Badge engineering is a dirty word in the automotive world as some automakers took the idea a little too far.
General Motors is probably the best example as they cranked out a ridiculous number of badge engineered vehicles over the years. While it’s not unusual for Chevrolet and GMC to have their own version of the same product, the GMT360 platform of the early 2000’s spawned the Buick Rainier, Chevrolet TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy, Oldsmobile Bravada, Isuzu Ascender and Saab 9-7X.
Things have come a long way since then and even badge engineered models from the same company now have more distinctive styling inside and out. While Ford and General Motors are best known for the practice, it’s become truly global phenomenon.
The most recent example debuted in the Motor City as Toyota took the wraps of the 2020 GR Supra. Essentially a rebadged BMW Z4, the Supra features distinctive styling inside and out. Despite some Toyota-specific tuning, core components carryover from BMW including the model’s twin-turbo 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine that produces 335 hp (250 kW / 340 PS) and 365 lb-ft (494 Nm) of torque.
Of course, the Supra and Z4 are just one of the latest examples as Mazda and Fiat have both been selling their own versions of the MX-5. Unlike the Supra, the Fiat 124 Spider doesn’t have a Mazda-sourced engine. Instead, it is powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 160 hp (119 kW / 162 PS) and 184 lb-ft (249 Nm) of torque. The MX-5, on the other hand, has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder developing 181 hp (135 kW / 183 PS) and 151 lb-ft (204 Nm) of torque.
Another badge engineered model that has been in the news recently is the Infiniti QX30. Despite being arguably more attractive and luxurious than the Mercedes GLA, the QX30 was outsold nearly 3:1 last year. It will eventually be replaced by an all-new model which will be developed in-house.
One of the less stellar badge engineering efforts is the Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86. Both are fine cars, but the differences between the two are incredibly minor. They haven’t exactly been stronger sellers either as Toyota sold 4,133 86s in America last year, while Subaru only moved 3,834.
While most of the vehicles we’ve mentioned are coupes and convertibles, they’re not the only vehicles that are badge engineered. We can even expect more in the future as the alliance between Ford and Volkswagen will see the Blue Oval create new trucks and vans for their German competitor.