Article: Twinned Cars: 25 of the Same Cars Driving Under Different Brands: HowStuffWorks
Twinned Cars: 25 of the Same Cars Driving Under Different Brands
By: Ian Fortey
Image: Wiki Commons by M 93 & IFCAR / enjoynz / DivVector / DigitalVision Vectors / Getty Images
About This Article
There's an art to marketing cars that can get pretty confusing in a worldwide context sometimes. Some names just won't translate into other languages, so a new one needs to be thought up. Some names are already in use and trademarked in a particular market, so a new one has to be invented to capture the spirit of the car without causing legal issues. Some cars get to be sold as captive imports, using the make and model of a local manufacturer even though they're made on the other side of the world, just so they can be associated with the brand and reputation people know and trust already. Other times cars just have to be rebadged and sold as though they were something new in an effort to help break into a market or save some of the expenses associated with designing and building a new model of car.
Whatever the reason for a car to get sold under two different names, it happens more often than you'd think. You never see any Opels or Holdens at dealerships in the United States, but you do see Buick Encores and Pontiac GTOs, which are rebadged versions of those other vehicles. If you're curious to see how it works, take a look at some of the best examples!
The stealthiest GTO
The Mitsubishi GTO, top, was in production from 1990 until the year 2000. As a grand touring sports car, it was sleek and sexy, and it was also the Dodge Stealth, bottom. The Stealth and the GTO were sold side-by-side in North America from 1990 until 1996. Dodge was an established American brand, so it would appeal more to buyers who only wanted to buy American. Of course, it was rejected as a pace car for the Indy 500 because it wasn't made in America, so that doesn't always work out.
El Caballero Camino
Chevy and GMC brands parallel each other quite a lot, and one of the most famous non-truck examples was a staple of the 1970s. The Chevy El Camino, top, is one of those icons of the era, a sort of car/sort of truck that had a flatbed in the back for hauling roller skates and other cool '70s stuff. Less well-known but basically identical was the GMC Sprint, which was later renamed the GMC Caballero, bottom. Aside from a few trim differences, it was the same vehicle through the El Camino had been around seven years before the Sprint showed up.
Call it the Omegatera!
German automaker Opel started making their Omega, top, in 1986, but Opel isn't a brand anyone in North America has really heard of. To sell it to North American buyers, it was rebadged as the Cadillac Catera, bottom. The company went all out to market the Catera as well, branding it with the slogan "the Cadillac that zags" and getting supermodel Cindy Crawford to appear in ads for it. The show "Chicago Hope" even had a character named Lisa Catera in it after the creator was inspired by hearing "lease a Catera."
Tiny car, big names
When it comes to renaming cars, the Geo Metro is head and shoulders above most of them. The Geo Metro, top, was also sold as the spritely sounding Pontiac Firefly. But it didn't end there. It was also the Suzuki Forsa, Suzuki Swift, and the Chevrolet Sprint. The Geo Metro's sales started waning significantly by 1997, and as a result, that was the last year with the Geo nameplate before they went with Chevy Metro, bottom, from then on.
The Cobra twins!
One of the coolest cars of all time was the Shelby Cobra, top, the result of the work of Carroll Shelby to make the ultimate racing car. But it did have one worthy competitor in the AC Cobra, bottom, which was actually the same car. AC was a British automaker, and Shelby used the lightweight and sleek body of an AC Ace and installed a powerful Ford V8 engine inside. In the UK, they marketed it as an AC Cobra, but in North America, since AC wasn't a known brand, they stuck with the designer's name and called it Shelby.
The Genesis of cars
Like Toyota and Lexus or Ford and Lincoln, Hyundai also has a luxury label they use for manufacturing some higher-end vehicles, which explains how the Hyundai Genesis, top, and the Genesis G80, bottom, both came to be when they're the same car. Hyundai started selling the Genesis back in 2008 right up until 2016 when they swapped over to Genesis G80. Back in 2009, when the Genesis was first rolled out, it was named "North American Car of the Year" as well as Cars.com, Wheels Media, and China's Autoworld Magazine "Car of the Year."
