Faking It

(almost) Always a bad idea, when you’re in the automotive business.

Fiat Spider: (c) Worblaufen

Driven by opportunism, expediency or sheer desperation, motor manufacturers have often tried to pass off lightly reworked versions of competitors’ products as their own. It has rarely ended well.

The latest to have tried and failed at this game is Fiat, who announced in late 2019 that production of the Fiat 124 Spider for European markets was ending after just three years. There appears to be some confusion regarding the North American market, where the model is still listed on the Fiat.com website, but it is widely believed to be on its way out. Speaking to Autocar in August 2019, Fiat CEO Olivier François claimed that Fiat had “no legitimacy in this segment, from which Autocar inferred that the 124 Spider would not be replaced.

Under its completely reworked skin, the 124 Spider was a Mk4 Mazda MX-5 with a Fiat engine. The turbocharged 1.4L Multiair unit was available with either 138bhp in the standard car or 168bhp in the Abarth version. The car was built by Mazda in Hiroshima, Japan alongside the MX-5.

The restyling was, to my eyes at least, pretty successful in that it reprised the proportions and some of the details of the classic 1968 Fiat roadster and was noticeably more substantial (and European) looking than the petite, oriental Mazda. The interior, however, was pure MX-5, apart from the badge on the steering wheel boss and welcome page of the infotainment system.

Fiat tried to give the standard 124 Spider a slightly softer feel than the MX-5, but only succeeded in blunting the latter’s pin-sharp steering somewhat, without noticeably improving the ride quality. This was partly a result of the heavier front end and Fiat engine upsetting the previously perfect 50:50 weight distribution.

The market’s reaction to the 124 Spider was lukewarm and Fiat sold just over 37,000 examples from 2016 to 2019. By comparison, the MX-5 sold over 137,000 units in the same period.

(c) Honestjohn

Another recent and resoundingly unsuccessful attempt at this practice was the 2005 Cadillac BLS. This was a rebodied version of the Saab 9-3 and was produced in saloon and estate forms alongside the 9-3 at the Saab plant in Trollhätten, Sweden. There is a delicious irony in the fact that the BLS is, allegedly, named in honour of Bob Lutz, then GM Vice-Chairman for Product Development. Lutz described the Cimarron by Cadillac, GM’s previous attempt at a smaller Cadillac and a car conceptually identical to the BLS, asthe ultimate shaming of this once-proud brand”. At least GM had the sense not to try and sell the BLS in North America.

The BLS drove pretty much like its Saab equivalent, which is to say fine, but resolutely unexceptional. The UK motoring weekly AutoExpress awarded the BLS just two stars and opined that it “offers nothing new in a market overflowing with talent. During its five-year lifespan, fewer than 5,000 were sold. Like the 124 Spider, this was not just a badge-engineered version of the original but had a completely different exterior, so was a huge waste of development time and money for very little return. So rare is the BLS that they’re almost collectable*.

GM inflicted similar humiliations on its Swedish outpost with the 2004 ‘Saabaru’ 9-2X and 2005 ‘Saabrolet’ 9-7X, with similarly dismal results.

(c) Autocar

An extraordinary repurposing of an existing model was the 2011 Aston Martin Cygnet. The concept, revealed at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, appeared either audacious or demented at launch. History, and risible sales, would adjudge it to be the latter.

The Cygnet was a Toyota iQ, a novel three-seater city car, with a new front end incorporating an Aston Martin grill, new tail lights and a hand-crafted leather and Alcantara interior, the latter reportedly taking 150 hours to complete. The car was priced ambitiously from around £31k, almost three times that of the iQ. Annual sales were projected at an apparently modest 4,000 units. The purpose of the Cygnet was to attract new customers to the marque, provide an Aston-branded city car for existing owners and, critically, to improve the average fuel economy and reduce CO2 emissions across Aston Martin’s range to meet anticipated EU targets, introduced in 2012.

The Cygnet was a huge flop. It was dropped after three years with total sales of less than 600. Those it did sell were likely to have been quite profitable, but it’s a car Aston-Martin would prefer to forget. The Cygnet has become the choice for some mildly eccentric collectors because of its sheer rarity.

