Best and Worst of Re-Badging: GM Sinks, VW and Chrysler Soar
Back in 2008, Chrysler and Nissan announced plans to help each other out by swapping some vehicle designs.
Now those plans are canceled, mostly because Fiat now owns Chrysler and doesn’t need Nissan to provide fuel-efficient small autos. It’s too bad, really, because Nissan’s contribution to Chrysler might have been branded as a Dodge Hornet. That could’ve been cool!
Even though none of this will actually happen, it got me thinking about some of the best (and a couple of the worst) results of this common platform-sharing practice. Here are some of my favorite examples:
Suzuki was getting sick of seeing its popular ATVs and motorcycles getting lugged around by non-Suzuki vehicles. So the company commissioned Nissan to rebadge its Frontier pickup with some new sheet metal. The result? A solid entry in the compact truck market and a Suzuki to tow people’s Suzukis.
Getting Toyota to build a car for General Motors is equivalent to getting the Pittsburgh Steelers to play football for Mississippi Valley State. It’s a can’t-lose situation, and GM scored big with the versatile and reliable Vibe, which was copied from the Toyota Matrix. Pick one up and watch it last forever.
The Grand Caravan/Town & Country minivans are easily the best vehicles Chrysler builds. For whatever reason, Chrysler is a minivan king, so V-dub was smart to commission the company to build the new Routan minivan. While Chrysler wouldn’t add its popular (and patented) Stow n’ Go or Swivel n’ Go seating to the Routan package, the rest is Chrysler-engineered and VW-tuned minivan perfection. If there is such a thing as “minivan perfection.”
Of course, there have been some bad examples of platform sharing too…
Ugh. While the end result was pretty, the car itself didn’t even come close to competing with the BMW 3 Series as an entry-level luxury performance sedan. It wasn’t reliable, it wasn’t fast, and it handled like a Ford. Thank goodness Jag came to its senses and discontinued this afterthought of a vehicle.
General Motors has a way of removing the “cool” factor from whatever it touches. Saabs had a quirky Swedish personality before GM swooped in, but with the 9-7X, Saab officially became re-branded Chevrolet. Why pay a premium for a Chevy Trailblazer? Here’s to hoping Koenigsegg brings the Sweden back to Saab.
Do you have a favorite (or least favorite) re-branded vehicle?