12 of the weirdest rebadges ever – From a Chinese Gen.2 to a German Hilux
CY Foong · Jun 20, 2021 12:00 PM
Even though the word would make most Proton fans cringe, rebadging is pretty much part and parcel of the automotive world. Some were developed to save costs and some were meant to be temporary models while something else is in development.
Previously, we took a look at some of the strangest partnerships made between car companies and even dove deep into some of them. This time, we’ll be focusing on 12 of the weirdest rebadges you may not have heard of.
We won’t be focusing on brands that share a parent company or have some form of ownership between one another. For example, this Subaru Justy wouldn’t count as Subaru is partially owned by Toyota.
Dodge Attitude – Rebadged Mitsubishi Attrage
Think of Dodge and you might think of fire-breathing muscle cars with some underworld-inspired names. But if you head over to Dodge’s Mexican page, there is an odd car that doesn’t quite match with the rest of the line-up.
The Dodge Attitude is a rebadged Mitsubishi Attrage that was once sold here. Instead of the standard three-diamonds badge, it has the signature Dodge grille up front. Powered by a 1.2-litre 3-pot unit, the Attitude is mainly built for those concerned with fuel economy or for fleet usage.
However, the Attrage isn’t the only car that is given the Dodge treatment. The previous generation was based on the Hyundai Accent and Dodge Mexico also rebadged a few other Hyundai models including the Atos and Getz.
Europestar L3 – Rebadged Proton Gen.2 and Persona
Long before Geely owns Proton, the connection between the Malaysian tiger and a Chinese company was forged back in 2008. Youngman became the official Chinese importer for Lotus Cars two years earlier but the owner of Youngman wanted to assemble cars, not just selling them.
So, Lotus which was owned by Proton at the time signed a joint venture agreement with Youngman to assemble, sell, and export cars under the Europestar brand. The ambitious project began with a couple of cars familiar to Malaysians.
The L3 4-door and 5-door were rebadged Personas and Gen.2s respectively and were marketed as “performance cars” with Lotus ride and handling. The models sold very poorly and the joint venture deal expired in 2012. However, Youngman continued producing the L3 until 2015 without Proton’s knowledge. The company had been dissolved since then.
American carmakers are only good at making two things; muscle cars and large trucks. Basically, anything with a huge V8 motor in front is something they’re good at even if they produce lesser horsepower than the average 7-seater.
When it comes to compact cars though, they’re generally rubbish. That is why in 1989, General Motors sought help from Toyota and Suzuki to rebadge some of their models through an all-new brand called Geo.
The brand only lasted for less than a decade before GM merged Geo with Chevrolet. American buyers might be interested in Japanese compacts but when they were given an American-badge, the interest became lost.
Holden Nova – Rebadged Toyota Corolla
Australian car production went extinct when the last ever Holden Commodore rolled off the assembly plant in 2017. It was a sad end to a unique automotive industry and that was because of something called the Button Plan.
The plan was devised in the 1980s to restructure the Australian car industry to be more efficient. That meant some companies had to badge-engineer one another. The result was some of the unlikeliest of Aussie cars including a Ford ute (pick-up) with a Nissan badge and this Corolla masquerading as a Holden.
The Holden Nova along with the other rebadged Toyotas, Nissans, and Fords proved to be very unpopular and confusing to buyers. Even the manufacturers were not impressed with this plan and purposely left out the best variants from the rebadged ones. In the end, the plan was a disaster as car manufacturing plants in Australia closed one by one.
Hyundai Galloper – Rebadged Mitsubishi Pajero
Hyundai is a massive conglomerate that also dealt with other businesses apart from building cars. That included a separate automotive parts division known as Hyundai Mobis. However, this division, under the name Hyundai Precision Industry, also built cars in the 1990s.
The line-up consisted of two rebadged Mitsubishi models, the Santamo, based on the Mitsubishi Chariot MPV and the Galloper. When the latter was launched in 1991, it became a sales success, outselling another rebadged SUV, the Isuzu Trooper-based Ssangyong Korando Family.
The Galloper continued being sold until 2004 and the overall shape remained the same. Even a facelift in 1998 still can’t hide the fact that it was based on the original Pajero which was long replaced.
Isuzu’s sedan had been a rebadged model throughout its entire life though we must exclude the first-gen Aska as Isuzu was then partnering with General Motors. After the company was orphaned by the American general though, it needed help for its passenger car market and it founded two unlikely partners.
The first was with Subaru which lent them the Subaru Legacy to become the second-gen Aska. The only changes made were the badges as everything underneath was still a Subaru. Even the powerplants came with a choice of 1.8-litre or 2.0-litre Boxer engines.
After Subaru and Isuzu cut ties, the latter forged a partnership with Honda in 1993. Unlike the one with Subaru, at least this lasted longer. Long enough for the Aska to continue on with two generations of rebadged Honda Accords until 2002 when Isuzu quit the passenger car market entirely.