(c) Thesamba

Another much less famous case was the Volkswagen K70, launched in 1970.  This was less an imposter and more an unloved orphan. NSU had developed the K70 as a conventionally engineered sibling to the Wankel-engined RO80. It was ready to launch in 1969 when NSU, in serious financial trouble, fell into the hands of VW and was merged with Audi, a wholly owned VW subsidiary since 1966. The K70 was initially shelved as it was uncomfortably close in size and price to both the 1968 C1 generation Audi 100 and VW’s own 412 model.

However, VW needed a car to replace the fading 412 and production of the K70 resumed in 1970 after the manufacturing equipment was transferred to a new VW plant at Saltzgitter. Just 23 NSU-badged pre-production cars had been produced at the NSU plant at Neckarsulm. The FWD K70 was unusually proportioned as a consequence of its longitudinal engine being installed directly above the differential. This dictated a tall bonnet line and that in turn led to a taller than usual glasshouse, giving the K70 a somewhat top-heavy appearance.

The K70 was launched with not a great deal of publicity and it was hard to escape the impression that VW’s heart was not really in it. The company had its own range of FWD cars in development and the first of these, the Passat, would be launched just two years later. The K70 was sold for five years and just 211,127 units were produced. A production-ready estate version designed by NSU was never offered.

(c) Classicshonestjohn

There is often a glorious exception to a rule and, in this case, it’s the Triumph Acclaim, a British manufactured version of the Honda Ballade with minimal changes**. The car itself was wholly unremarkable and just 133,626 were made during its three-year lifespan. It was also the swansong for the Triumph brand.

Its significance lies in the fact that it proved that British assembly line workers could produce cars to a similar standard of quality and consistency as their Japanese counterparts, provided the car was properly designed for series production in the first place.

The Acclaim would usher in a successful era of co-operation between Rover and Honda during which the British company would enjoy a rare period of stability and success. The Acclaim remains an almost unique success story, but the truth is still incontrovertible for auto makers: don’t fake it, it doesn’t work.

* Only kidding, of course they’re not!

** One of the few changes was the installation of front seat frames designed for the Ford Cortina in place of the Honda.  This was, allegedly, done to try and free up more space in the rather cramped interior.


Author: Daniel O'Callaghan

Shut-line obsessive...Hates rudeness, loves biscuits.

63 thoughts on “Faking It”

  1. As is my wont for being left field, I like the 124 for simply being different. It’s NOT an MX-5, which doesn’t quite cut it for me. The Japa, sorry, “Italians” version can be snapped for for under 20k but would you? The few I’ve seen and heard look and sound rather nice.

    As for the Cygnet, only ever seen one being driven in Edinburgh as if it had been stolen. I’m not which made me more aghast; the fact of seeing a Cygnet or it been driven by an elderly looking lady in desperate need of one would guess toilet facilities.

    1. I much prefer the design of the 124 Spider to the current MX-5 but I’m afraid that the fact it’s a ‘fake’ rules it out for me.

      I’ve only ever seen one Cygnet. It’s regularly parked outside a modest terraced house in a village in South Norfolk, so may belong to whomever lives in the house. I would imagine that that’s not quite the demographic Aston intended for it.

      There are three Cygnets currently on Auto Trader, priced from £25k to £32k. The owner of the example near me must really love it: even £25k would buy you something far more interesting, or an IQ , from £1,690 on Auto Trader, and a load of spare cash.

  2. Interesting topic and well written. I’ve noticed that all the cars in the article are rare, at least where I live. I’ve only ever seen a 124 once. Not too many MX 5’s here either as this type of cars seems to have gone out of fashion.

    From what I’ve heard BLS doesn’t actually mean anything, it’s actually a coincidence that it carries the same initials as good old Bob and the S for Special or Sedan. The car itself again is so rare over here I can’t recall having seen one.

    I have yet to see a Cygnet. I like the IQ, have never driven one though, but I can’t think of any way the Aston is worth the premium.

    The K70 and Acclaim are older of course, but these cars didn’t sell in great numbers here either. I wonder how many are left on the Dutch roads.

  3. If I had to choose one of the ‘fakes’ to own it would be K70. I remember having a brochure for it back in 1970 and thinking how modern and handsome it looked. Remember, this was the year that Ford launched the Mk3 ‘coke-bottle’ Cortina, so the K70 really was ahead of its time, design wise. Here are some more photos:

    Note the ‘bathtub’ lower body profile, a neat reference to the NSU Prinz:

    One thing that always intrigued me with the K70 was the pressings in the wings above the corners of the front and rear bumpers. I wonder what was the thinking behind these? Had NSU intended that the bumper end caps would have been more elaborate than the production items?

