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Is the Rebadge Finally Dead?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro December 2016

Back in the 1980s and the 1990s, rebadged cars were a common sight. They were also a depressing one: Automakers would develop a car that could wear badges from two, three or four different brands, and then they would offer it completely unchanged from one brand to another.

Is that now completely dead?

I ask this for two reasons. Number one, this article topic popped into my head the other day when I was following a Subaru BRZ, which -- let's all be honest here -- is really just a Scion FR-S with slightly different badging. And yes, I say this in spite of the fact that I know Subaru people and Toyota people argue to the death about which one is better.

So I was behind the BRZ, and I was thinking: Is this the last truly rebadged car? Not quite -- but it's close. The Chevy Tahoe and the GMC Yukon aren't tremendously different, and neither are the Suburban and the Yukon XL. Of course, there's also the Chevy Express and the GMC Savana, but they hail from a different era. And then there's the Nissan NV200 and the Chevy City Express -- but if all this is really just relegated to cargo vans, then my point is kind of proven.

The other reason I mention the death of rebadging is because the brands that were once the rebadge titans all seem to be dead. We no longer contend with Mercury, Plymouth, Eagle, Oldsmobile, Pontiac or Saturn -- and they seemed to be responsible for the vast majority of rebadging.

Now, I admit that there are many vehicles on the market today that still share a large number of mechanical components with other vehicles. The Lincoln Navigator and the Ford Expedition come to mind, as do the Toyota Highlander and the Lexus RX, the BMW X1 and the MINI Countryman and blah blah blah -- we could go all day. And while many modern enthusiasts refer to these cars as rebadges, this misses the point: In the 1990s, a rebadged car literally involved changing badges, steering-wheel horn covers, a grille, the wheels and basically nothing else. Rebadged cars, not long ago, were literally identical to their counterparts from different brands.

But with a few exceptions here and there, the rebadge brands are dead, the rebadged cars are over -- and it seems like today's consumers would be smart enough to see through the cynical automotive rebadges of yore, even if they were still happening. And this begs the question: Is the automotive rebadge completely dead?

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Is the Rebadge Finally Dead? - Autotrader