Best and Worst of Re-Badging: GM Sinks, VW and Chrysler Soar

Routan: Can you see the Caravan hidden inside?

Routan: Can you see the Caravan hidden inside?

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! 

Chrysler would have given Nissan a truck based on the Dodge Ram Pickup to replace the aging Nissan Titan.

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 Equator (Nissan Frontier)

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.

Pontiac Vibe (Toyota Matrix)

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.  

Volkswagan Routan (Dodge Grand Caravan)

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…

Jaguar X-Type (Ford Mondeo)

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.

Saab 9-7X (Chevy Trailblazer)

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?



  1. @Bryce
    I agree with you. Isn’t it strange how the media loves to pick on GM? Some of these people are trying to destroy GM.

  2. Everyone is so in love with Toyota that no one can see straight. I owned a Vibe and it was one of the worst vehicle I’ve own because of it’s Japanese components. I had trouble with the engine,trans, brakes and wheel bearings. All of those parts were Japanese. I change the horn because it was not loud enough. My motor cycle had a larger horn. Cheap cheap Japanese components! GM did well in getting out of this deal. GM could not have made money on this deal.

  3. Ha Ha you dont realise the half of it Saab is a rebadged Opel/Vauxhall. Check behind most smaller GM badges and youll find Suzukis Opels Daewoos the list goes on any GM car from any.where is a Holden in Australia a Chev in Southafrica Vauxhall in England Pontiac G8 is a Holden. Ford just slaps a new badge on Mazdas Chrysler reskinned old Mercs to create Crossfire and the japanese pickup range is sold under whichever name is popular in the market.Landrover discovery has been a Honda.This isnt a new idea at all its been going on 20 years at least.

  4. Least Favorite
    Cadillac Cimarron, as much as I like many GM stuff, this is not one them. A Cadillac in a J-Body just doesn’t work very well.

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