    Incidentally, the original K70 bumpers with their separate end caps were replaced during the production run with the one-piece items from the original Audi 100 C1. It appears that the replacement front bumper was a little two wide for the K70, as it looks to have been cut in two at the centre with a chrome capping piece that is usually hidden behind the front number plate.

    Here’s a later K70 with the Audi 100 bumper, complete with chrome centre capping:

    1. Actually, it must have been the rear bumper from the 100 used on both ends of the K70, since the Audi’s front bumper is noticeably curved and has cut-outs for the indicators:

      I’ll stop obsessing about this now in case our dear readers are losing the will to live…

    2. The K70 had a big problem with its aerodynamics which gave it a Cd of around 0.53 and made even the 100 PS LS run no faster than 150 kph with enourmous thirst.
      Later K70 had different front wings without these indentations but the outer edge closer to the panel gap to the bonnet to reduce the frontal aspect and provide some aerodynamic improvements:

    3. Dave, you are truly epic! How do you know all this stuff? I thought I was geekish about matters automotive, but you’re in a different league. (That’s intended as a compliment, for the avoidance of doubt!)

    4. It’s interesting to hear that the K70 suffered from such poor aerodynamic traits – particularly given Claus Luthe’s pedigree in this area.

  4. An interesting topic, although definitions matter to a degree. I don’t count badge-engineered nameplates from the same company, so the Cadillac BLS, the equivalent Opel and the Saab 9-3 were all GM cars run by the same dead-handed accountants on the same platform. The Saabaru 9-2 was not made by GM, so counts just like the Cygnet, Fiat 124 and the Acclaim/Ballade. Subaru gave up on that lark when the WRX equivalent was flogged off cheap by GM compared to its own vehicle and ruined the market temporarily.

    I’m not all that bothered by the current 124 myself – something not quite right in the looks department for me, and it’s the too high tail and overly-sculpted rear light area. As a Mazda 6 owner, still somewhat awed by the fit and finish although not getting to drive it much as one would like what with the virus clampdown, the thought of the Fiat turbo engine “stinking up” the MX-5 doesn’t excite me, either, especially as it’s not as quick or flexible (only about a 2500 rpm powerband) as the standard two-litre 181 hp Mazda engine we get here, so most were automatics.

    There have been some successes flogging other cars under a different name, though. For instance, currently the Mazda 2 is not sold in the US and Canada, but instead appears as the strange-looking Toyota Yaris, a completely different vehicle from the French-made car you get. Imagine putting an anteater mug on the Mazda 2, yet nobody complains and it sells. Several decades ago Honda sold the Isuzu something or other as the Honda Passport while it imagined and finally produced the Pilot. And the current Toyota Supra is a BMW Z4 no matter how you slice the bacon, the difference being a hardtop and typically strange Toyota styling. For years, Toyota produced hundreds of thousands of Corollas as Chevy Novas and the Matrix as the Pontiac Vibe for years in the Fremont California factory it bought from GM. Now the place is owned by Tesla.

    A small failure was the result of VW selling the Chrysler minivan here in North America as the Routan for some five years from 2008, although being VW they charged extra. A lot extra. If one had no sense of spatial proportion and couldn’t work out that the Routan was available for “thousands” less as a Chrysler, well the VW salesman wasn’t about to inform you. Too bad for VW that people weren’t as visually challenged as they had hoped. Another miss was Mercedes buying the Nissan Navarro pickup truck made in Spain and trying to flog it as some X type or another – that was pure whimsy and a pretty silly idea, which Nissan kiboshed. Not surprising, since Mercedes had left Nissan sucking air on a very expensive bespoke 200,000 a year engine factory in Tennessee to make the M170 four cylinder engine for the US made C-Class, then changed the engine to the M160 series as is now current. GM and Mercedes seem to be the play hard, fast and loose merchants of the trade. Back in the day Mazda and Isuzu small pickups were sold as Fords and Chevrolets as well, I just remembered, and sold in the hundreds of thousands.

    So all in all, I can’t say the article’s last sentence is a hard and fast rule. It seems to me the Japanese make it work among themselves virtually every time, and everyone else ties themselves in knots trying to eke out an extra buck with no corresponding effort. The Honda/BL tie-up was the exception in Europe, at least till BMW came sniffing around.