Not quite the final Frontier
Have you ever heard of the Nissan Frontier? There's a good chance you have even if you haven't. Few trucks have been rebadged as much as the Frontier, which also claims the name Suzuki Equator, Nissan Navarra, Nissan NP300, top, Nissan Fiera, Nissan Hardbody, Nissan Winner, Nissan Skystar, Peugeot Pickup, Mercedes-Benz X-Class, bottom, and enough more that you'll forget what it was in the first place by the end of the list. They've been in production since 1997, and no matter where you live, odds are one of those names is being sold there.
Alt for a Cobalt
The 2005 model year saw Chevy introduce its Cobalt, top, in the North American market, but it didn't come alone. There was a rebadged Pontiac version of the car as well. In Mexico, it was the Pontiac G4 for a spell while it was the G5, bottom, in the US, Canada, and Mexico for several years. Production ended in 2005 in North America, but if you have a real hankering to enjoy a Cobalt, they still produce them in Brazil to this day.
Are you thinkin' Lincoln?
Lincoln made the Mark LT pickup truck from 2005 to 2008, and if it looks familiar, it's because it was basically a luxury-trimmed version of the most popular pickup truck ever. The Lincoln Mark LT, top, was a Ford F-150, bottom, meant to appeal to a slightly higher-end truck crowd. The experiment didn't go so well, and the plan was to sell 13,000 units a year, but final numbers in the first year were just over 10,000. Eventually, the Mark LT was scrapped, and Ford just offered a premium version of the 150.
Where the Silverado goes
Next to the Ford F-150, the Chevy Silverado, top, is one of the most popular pickup trucks in America, but it does have a twin brother. The GMC Sierra, bottom, is the same basic vehicle. They even have a couple of luxury upgrades that match up across the two brands. GMC offered the upgraded Sierra Denali while Chevy has he Silverado High Country. Despite being the same vehicle, the GMC version tends to sell about half as many units as the Chevy.
Navigate this Expedition
Lincoln has been selling the Navigator, top, since 1997 when Ford introduced the same core vehicle as the Expedition, bottom. Lincoln's version is branded as a luxury vehicle, and it was the first luxury SUV marketed by a North American automaker and also the heaviest Lincoln the company has ever rolled out as well. The difference in price between a brand new Expedition and a brand new Navigator is in the neighborhood of $20,000.
Conquest of the Starions!
From 1983 until 1989, the Mitsubishi Starion, top, was a turbocharged sports car that was available in Japan. They rolled it out in North America as the Conquest, but it was rebadged in three different directions. The Starion was sold as the Chrysler Conquest, bottom, the Dodge Conquest, and even the Plymouth Conquest in the U.S. as well as the Mitsubishi Starion. The largest overlap was between 1984 and 1986 when you could get it as a Mitsubishi, a Dodge, and a Plymouth.
This 86 is a breeze
Toyota and Subaru got together to work on the Toyota 86, top, and the result was that Subaru snagged their own version called the BRZ, bottom. Both cars are fastback coupes, and the differences between them are just minor cosmetic ones. The BRZ has a slightly different grille and headlights as well as a rear fender, but other than that, they're the same vehicles. That said, the Toyota version has consistently outsold the Subaru.
Escort this Lynx
Remember the Ford Escort? The Escort, top, was one of the most popular models Ford ever produced from 1980 until 2003. When it was introduced, it brought along a twin under the Mercury brand name, the Mercury Lynx, bottom. Later generations of both cars would also be known as the Mercury Tracer and the Ford Laser. The first generation of Escort was Ford's first world car model, a vehicle that was to be rolled out in pretty much every marketplace.
Sundancing in shadows
The major difference between the Plymouth Sundance, top, and the Dodge Shadow, bottom, was that in 1991 you could get a Shadow convertible but not a Sundance. For the previous four years, the cars had been exactly the same, and they were even sold in Europe under the name Chrysler ES. For a brief time, there was also an exclusively Mexican variant called the Chrysler Shadow. In 1994, all of them were replaced by the Neon.
Holden this GTO
This is another case of needing a new name for a new place. The Holden Monaro, top, was sold in the UK starting in 1968 and was named after a place in Wales. It lasted until 2005. In 2004, it was rebadged for sale as a Pontiac GTO, bottom, and exported to the United States to try to get some traction by playing off the name of the classic GTO that American drivers would have already heard of, rather than the Monaro, which no one would have known.
