5 Rebadged Models That Failed in Spectacular Fashion – and Why They Flopped

Rebadging is a strategy automakers use when they begin to sell another manufacturer’s vehicle as their own since it means not having to spend a bunch of extra money rebuilding one from the ground up. Joint ventures, market localization, and expanding the brand are all aspects of rebadging a vehicle.

Rebadging doesn’t always just involve switching model names. It can also mean making changes to how a vehicle performs, its trim levels, interior style, and outer appearance. In many cases, rebadging is successful.

However, in these rebadged vehicles, you can see just how horribly wrong rebadging can go.

Aston Martin Cygnet/Scion iQ

Aston Martin Cygnet
Image Editorial credit: Dong liu / Shutterstock.com

The European Union has developed strong CO2 emissions regulations, which prompted Aston Martin to bring the Cygnet into their lineup in 2011. It bore a striking similarity to the Scion iQ, but Aston Martin went to town on making the cabin a handcrafted tour de force.

Unfortunately, Aston Martin’s marketing ploy of targeting well-to-do city folks fell flat. Aston Martin produced fewer than 150 units over a three-year period before admitting defeat.

Chevy II Nova/Toyota Corolla

Chevy Nova
Image Editorial credit: Ken Morris / Shutterstock.com

Japanese imports put pressure on American automakers to keep pace. General Motors once decided to form the New United Motor Manufacturing Incorporated with Toyota. This led to them creating the Chevy II Nova for GM based off the fifth-generation Corolla.

The Nova’s sales were underwhelming, and the elevated costs of using Japanese parts and features only added insult to injury. The Chevy nameplate just wasn’t able to garner a higher price in the subcompact world, which led to Chevy having to discontinue the Nova.

Volkswagen Routan/Dodge Grand Caravan

Volkswagen Routan
Image Editorial credit: Vytautas Kielaitis / Shutterstock.com

Here’s one that could’ve gone really well but didn’t. The minivan market was booming in the early 2000s, and this spurred Volkswagen to get in on the action. And what better way to do it than through a partnership with Daimler-Chrysler, maker of the Dodge Grand Caravan? VW was able to outsource the manufacturing of what would be a seven-seater called the Routan made right alongside the well-loved Dodge Grand Caravan.

Of course, VW tried to put their own stamp on the Routan by offering more refined design elements and features. However, the similarly equipped Grand Caravan sold for about $7,000 less than the Routan, which led to fewer sales than hoped for and the eventual scrapping of the Routan.

Saab 9-2X/Subaru WRX

Saab 9-2X
Image Editorial credit: Roman.S-Photographer / Shutterstock.com

The second-generation Subaru WRX was undoubtedly a hit with buyers, and General Motor decided they wanted to rebrand it for their Saab line. Equipped with the same flat-four powertrain and standard all-wheel drive drivetrain as the WRX. The Saab 9-2X came with a quicker steering rack, unique exterior design, enhanced soundproofing, a retuned suspension, and a more refined interior.

So, the Saab 9-2X should’ve been a hit, right? Well, it wasn’t. This ‘Saabaru’ only produced 10,000 units in two years since the demand for it just wasn’t there. Thus, GM scrapped the 9-2X to focus on its better-selling vehicles.

Mercedes X-Class/Nissan Navara

Mercedes X-Class
Image Editorial credit: otomobil / Shutterstock.com

Once upon a time, Mercedes thought, “Hey, why don’t we have a pickup truck in our lineup?” The idea was for them to create a more affordable move into the European market with a partnership with Renault-Nissan. What Mercedes did was rebadge the Nissan Navara and give it enhanced handling capabilities, a more upscale cabin, a sleeker exterior design, and advanced tech and safety equipment. They called this truck the X-Class.

Unfortunately, Mercedes learned a hard lesson: People just weren’t interested in spending more money on buying a snazzier version of the Navara. Needless to say, the X-Class only had a three-year run before Mercedes shut down production.

In some cases, rebadging works wonders. Just look at the Shelby Cobra and how it rebadged the AC Ace-Bristol back in the day. However, as you’ve just read about in the above examples, rebadging isn’t always a smart move. While it might seem like a great cost-cutting method at first, it can become an expensive flop.

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Author: Jen Chichester

Jen Chichester is a freelance writer who grew up around classic cars. She holds a M.A. in English Literature and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Advanced Studies in Human Behavior. When she isn't working, she's hanging out with her twin boys and taking care of her cats and guinea pigs.

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