The More We Look at These Weird Rebadged Cars, the More Our Head Hurts
Five rides from an alternate reality that never should have happened.
Remember our coverage of the very, very strange GMC Chevette? The imagery of the red GMC badge adorning the front grille of an honest-to-goodness sedan was so jarring, we had to track down some more strange examples of platform engineering and badge swaps. Weird cars, indeed, but admittedly none of these are going to hit with the same bone-shaking shock as the GMC. Still, these co-branded vehicular weirdos should keep you up for at least a few nights.
1989-1997 Volkswagen Taro
While a Volkswagen with a truck bed is hardly shocking or the most extreme of weird cars—think VW Rabbit pickup and the current Amarok—the Taro's clean, upright, straight-edge lines might look strangely familiar. Surprise! It's nothing more than a rebadged Toyota Hilux. Offered by VW's commercial division, the Taro was a joint venture between the two automakers as a two-pronged solution to each automaker's singular problem; at the time, VW didn't have a one-ton pickup, and Toyota wanted to make more inroads in Europe's one-ton market.
No bonus points for guessing the source of this weird-car brain-twister. The timeframe is a bit murky, but sometime in the early 2000s, General Motors owned a stake in Subaru parent Fuji Heavy Industries. During that relatively brief partnership, GM used its connection to sell rebadged Subarus under its own nameplate—like the Saab 9-2X that was little more than a reworked WRX wagon.
Part of this deal involved slapping the Chevy bowtie to the front of a second-gen Subaru Forester for the Indian market. We're not privy to sales figures or production years, but we do know the Chevy Forester is mechanically identical to the Subaru.
1995-2000 Toyota Cavalier
Another Chevrolet product from an alternate reality. Just as the name implies, this is nothing more than a Chevrolet Cavalier sporting Toyota badges that was imported and sold only in Japan in an attempt to reduce export restrictions to the U.S. Toyota made a concerted effort to market the Cavalier, but apparently potential customers weren't pleased with the Cavalier's quality and durability when compared to Japanese-built cars. Who would've thought?
2006-Present Dodge Attitude
This is the first time we've heard of a badge swap that transitioned between three separate companies. From 2006 through 2014, the Hyundai Accent was aggressively renamed the Dodge Attitude for the Mexican market, but in 2015, the Attitude nameplate jumped over to the Mitsubishi Mirage. What's next, the Yaris? No list of weird cars is complete without this one.
1980-1986 Saab-Lancia 600
Of all the brands we can imagine teaming up, a partnership between Saab and Lancia has to be one of the least likely. As reality often proves stranger than fiction, the two irreverent automakers teamed up briefly in the early 1980s as part of an agreement between Saab and the Fiat Group, where the partnership begat a shared vehicle platform and this rebadged Lancia Delta to fill the gap left by the discontinued Saab 96.
Mechanically, the 600 was identical to the Delta, though Saab created its own heater system to match the rigors of Scandinavian winters. Offered only in Sweden, Finland, and Norway, few examples were sold before the project was discontinued in 1986. Since the Delta was prone to rust, the 600 didn't last long in the wet climate, and very few 600s exist today.