Top 10 Worst Badge-Engineered Cars

Badge-engineering is what some car makers, whether they are new or established, do to save costs on R&D. The term “engineering” has absolutely nothing to do with these cars as they are mere carbon copies of the original models other than a different badge. Sometimes they worked but most of the times, these copies are just bad. Some of them even killed off the brand. These are the Top 10 Worst Badge-Engineered Cars and obviously we’ll begin at number……

10. Lincoln Blackwood


Lincoln is Ford’s luxury division. Hip hop fans would probably remember them for the Navigator and fans of American history would remember the car maker as the last ride a President took before he was shot (which coincidentally has a similar name to another President who was famously assassinated). Ford built one of the best-selling cars in America, the Ford F-150 pick-up. It was cheap and big, very American. So Lincoln decided to jump on the pick-up sales and what they created was this: The Blackwood. It has an interesting tailgate mechanism, and has many luxury features like plush carpets, a power tonneau cover, black wood trim (hence the name) and rear wheel drive. Wait, that last one should not even be in a pick-up truck. It’s a truck that appears like an off-roader but can’t do crap off road. It was expensive too. At $52,500. You could get a Navigator with four-wheel drive for less than that. And it only comes in one colour. Needless to say, it flopped, but this was not Lincoln’s last and only attempt at a pick-up truck. They released the Mark LT and that one was a moderate success.

9. Saab 600


When Saab died in 2010, many car fans felt like there is a moose-shaped void left. Saab were a quirky and unique company as explained by Clarkson and May here. They are so OCD, that General Motors got so fed up with their quirkiness, they threw them out in the streets and left to die. And when you think of Saabs, you would imagine 900s, 99s, 9-5s and anything that begins with a 9. Of course, while under the General, the complete line-up were badge-engineered cars. The 9-3 was based on the Opel Vectra, the last 9-5 was based on the Insignia and there were of course the Saabaru 9-2X, and the 9-7X. While the last one is notably horrible as it was based on the equally boring and horrendous Chevrolet Trailblazer, this is the pick of the literal litter. The Saab 600 or to put it in its full name, the Lancia-Saab 600. It was a Delta with the words Saab written on it. The Delta is actually an extraordinary car, winning rallies around the world and made the company memorable as a Rally company. So, when the boys from Trolhättan get their hands on one, it was slow and was completely stripped off all the fun that made the Delta great. The beginning of the Saab’s fall from grace.

8. Geo Tracker


In my hometown, I used to see one of these driving along the road and at first I thought it was a Suzuki Vitara. The only difference is that it has a red sticker below the number plate which reads “LEFT HAND DRIVE VEHICLE”. It was only later I realized that it was a Geo Tracker, a rebadged version of the Vitara. The Tracker is notable for one thing when it was launched, excessive rolling when avoiding obstacles. At least according to Consumer Reports. GM tried to sue the publication but all charges were dropped and it soldiered on as a Chevrolet after GM realized that an unknown car brand would not attract people to buy them instead of Toyotas and Hondas. Ironically, every single Geo model was a rebadged Japanese car. There was the Prizm, Storm, Spectrum and Metro which were based on the Toyota Sprinter, Isuzu Impulse, Isuzu I-Mark and Suzuki Swift respectively. Some of the lineup, in particular the Prizm, continued to be sold as Chevrolet.

7. Perodua Nautica


Perodua did an excellent job with the Kembara. A go anywhere off-roader that is cheap and easy to drive. So, when Perodua decided to launch a much awaited successor to the beloved Kembara in 2008, four years after the last Kembara was discontinued, fans were truly crying with tears of joy. Finally, a brand new mini SUV! Huzzah!! Instead the reception was muted when it arrived in showrooms. It was small and practical. The car could go off-road without a problem and the quality is top notch for a Perodua. The reason for this excellent quality is it was built and imported from Japan and since Malaysia imposes ridiculously high import taxes on cars to apparently make us to buy Protons that has a refresh every 10 years, it costs RM90,500 when launched. The Toyota Rush it was based on (which is also longer) costs nearly similar to the Perodua. It was a huge sales flop with less than 500 sold and was quietly discontinued after a year. Perodua said that it flopped because they could not get approved Import Permits for the car. Ironic as the reason for this high import is to protect the local car industry.

6. Toyota Cavalier


The Chevrolet Cavalier is quite possibly the worst American car to be launched in the 90’s. It was a terrible, cheap excuse for Chevrolet to launch a contender against the Corollas and Altimas. But GM had another solution for that which is the aforementioned Geo program. Funny thing is, these competitors were actually willing to help GM out. Which is where this Toyota Cavalier comes in. In exchange for giving them help in improving the quality of the cars, GM offered to import Cavaliers into Japan and badge them as Toyotas. They tweaked it a little to make it more at home in the Japanese market like a rear fold-down arm rest and amber turn signals. However, the Japanese found out that while it has a Toyota emblem on it, it feels very un-Japanese. There were quality and panel gap issues and there was also the problem with the car’s comfort level. It sold from 1995-2000 and left forgotten.