    1. Hi Bill. I was contemplating writing a sequel: ‘Faking it (Part Two)’ but you have comprehensively scooped me so I won’t bother now! The Routan and X-Class are great examples, both outrageously overpriced relative to the originals and both deserved failures in the market. Other cars I might have covered included the 1996 Mazda 121 (aka Ford Fiesta) 1985 Peugeot 309 (which should have been the Talbot Arizona) and 2008 Seat Exeo (a superseded Audi A4).

      I take your point about the BLS being based on a car from the same manufacturer, so not strictly a ‘fake’ but it was too noteworthy to ignore, given its tortuous development from Opel via Saab and its disastrous sales performance. In any event my definition was intentionally loose so I could talk about the K70, a DTW sort of car that had been shamefully ignored before now!

    2. Oh, and you can add in the 1993 Honda Crossroad, a rebadged Japan-only Land Rover Discovery Mk1. Like the Passport, which was a rebadged Isuzu Rodeo, also sold in Europe as the Opel/Vauxhall Frontera, no sheet metal changes were involved, so not a huge investment.

  5. The 124 Spider may be in the line of fakers, but Fiat made it what Mazda was lazy doing: a Rally R-GT champion. I’m pretty sure this alone will be enough the immortalize the model and make it fit in the line of collectible Italian roadsters. Everybody knows the MX-5 makes a fine little sports car and there are dozens of amateur cups around the world with MX-5 racing, but there was no ‘ultimate’ version to make it a true icon. Thanks to Fiat now there is.

  6. The 124 serves as an excellent example of FCA’s product ‘planning’.

    If anybody thinks it looks like a rush job, rest assured – for that MX-5-based Alfa Spider that was announced, once upon a time, does exist and was, I’m told, rather attractive. But late in the day, somebody (possibly some jumper enthusiast) decided that wasn’t such a brilliant idea after all, so the Alfa got canned and the 124 Spider was resurrected in a jiffy – ’cause it worked for the 500, so why wouldn’t it in the case of an even more evocative product?

    The rest is now officially history.

    1. When the history books are written, I somewhat doubt that the Angora-lovin’ inconoclast will come out of it well. A numbers man he may well have been (and the jury’s still out on that) but he knew next to nothing about product and even less about those three magic words: Execution, Execution, (and furthermore) Execution.

      The 124 Spider always looked bloated to my eyes, especially to the athletically pared appearance of its Japanese brother. Some of the MX-5’s detail design I could live without, but its surfacing and proportions are a delight. I’d love to drive one. The Fiat? Couldn’t really care less, to be honest. After all if Sergio couldn’t be Aresed…?

      [That’s a clever pun by the way – no really, it was nothing… I’m here all week… month… oh Christ, year.]

    2. My recollection was that the intended MX-5-based Alfa became a Fiat owing to contractual commitments to Mazda. At the time I unkindly described it as a “Mitsuoka” (other Japanese makers of whimsical ‘hommage’ cars are available).

      The most distressing thing about the Hiroshima 124 is that Fiat did that sort of two-seater sports car brilliantly until relatively recently; 1200, 124, 850, X1/9, Barchetta.

      It’s comparable with MG Rover’s ‘faking it’ with the City Rover, an imported, ambitiously-priced Tata Indica, from the remnant of the companies which produced – unaided – hugely successful small cars such as the Austin 7, several Morris Minors, A30/35, and Mini.

    3. Concerning Robertas Parazitas’ description of the “new” 124 as a Mitsuoka: that firm has “faked it” too with the new MX-5 as a base but rather more succesfully in my opinion. The Rock Star obviously alludes to the Corvette C2 but I like it!


    4. Oh, that’s nice! I don’t care that it’s a ‘fake!

    5. Even if it was ‘contractual obligations’, rather than a mere whim that led to the Alfa Spider’s sudden cancellation and the 124’s nascency, one has to wonder why nobody was aware of the former earlier on – much earlier on.

      Even if no pressing tools etc had been ordered by that point, plenty of designers and, probably, a fair few manufacturing engineers had been busy for months, devising a vehicle in utter vain. Given FCA’s limited resources, I’d consider this a completely unnecessary waste of time, talent and money.

  7. Hi Daniel,

    This is a great article again, I would reply to the subject at hand but my mind is now swirling with badge-engineering thoughts and examples. I will get back if I can gather these thoughts into something coherent and interesting.