Elan to Elan
The Lotus Elan, top, was one of the most elegant cars of the 1960s and 1970s. Their first run was from 1962 until 1975. It had a second run from 1989 until 1995. Then something happened. In 1995, Kia Motors bought the design of the Elan from Lotus and proceeded to change it in almost no way whatsoever. Other than badging it as the Kia Elan, bottom, it was a nearly identical car save for some taillight tweaks. They produced just over 1,000 of them and ended production in 1999.
One fast flower
The Lotus Carlton, top, could hit a top speed of 177 miles per hour in 1990, making it as fast as a sports car with the looks of a sensible sedan. Thing is, it technically wasn't even a Lotus. Lotus tweaked it under the hood to give it that power, but it was actually a Vauxhall Carlton or an Opel Omega, bottom, with minor cosmetic changes like a spoiler and Lotus badges to make it a Lotus. It was also weirdy only available in Imperial Green.
The Cadillac of Corvettes
What happens if you add some slightly tweaked body panels to a Corvette and change absolutely nothing else? You end up with the Cadillac XLR, top. Produced from 2003 until 2009, the XLR was identical to the 6th generation Corvette outside of the body panels outside. The chassis was the same, transmission the same, engine the same, even the interior. It was like putting a new coat of paint on a house and pretending it was a different building in an effort to make Cadillac appeal to a different audience.
Dodge this Eagle
Do you remember the Eagle Premier? Probably not, the Premier, top, was an underwhelming car made by AMC starting in 1987. By 1990, thanks to a partnership with Dodge, it was rebadged as the Dodge Monaco, bottom, and they did nothing at all to distinguish the two. Other than swapping a badge for the Dodge emblem, it was literally the same car. The Monaco had existed as its own model previously, dating back to the 1970s, but the '90s resurrection as an Eagle Premier only lasted two years.
Sky full of Opel
German automaker Opel had been producing the GT model since 1968 when it was extremely close in appearance to the Chevy Corvette. But fast forward to the Opel GT roadster of 2007, top, and what you have is essentially a Pontiac Solstice, bottom, that was also rebadged as the Saturn Sky for North American drivers. It even got rebadged again as the Daewoo G2X for South Korea. All things being equal, it was a pretty cool looking car, so it's just as well that more people got to enjoy it.
Deep in the forest
The Subaru Forester, top, has proven to be a pretty popular SUV in Japan. It took "Motor Trend's" SUV of the Year Award in both 2009 and 2014. Despite that popularity, it was still rebadged for sale when it was exported to India. It got the Chevy label there, bottom. Chevy's parent company GM used to own stake in Subaru's parent company Fuji Heavy Industries, but they no longer do, so the Chevy version is no longer offered.
Passport to the Rodeo
When Honda wanted to break into the SUV market, they didn't want to gamble too much on their chances, it seems. As a result, rather than designing a new model from the ground up, they decided to partner with the smaller Isuzu to make things happen. The result was that Honda's first foray into the North American SUV market was with the Passport, top. It was a rebadged version of Isuzu's Rodeo, bottom. By 2002 they ended their partnership, and Honda created their own SUV, the Pilot.
A real Trooper
Acura is the luxury vehicle brand owned by Honda, so it makes sense that they'd engineer another vehicle into something a little more luxurious, and that's just what they did with the Isuzu Trooper, left. Isuzu had been making the Trooper since 1981, so when their partner Honda wanted an upscale SUV in 1995, they rebadged the Trooper as the Acura SLX, right, and jazzed up the interior trim to try to justify the cost. Sales were poor for the SLX due in no small part to "Consumer Reports" calling them unsafe for their tendency to roll over.
The Accent Attitude
Sometimes geography is the only thing that seems to explain the rebadging of a vehicle. One of the best examples of this is the Dodge Attitude, top, a subcompact sedan sold in Mexico. If you never saw an Attitude for sale anywhere else, it's because it never was for sale anywhere else. Instead, it was sold in almost every other country on Earth by its much more common name the Hyundai Accent, bottom, or for later models, the Mitsubishi Mirage.
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