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June 18 Weekly Open Thread: "Introduction To 'Badge Engineering' Week(s)"

GM-FortuneCoverFinal-489x630Dear readers, here we go again with yet another Theme Week at Car Lust. This time, we set sail on a course of consumer disgust and corporate collapse... at least in many cases. But we had so much fun putting this theme week together, we might even go for two weeks.

In our next post, Cookie the Dog's Owner will give greater detail on what badge engineering is all about. But today's reading is a preview of what's in store for the week. We'll also dig into the Car Lust archives to show why badge engineering is usually not a good thing to do.

Just to the right here (it's kind of hard to read), that headline under the cars says, "GM Look-alikes: Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Buick, Pontiac." The first emotion I get after reading that is that half of those remarkable brands have now gone to that big auto assembly plant in the sky. And it goes without saying that the title, "Will Success Spoil General Motors?," was mildly ironic at best.

Those GM A-body cars may be the most iconic example(s) of badge engineering ever. Sure, there were slight differences between the brands, but it took some lookin' to find them. And though this may be a post on "twin" cars, that image makes the GM clones look more like a "litter."

Of course, we car nuts are not stoopid. We can easily see through this charade and can actually have some fun by exposing the knock-offs. So here's a few past examples of this corporate "trickery." Can you name all of them? If not, the answers are at the bottom in the image credits:

Duster Dart

Chevette 2 T 1000

75 gmc truck

74 chevy truck







Rolls-Royce Bentley








Dasher Audi-fox-07







  Chevy Vega Pontiac_astre-1973_r2.jpg












Silver beetle Porsche 959



















OK, the last one's a joke. The one on the right was never sold here. But these titanium Teutonic treasures are pretty cool, eh?

There are many more "twin" vehicles out there, and we'd love to hear some favorites (or least favorites).

And since it's again Monday, this is the place to rank and rave and scream and holler and kick and yell about anything that's even remotely car-related. In a completely civilized and proper manner, of course.

--That Car Guy (Chuck)

Image Credits: Fortune Magazine, August 22, 1983 cover: Plymouth Duster: Dodge Dart: Chevy Chevette: Pontiac T1000: Sadly, I owned that. GMC pickup: Chevy pickup: Rolls-Royce: Bentley: VW Dasher: Audi Fox: Chevy Vega: Pontiac Astre (Canada): VW New Beetle (Image flipped): Porsche 959:


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That magazine cover image is the most complete, concise, easily understandable explanation of GM's fall I've ever seen.

I know GM gets a bad rep for all the "badge engineering" that went on in the 80s (not undeserved, don't misunderstand), but for some reason people seem to overlook Chrysler which, during the same time period (and further) I believe were far worse offenders than GM as far as badge engineering goes.

Using the 80's A-bodies as an example, at least GM would differentiate a Chevy Celebrity from an Olds Cutlass Ciera enough to where you could spot the differences at more than 20 paces distance. Could you do the same with a Dodge Aries/Plymouth Reliant K-car? How about a Dodge Diplomat/Plymouth Gran Fury? You'd be lucky to distinguish those from more than 5 feet away, let alone 20 paces. A Chrysler LeBaron/Dodge Spirit/Plymouth Acclaim? Same thing.

The badge engineering got so bad at Chrysler that in 1983, there was the Dodge AND Plymouth Colt - they even shared the same name now! Other than the badges, what were the differences between the two? Damned if I know...

There will always be some sort of "badge engineering" going on, especially with the U.S. companies. The trick is to not make it so obvious, or base your entire product lines on them.

Want to see an example of horrific, deranged car lust? I have either owned or desired to own each of the maroon atrocities on that magazine cover at some point in my life. Chevy Celebrity, Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, Buick Century, and the Pontiac 6000. Wow.

One of my favorite examples was the Dodge Neon. Which of course was easily moved over to the Plymouth line and christened...Neon.

At least they didn't make any bones about it.

Pontiac Ventura is the one for me. My parents had one when I was a kid. Not much to differentiate it from the Nova in the model we had.

Is the full article of the Fortune magazine available on the web? I'd be interested in reading it!

There is nothing wrong with badge engineering...if people know about it and no one is making great claims to the otherwise,.
A guy buys an Mercury Bobcat or Lynx instead of a Pinto or big deal. Mercury's were always slightly upscale Fords.

But GM's brands had distinct personalities...backed by decades of ads,and real engineering differences.
So when the mainstream Pontriac, Olds and Buicks (each with their own divisional "heritage") turned into rebadged Chevys...something was wrong. And this cane AFTER the old "Old engine in a Cadillac" fiasco in the 70s...GM realy should have known better.

Yes, that article fortold the first steps to the bankruptsy and government bail out.

Generations GM executives deserve nothing but scorn for srewing up a company that once had 60% of the world's largest auto market.

I know nothing about business but I swear, I could have done a better less cost. :)

Gentlemen, please, lets not forget the 2002-2009 Chevy Trailblazer
Gentlemen, please, lets not forget the 2002-2004 Olds Bravada
Gentlemen, please, lets not forget the 2002-2009 GMC Envoy
Gentlemen, please, lets not forget the 2003-2007 Isuzu Ascender
Gentlemen, please, lets not forget the 2004-2007 Buick Rainier
Gentlemen, please, lets not forget the 2005-2008 Saab 9-7X

Oh and by the way, I think Bentley's version of that car, The Turbo R, or Muslanne, or the Turbo R/T, or the Brooklands, or whatever they called it, was much better looking than that of the Roller

I still want to get a Celebrity Wagon.

The Honda version of the Isuzu Rodeo cost more and didn't have as good of warranty...I always felt sorry of the Consumer Reports trained slaves who bought it thinking it was a Honda.

That kind of misrepresentation makes Dodge/Plymouth twins appear harmless in comparison. But not the Cadilac Cimmeron. :)

And lest you thinks it was just Detroit, don't forget the MG Midget/AH Sprite twins, and the versions of the Mini sold by Woolsey and several others. Even the sainted BMW made Italian bubble cars under license. And Bristol made postwar copies of pre-war BMW 328 after receiving the engine and tools as "war prizes".

Anyone else remember the Sterling 825/827 of the late 80s/early 90s? Basically an Acura Legend with British build quality... Gee, what could go wrong?

Plenty, as it turned out. A perfect example of a seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time scenario.

Earlier today, someone posted a comment on my Loewy Coupe article from two years ago ( asking for help in identifying a customized Studebaker. Any Stude fans in the audience: see if you can lend a hand.

In defense of badge engineering, particularly for the A-cars, frequently the Buick/Oldsmobile version of the car was plusher in upholstery, trim, and sound deadening than the Chevrolet/Pontiac version. For the early A-cars, engine availability varied from line to line. In those days, cars did not come with Option Package A, B, or C, and had individually packaged options, so if you wanted a car with say, manual windows, rear defogger, tilt, and cruise, you might have to shop several dealers. Additionally, the dealer experience both pre-and-post purchase varied significantly among Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and Chevrolet. Oldsmobile, at least here in Atlanta, generally provided a more straightforward buying experience and better service after the car was purchased. Same was true for Mercury v. Ford. These cars probably could/should have been better differentiated but there were differences that were not readily apparent to the eyes of 2012 v. 1982.

From the seventies Chevrolet Nova= N-ova, O-mega, V-entura, A-pollo. GM's clever way of admitting these cars were badge-engineered.

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