    1. Thank you, NRJ and Freerk, for your complimentary (and complementary!) words. It is a fascinating subject. One much older fake that comes to mind is the Heinkel bubble car, which was sold in the UK (but not Ireland) under the Trojan name, so as not to stir up hostile memories of WW2 (Heinkel had manufactured war planes for the Third Reich):

      Trojan, as in Trojan Horse, is an inspired name for a car trying to gain acceptance by disguising its true nature, don’t you think?

      My dad’s first car when my elder sister came along and he was forced to give up motorbikes was a bubble car, but not a Heinkel. Instead it was the much superior BMW Isetta which, unlike the Heinkel, came with a full complement of four wheels:

      Then I came along and the Isetta was replaced by a Renault Dauphine.

  8. Were these allowed to go on motorways ?

    For me one of the most surprising badge-swap was the Kangoo/Citan duo.

  9. Dare we mention the Santana Land Rover, upped in sophistication by the addition of twin headlamps?

    I am not able to add a photo, alas…

    1. The Santana is an interesting phenomenon I first got aware of when I visited Spain in 1990. It seems that it started off as a licenced Land Rover production in Spain for working around import restrictions. After cancelling the collaboration with Land Rover, a lot of things were altered on the car. This might be a parallel to the phase when Seat sold heavily facelifted and renamed Fiat models after they became independent.
      I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a Santana in Switzerland, but its (fake?) sibling Iveco Massif (with even more ‘sophisticated’ double headlights) can be seen on our roads occasionally.

  10. Much as I find the Ka-Siebzig a fascinating subject, it seems a bit of a category error in the company of the Japanese 124 and Saabillac. The whole business is odd: VW lifting and shifting the tooling from Neckarsulm to Salzgitter, a new factory purposed for engine production, and badging it as one of their own.

    A VW re-badge of the Audi 100 C1 would have made more sense, but I suppose VW couldn’t face scrapping the NSU tooling. With the 411/2, K70, and C1 in simultaneous production, Volkswagenwerk AG had three similarly sized cars in production, in different factories with scarcely a part in common. British Leyland could scarcely match that.

    On which matter, there’s possibly a parallel with the K70 in the move of Rover 75 production from Cowley to Longbridge as part of BMW’s sale to MG Rover. As for the subsequent MG derivatives, I can’t decide whether that was ‘faking-it’ or badge engineering. It’s a fine distinction.

    1. Twenty-three of those were built before production was moved to Salzgitter.

  11. An uninspiring exhortation and a bleak image for the car which was NSU’s great hope for the future.

    The car is well away from tarmac, despite having no off-road pretensions, and the fellow in the suit appears to be either undoing or securing his flies.

  12. I found the same image on a brochure with the contact information for the Swiss NSU concessionaire. The significance of this is that it was produced for the 1969 Geneva Salon, the one from which the K70 was pulled on the eve of press day.

    There seems to be some rule of the Geneva Show that bona fide car manufacturers must have a Swiss concessionaire. When Iran Khodro exhibited a few years ago, their brochures had the stamp of a dealership in Vernier. I’ve yet to see a Paykan or Samand on the streets of Geneva Canton.

  13. Here’s the NSU developed estate version of the K70 that never made series production:

    Lovely and glassy with slim pillars, but I can’t help wondering about its torsional rigidity.

  14. Alternatively, there’s this estate prototype dated 1971, from which one might infer that VW made a second attempt, also unrealised:

  15. I know aesthetics are very much in the eyes of the beholder, but … The 124 better looking than the current MX-5?! I never thought I would read that. I think the current version of Mazda’s classic take on a classic is just peachy – it’s small and lithe and looks light on its wheels. The 124 is over-large for its wheelbase, naffly retro and just wrong. No contest, surely?

  16. No mention of the Fiat Fullback – perhaps an indication of how quickly forgotten this rebadged Mitsubishi L200 was?

    As with NRJ (cute Chinese Peugeot lion and cubs, by the way), I was initially amazed by the MB Citan. I presume the original buyers have a contract or make a large purchase/lease with their local MB Commercial dealer, to cover various Vitos and Sprinters as well. Otherwise it’s madness or vanity to get one rather than a Kangoo – or does it come down to “residual values” of the MB badge and therefore lease price?

    On the subject of Daimler vans, the Benz/Dodge/Freightliner Sprinter earns a mention for being reworked (successfully?) as the VW LT then Crafter. The new Crafter is VW’s own effort, but is itself rebadged as a MAN TGE. I don’t recall seeing one.

