still think it was mistake to make Ram it’s own brand. It didn’t change the perception of the pickup, and it weakened the Dodge name.
    I have a notion Kia should make Telluride a brand. Restyle the Sorento to look more like the Telluride and then make a Sorento size pickup.

  5. I’m pretty suspicious of efforts to spin out sub-brands. It strikes me generally as an attempt squeeze money out of a strong model name while (a) degrading that model name and (b) degrading the brand which has been spun off from. I would suggest, though, that spinoff brands could be useful to salvage failed sub-brands from the past. In effect, that’s what Fiat is doing by moving to being a one-model marque. Buick products in the US (not China) would also probably do well being rebranded as a spinoff brand from another GM model, although I’m really struggling to identify what model it would be.

    The main issue is that branding can’t lead. The great car marques and models were built on the back of excellent products. When you try and bundle a bunch of crapola cars under the auspice of a great model’s brand, you might get a temporary sales boost, but customers will figure it out. Now instead of being two separate models in customer heads, the fortunes of all those models are tied. And by the way — it will always be crap cars bundled under these sub-brands, because good cars don’t need to ride on the coattails of better models.

    1. Porsche could call, how many projects is it now? 911s
      There were four Prius car models at once (standard, C, V, and Prime)
      Escalade seems likely to be damaged by dilution, I think Mustang means less than it used to. Camaro is a great brand that isn’t selling. Slap that logo all over the place. The current Camaro will still be THE bang for the buck track weapon even if they release a Camaro minivan.
      To me Corvette is the answer. Fast Cadillacs sold under the Corvette umbrella seems better than a luxed Corvette sold as a Cadillac.

  6. Nissan really needs to build those Datsuns that they inferred awhile ago and use Datsun as the Brand. VW could use Wolfsburg on a whole host of upscale, oh wait, never mind. Ford should bring back Mercury as their eCar halo. and name the things Mars, Venus, Uranus, Jupiter, Neptune, Earth, and Pluto. Fuck Saturn.

  7. What car deserves to be its own brand?

    None… not a single one.

    And while on the subject, Ram trucks should be folded back under the Dodge name. They should never have been separated from Dodge in the first place.

  8. No, you’re not alone “I feel like I’m almost alone in thinking that they don’t fool anyone with this stuff, even though they’re all doing it, they don’t need to.” It’s just marketing bullshit and has nothing to do with a car’s metrits. Maybe it makes a difference for non-enthusiasts but it’s hard to see why.

  9. I think it would behoove Japanese manufacturers to separate their trucks for the US market from their main brands. It worked when they launched their brands in the US for the first time, and using Nissan as an example, I think someone might be more inclined to buy a Titan 1500 rather than a Nissan Titan. People don’t want a pickup that’s associate with a Kicks. As a Titan owner, that’s a shame because it is a great truck.(I have a gas one. For the love of God don’t get the diesel)

  10. I think the electric stuff should be their own brands, like GM should have made a “Volt” brand, and avoided the whole Volt/Bolt/Bolt EUV name confusion and just had Volt One, Volt Sport, Volt Cross, like Ampera and Ampera-e, but all “Volts”, and Toyota should have a “Prius” brand like they almost did at one point.
    Then the sales people may be a little more in tune with the product, and less likely to go “oh that has terrible range, but look at this Tahoe!”

  11. Hyundai appears to be doing this with their Ioniq vehicles. In the Ioniq 5, the Hyundai emblem isn’t even on the steering wheel- instead there’s just four pixels (a design theme for the car and Morse code for “H”.) Many owners are swapping their badges for a four dots emblem.

  12. Toyota has in essence already split “land cruiser” off into its own sub-marque, simultaneously selling the “wagon” (j300), “prado” and “classic” (j70).
    something on the GA-B platform, but adapted to be genuinely offroady, in the vein of the original rav4 would fit quite nicely into this lineup, perhaps call it the “land cruiser blizzard”?.
    otherwise, the main thing I think they need to clean up is having the prado, fortuner, and 4runner, all around at the same time.

    Then, another weird take of mine is to split the Mini brand in two: rename Mini’s current lineup to “Maxi”, and introduce an actual A/B segment supermini called “Mini”
    Then, based on the trim level, each car gets a suffix badge:
    “-Cooper” is returned to just the “sporty” trims, (also the roadster has to be called “Roadcester”)
    The enlarged crossover remains the “-Countryman”, with the clubman renamed to “-Traveller”,
    “-Van” is all that’s needed for the cheap commercial trims,
    “-Moke” could even be revived for either a wacky Torchinskian beach buggy, or more cynically, another crossover variant.
    Then, to get really wacky, either “-Wolseley, -Vanden Plas or -Princess” could potentially become a line of tarted-up luxury versions with a goofy chromed front grille and a stumpy saloon bodystyle, even a hackney carriage bodystyle is a possibility.

    1. Giving MINI proper model names instead of prefixing everything with “Cooper” is a good idea. I thought it was dumb when Oldsmobile decided to call several different, unrelated cars Cutlasses

  13. I would love to see RX-7 spun of into its own brand.
    An electric crossover, and a couple rebodied pre-existing Mazda suvs, all powered by the most generic non- turbo engines with FWD (no AWD option), all automatic of course (a 4 speed will do just fine, but a “performance” CVT with shift paddles would be awesome). No boring minivan, that’s just lame.
    Would love to see a F&F marketing tie in as well, or a special Dom edition, with A pillar mounted boost guages and diamond plate floor mats, that would be sick.
    What would really make this lineup for me is triangles tastefully integrated into the interior and body, to ensure other drivers know about your new RX-7’s rotary powered history and roots. Rotary exhaust note simulator with turbo choo choo sound? Yes please.
    The absence of something like this in their lineup is literally the only thing keeping me out of Mazda showrooms.
    Come on Mazda! Gimme my RX-7!

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