5. Ford Aspire


Remember the old days where everyone made a mockery out of the Koreans for their cheap pieces of shit on wheels? That was only 5 years ago and now they make cool looking cars at an affordable price. In the 1990s Kia was just your average crap carmaker importing ugly or bland cars to people who just wanted to move from A to B easily. Ford already had one cheap piece of crap in the shape of the Festiva but when the small car’s time is up, Ford decided to replace it by teaming up with Kia to make this. The Aspire really feels like a cheap Hyundai or Kia and not a Ford. You could say that it ASPIRES to be as shitty as possible. At least the Festiva had a little character, this one has nothing other than a blob outline which probably inspired the design of the weird third-gen Taurus.

4. Pontiac LeMans


The Le Mans Grand Prix is one of the most exciting races in the world. It is where you get to see the best cars and drivers test out their endurance in 24 hours. The Pontiac LeMans on the other hand is actually a nice muscle car with a very famous role in the classic The French Connection. You can check out the chase scene here. The LeMans then became this in the 1980s after teaming up with GM’s Korean division, Daewoo. The result is an insult to Pontiac, the famed race track and also to muscle car fans all over the world. Had they name it something else, it still would be here but not as high. The LeMans was riddled with numerous quality issues and it really felt cheaply built.

3. Rover CityRover


In 2003, Rover teamed up with a car maker known for its achievements in its home country to produce an affordable car for the masses. Rover was seen as a company that attracts senior citizens to buy their cars rather than as funky youthful carmaker. That carmaker turned out to be Tata of India and the company agreed with Rover to rebadge the Indica (India’s first in-house developed car) as the CityRover. The car was criticized so heavily by motoring publications that they did not allow Top Gear to review it. Among the faults were quality issues, appaling handling, and a high price. How high? From £6,495. It was among the cheapest cars on the market but Rover paid Tata £3,000 for each car meaning that it is not worth the asking price with all these issues.

2. Alfa Romeo Arna


Usually when we think of the best of both worlds, we always expect them to be either good or a horrible monstrosity. An Italian car design with Japanese reliability would be an almost too perfect car. A Japanese car with Italian build quality on the other hand would be a nightmare. Which is where the Alfa Romeo Arna comes in. It was based on the seriously boring to death Nissan Cherry. It was Alfa’s competition to the Lancia Delta and Volkswagen Golf, both of which are legendary until today. At that time, many countries ban or limit the import of Japanese cars. To overcome this loophale, Nissan and Alfa Romeo forged a deal to make this. Nissan would build the panels and Alfa would build them. However the Japanese probably did not realize that Alfas of yore were notoriously unreliable. What came out was a Nissan that rot even when there is a light shower not to mention terrible steering, and that last one exemplifies why this one of the worst cars ever but it is not the worst in our list. But first!

Dishonorable mentions:


Chevrolet Nova – Based on the Toyota Corolla, it was just a bad decision by GM to gain a foothold in front of the Japanese and the death of yet another iconic car name


Vanden Plas 1500/1700 – How to make the Austin Allegro more gaudy? This is your answer


Isuzu i-Series – Marked the downfall of Isuzu from America, also Isuzu Acender. They became obsolete GM products


Triumph Acclaim – One of the reasons Triumph died is because of this which is essentially a Honda Ballade with worse quality


Aston Martin Cygnet – Nope. Nope. Nooope.


Pontiac G3 – Pontiac’s final attempt to gain buyers is a Chevrolet Aveo-shaped nail to its coffin

1. Cadillac Cimarron


The 1980s was the year of excess and greed, for the lack of a better word, is good. But even in a time of excess and pleasure, GM wanted to save on manufacturing costs by building multiple cars under one platform. The Cadillac Cimarron was based on the J-platform which includes the Chevrolet Cavalier, Buick Skyhawk, Oldsmobile Firenza, Pontiac J2000, 2000, and Sunbird. Based on those cars, this was supposed to be a cheap, economy car and not for luxury purposes. But a Cadillac is a Cadillac. Fearful of the wave of small, midsize European luxury cars like the BMW 3-Series, the Cadillac was quickly rushed to production and the end result was merely akin to an ugly scrawny chihuahua with bling and a small sweater or a cobbled out apartment with luxury sofa and good sound system but a leaky ceiling and cracked floors.  It was a disaster for Cadillac. Buyers were not fooled at the sight of an economy car pretending to be a luxury car with a much higher asking price compared to its siblings. Even the engine was weak and a V6 option was only launched in 1985, three years after launched. It marked the beginning of the downfall of Cadillac, from a luxury car company to just a car company struggling to keep up with the times and trends. Look at Cadillacs of today, if it wasn’t for the Escalade, Cadillac could probably cease to exist thanks to this car. To quote CarBuzz, the Cimarron is “textbook example of what goes wrong when carmakers try to badge engineer an economy car into a luxury car”.