    I agree about that NSU K70 brochure image being bizarre. It looks more like a location where a car might be dumped – reflecting the dumping of the NSU name, perhaps?

    1. Hi TomS,

      That’s what I was thinking about the Kangoo/Citan. What makes someone choose the Mercedes over the Renault considering it’s basically the same car but one is more expensive ?

      I guess it made sense for Mercedes to add, on the cheap, a model in the growing compact LCV segment, especially as their own, larger, Sprinter is already a success but you’d have thought they would badge-engineer a VW or at least an Opel rather than the “funny” looking and sounding Kangoo.

      A badge swap that appalled me at the time was this infamous Ford Fiesta-ed Mazda 121.

    2. Mercedes needed a replacement for the Vaneo that was based on the original A class. A Kangoo-based Citan is esily better than this contraption.

    3. Ah yes Dave I forgot they had the Vaneo before the Citan. It was badly rated if I recall correctly.

  17. Another example of a flopping fake is certainly the infamous Alfa Arna:

    53’047 have been produced according to Wikipedia. Who on earth would have wanted such a bland car, paired with Alfa’s image of shoddy finish and unreliability?

    A very interesting fake is the Saab Lancia 600 – a rebadged Lancia Delta. Or not even that, as it carries Saab lettering, but still the Lancia badge on the pictures I found. Apparently it was altered by Saab in order to improve heating, but still was judged insufficient in this area. Besides being rust-prone, of course. It seems that later on it was still imported by Saab, but no mentioning of the name was made any more. Does anyone know more details? Wiki says 6419 examples for the Swedish market. Any fakes with lower numbers around?

    1. Hi Simon, at least the Arna was branded Alfa Romeo so you knew what you were getting into. What about the Nissan Cherry Europe, a rebadged Arna sold briefly in the UK and Spain? Externally, it was barely distinguishable from the ‘genuine’ Nissan Cherry. Apart from a small ‘Europe’ badge under ‘Cherry’ on the tailgate, it had the Arna’s slimmer tail lights, a rear spoiler and that was it. I wonder if anyone bought one expecting Nissan engineering, build quality and reliability, only to get the Italians’ loose approximation instead?

    2. Never heard of this Cherry Europe… I can imagine they re-rebadged unsellable stock for selling it under a better reputed brand.

    3. You’re probably right, Simon. Here’s a better photo of the non-GTi(!) version of the Cherry Europe with no rear spoiler and on Alfasud steel wheels. It shows the telltale Alfa rather than Nissan tail lights and the little ‘Europe’ badge:

      Note that other Alfa hallmark, the rusty wheel arch. In fairness, 1980’s Nissans offered that as standard too.

    4. Regarding Saab-Lancia 600: some time ago I read an interesting autobiography written by a former Saab CEO.
      In the 1970s, Saab did not have the resources to develop its own mid-range car as a successor to the 95/96 models. In order to continue selling cars in different segments, another brand was needed as a supplement to Saab 99/900. Getting a wider model program should also be good for the dealers’ profitability, according to Sten Wennlo, Saab Personbilsdivisionens CEO 1976 to 1987. Lancia, with a glorious history, sportiness and front-wheel drive, should fit perfectly as a supporting brand for Saab, Wennlo argued. Saab had established a partnership with Lancia, so there was an opportunity to adapt the upcoming Lancia Delta (code name Y5) for the Scandinavian markets.
      Unfortunately, Saab’s Scandinavian sales organization was not very enthusiastic about Lancia, according to Wennlo. The dealers (and maybe also the customers) complained about the high price and poor quality of the Saab-Lancia 600. They thought that the Italian car was not a genuine Saab and therefore not a worthy successor to the classic, but seriously aged, 95/96 models.
      All in all, this made Saab-Lancia 600 a failure in the Scandinavian markets, according to Wennlo.
      Source: “Mitt liv med Saab” (1989) by Sten Wennlo.
      (Sorry for my substandard English, but I felt driven to write about the Saabified Lancia Delta.)

    5. Good morning Christer. Thank you for the interesting information regarding the Delta/600 and for drawing our attention to Sten Wennlo’s autobiography. As a former owner of a Delta, it was a very pleasant car but very different in character to a Saab, so I’m not surprised it was disliked by the Scandinavian dealers.

      Your English is excellent, by the way!