Subaru and Honda weren’t the only car manufacturers that Isuzu partnered with in the 1990s. Noticing that the MPV market was also thriving in Japan, Isuzu collaborated with Nissan and the latter agreed to lend the first-gen Elgrand to them.
It turned out to be Isuzu’s second MPV after the Honda Odyssey-based Isuzu Oasis though the Isuzu Filly ended up being sold much longer than its North American counterpart. Sold between 1997 to 2002, the Filly was available with two trims, the base E Type and the standard Filly.
Needless to say, much like Isuzu’s other passenger cars, it didn’t sell well. However, Isuzu and Nissan’s partnership did not end and it is still ongoing today albeit in the commercial vehicle division. The Nissan Urvan is also available in Japan as the Isuzu Como.
Kia Elan – Rebadged Lotus Elan
1989 was an exciting year for sports car fans as Mazda launched the NA MX-5 to the world. However, another sports car was also launched that year and it came from Great Britain, the land that introduced the affordable sports car.
Sadly, the front-wheel-driven Lotus Elan turned out to be a flop that crippled Lotus’ finances and caused it to be booted out of GM. After the Elan was dropped by Lotus, Kia bought the production rights and continued to assemble the sports car in South Korea.
Despite looking nearly identical to the Lotus, Kia’s only production roadster was more underpowered as Lotus lost the rights to the Isuzu-developed (yes, them again) turbocharged 1.6-litre engine. Instead of 180 PS, the naturally-aspirated 1.8-litre only produced 151 PS. It’s considered a rarity now with 1,056 made between 1996 to 1999.
Mazda VX-1 – Rebadged Suzuki Ertiga
Mazda has been rebadging Suzukis for years, though most of them were only sold in Japan. The exception was the Mazda VX-1 in Indonesia which became only the second brand after Proton to rebadge the first-gen Suzuki Ertiga.
Apart from a name lifted out from a kitchen appliance and the winged Mazda logos in lieu of the S-badge, it’s virtually identical to the Ertiga. The VX-1 is powered by a 1.4-litre K14B engine (92 PS/130 Nm) much like the Suzuki and Proton.
The VX-1 is a little bit more well-equipped than the Ertiga and slightly pricier too, starting from IDR 179 million. Meanwhile, the Ertiga started from IDR 162 million.
It wasn’t attractive enough for Indonesian buyers though as the VX-1 was pulled from Mazda’s line-up after four years in 2017. Only an abysmal 27 units were sold in its final year.
Mercedes-Benz X-Class – Rebadged Nissan Navara
Luxury pick-up trucks make as much sense as frozen foie gras, it just wouldn’t work. Lincoln tried twice in America and both failed. So, what gave Mercedes-Benz the idea that its rebadged Nissan Navara would work overseas?
Initially announced as a concept in 2016, the X-Class was touted (inaccurately) by Mercedes-Benz as the “world’s first true premium pick-up truck”. At least, the production version had a few different features that still made it a Mercedes-Benz instead of just slapping a three-pointed star and call it a day.
Even the engines were developed by Mercedes-Benz but in the end, it is still a Navara underneath. Unlike the four-door coupe or a coupe-SUV, not many bought into the “premium pick-up truck” idea and the X-Class ended production in 2020.
Suzuki Landy – Rebadged Nissan Serena
The Nissan Serena is a beloved minivan among Malaysians but over in Japan, you can buy one with a Suzuki badge too. First introduced with the third-generation Serena C25 (that was never sold here), the Suzuki Landy is one of a few long-running original equipment manufacturer (OEM) models still sold in Japan.
As it is just a rebadge, the Landy has similar features and powertrains as the Serena S-Hybrid. Yes, only the S-Hybrid as the Landy is powered by a 2.0-litre mild-hybrid powerplant. The e-Power versions remain solely available as a Nissan for now.
It is also slightly cheaper than the Serena with prices starting from JPY 2,555,300. The Serena on the other hand starts from JPY 2,576,200. Unlike the other cars on this list, it seems that the Landy would continue on for as long as the Serena is still in demand.
The Volkswagen Taro wasn't the German brand's first-ever pick-up truck. Also, the name was not derived from a type of yam. The clue actually lies in what the Taro is based on – the Japanese suffix (tarō) which meant the eldest son.
The rebadged pick-up was meant to penetrate the European one-tonne utility market which Volkswagen never had and what Toyota aimed for. The Taro was built in two plants – the rear-wheel-drive (RWD) regular cab was built in Hanover, Germany while the four-wheel-drive (4WD) extended cab was built in Aichi, Japan.
In the end though, the collaboration bore little fruit and both automotive giants ended their partnership in 1997. Volkswagen eventually launched their own pick-up truck called the Amarok which became quite successful. The next-gen Amarok is also rumoured to be shared with the next Ford Ranger.
Those are some of the weirdest rebadges that have been made. As globalisation meant that the world is growing closer, these rebadged cars will not go away if a brand seeks to enter a market it has no expertise in. Some would work, but others even with proper planning would fail.