    6. Christer, may I add my thanks to that of Daniel’s. We always welcome our store of knowledge being added to. I hope you enjoy the site, and as Daniel pointed out, there’s nothing substandard about your language skills.

  18. The Arna / Cherry Europe was devised as a means of avoiding import quotas and taxes imposed on Japanese cars, particularly in Italy and France. Alfa wanted a supermini challenger, and provided the Alfasud engine and gearbox to meet the local content percentage.

    The woeful production numbers over four years suggest the customers were not convinced. In Britain the Italian Cherry was sold alongside the Japanese one, at around the same price. The run-out Alfasud was not much dearer, by 1983 it was a fading force, blighted by corrosion issues,

  19. in my opinion the fiat 124 and seat exeo are 2 completely different fields. Seat exeo was kind of end of the stock offer. Probably the has unsold cars and they had to launch the new audi A4, i would like to deeply analyse the timeline of everything.

    1. Unsold cars, I don’t know. But certainly the opportunity to make quick money with tooling that was already written off.

    2. The Exeo was definitely not a ploy to shift unsold A4 models, Marco. The Exeo was considerably modified over the superseded B7 generation A4 upon which it was based. The entire B7 production line was dismantled, transported from Ingolstadt and installed in the SEAT factory in Martorell, Spain, before production of the Exeo commenced.

      We’ve actually got a history of SEAT in the DTW pipeline, coming up in the near future. Stay tuned!

    3. Hi Daniel, thank you very much for your explanation. What they were thinking it is a really good question. Normal humans can not understand such decisions. Did they make some money with that operation? probably yes and this explains everything, Sad story for the car/ design/ brand image lovers.

    1. Another Frankenstein creation, Charles. Gotta love those tail lights!

  20. i’m looking forward to the SEAT article. In the old days at DTW a company like that would have justified an entire month’s theme.

    I hope Günter Óistrach Strabenau is given honourable mention; link back to NSU there…

    The Exeo really is an ‘what were they thinking?’ car.

    Was there really any call for a big SEAT sedan in 2018? If somebody at VAG thought so, they were proved wrong by the numbers. 76,911 produced from 2008 to 2013. As a waspish point of comparison, 105,818 examples of the 1M Toledo were built in 1999.

    I’m sure that the Exeo was a worthy enough thing, but I sense some ulterior motive; tax breaks? state or EU funding? managerial arse-covering?

  21. The Australian market had quite a few “interesting” badge engineered vehicles. How about a large Toyota that looks very much like a Holden?

    There are a few others discussed over on https://www.whichcar.com.au/features/ford-holden-toyota-badge-engineering for your delight!

    There were plenty of Ford / Mazda swaps, though this was sort of OK with the tie up they had at the time.

    I imagine there were a number of interesting African and South American badge engineered vehicles.

  22. I ran into a rebadged Chrysler also known as Lancia Thema today. Sadly I couldn’t take a photo, but the car is for sale on a dealer lot, so I can still get a shot in the next few days.

    1. Yes, that’s another sad fake story… using the Thema name for this botch is a sacrilege in my eyes.
      They even did it in both ways – see the Chrysler-labeled white hens they sold in Britain.

  23. Thank you for your kind words, Daniel and Eóin. It is nice to have the opportunity to contribute in this topic. I discovered DTW a few years ago and really appreciate the interesting articles and the different perspectives from the commentators. It is both deep and broad knowledge that is conveyed through the writers at DTW. Everything is also done with the twinkle in the eye, as we say in Sweden.
    Personally, I think the Saab-Lancia 600 is a good looking car with a smart design. Unfortunately, I think it was misunderstood, at least in Sweden, where it was intended as a replacement for the outgoing Saab 96. Therefore, Saab’s pricing policy can be called into question at this time. According to the consumer guide “Alla Bilar -81” (1980), published by Sweden’s leading car magazine Teknikens Värld, there was almost no price difference in the Swedish market between the Saab-Lancia 600 GLS and the home-woven, more spacious Saab 99 GL. The more well-equipped Saab-Lancia 600 GLE was even more expensive than 99 GL.
    However, Mr. Wennlo got revenge on the Lancia-skeptical Saab sellers when the Saab 9000 was launched in May 1984. The new, large Saab, developed in collaboration with Fiat-owned Lancia, became a huge success in Sweden. Car buyers were queuing up to buy the Swedish-Italian Saab and the sales organization demanded a rapid production increase in the Trollhättan plant. What an irony.

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