Spannerhead Dot

A Collection of Cars That Were Debadged…
By Their Manufacturers

April 5, 2013 by Matt

In the automotive world, the ultimate badge of shame is the lack of one applied by the factory. The following are a few examples of cars effectively disowned by their manufacturers while they still remained in production.

Pontiac Aztek Yellow Rear

Pontiac Aztek. The modern byword for complete automotive failure, it appears Pontiac had an inkling that the Aztek’s reception would be…less than favorable almost as soon as it hit showrooms, and quietly downsized its badging. The car’s name is still present, but only in non-contrasting body colors, and the trunklid bears the smallest logo imaginable. I wonder if they repurposed the keychains from the Pontiac gift store in order to create the emblems?

Hyundai Genesis Silver

Hyundai Genesis. This one’s somewhat unfortunate, since by all accounts the Genesis is a very nice car, and pleasing (or at least not offensive) to look at as well. Conscious that potential buyers might harbor concerns about brand cachet, its manufacturer designed the car with an unadorned grille and hood, as shown above. Here’s an idea, Hyundai: Why not create a new luxury marque and release the car under that brand? It’s not like it’s never been done before, and would give you the opportunity to, you know, actually seem proud of the worthy car you’ve created?

1995 Buick Skylark Grille

Buick Skylark. Between its angular grille (which paid homage to that of the 1940’s Buick Special), and its overwrought, late-’90s-Pontiac-ish plastic body cladding, the 1992-1995 Skylark was hardly a looker. It had the potential to be attractive, but Buick seemed to take all its designers’ worst ideas and combine them on one car. Initially released with a badge, after a year or two the emblem was removed from the grille, the prominence of which made the design decision very obvious. The Skylark underwent a full refresh for 1996 and the result looked much more normal…if more forgettable. So it goes.

Kia Amanti Gray

Kia Amanti. Like the Genesis above, this is another case of an economy car automaker attempting to go upmarket, but worried (somewhat justifiably) customers would cringe at the idea of driving a “luxury Kia.” So off came the badge, leaving other drivers to wonder exactly what kind of car was filling their rearview mirrors. As for the Amanti itself, other than styling that slavishly aped that of the W210 and W211 Mercedes E-Class sedans, Kia’s first crack at an entry-level luxury car was merely serviceable.

Image credits:,,,

Filed under: Car Industry, Miscellaneous


  1. I’m not particularly self-conscious, but the Amanti might be the single most embarrassing car I’ve ever gotten behind the wheel of (father-in-law owned one for a time). At least an econobox makes no bones about what it is: something that was destined for rental fleets from day one. With something like the Amanti you are announcing to fellow motorists that this is what you’ve chosen to drive. The factory should have provided brown paper bags with eye hole cutouts for its occupants, or at least for the driver.

    • Matt says:

      Good point; there is the element of intentionality there. You’re declaring that you have an interest in driving more than just a basic transportation appliance, and yet you picked a “luxury” Kia.

      I wonder why Hyundai/Kia don’t create another brand like their Japanese counterparts? Are they creating plausible deniability in case their efforts to go upmarket fail? Like, if the success of the Genesis merits a refresh or even a second generation car, will it get a Hyundai badge?

  2. It’s a valid question. One wonders if they’re looking ahead to the day where a Hyundai or Kia badge no longer carries the stigma that it once did. Still, old reputations die hard (note the automotive press helpfully dredging up ‘Fix It Again Tony’ ahead of Fiat’s US re-launch), and it’ll probably take a generation (two?) for them to reach that promised land.

  3. Peter says:

    I’m pretty sure the Toyota buyers of the 70s would never expect to pay the premiums they do today for the top-of-the-line vehicles.

    I agree that Toyota made the correct move back in 1990 and created the Lexus brand. They realized at that point they would never convince anyone from the US to spend $40k (at the time) on a Toyota (e.g. LS400) especially since Toyota’s first introduction into the US was as an econobox car maker.

    It seems like Hyundai and Kia are trying but not fully committing to the endeavor. No one will ever take the brand seriously unless they commit to that market segment. Granted their products keep improving over time, but they are working their ways into our driveways/garages with low prices and persistence vs. interest and lust for their vehicles.

  4. Aaron says:

    The first few times I saw it on the road, I eyed the Genesis closely hoping to categorize it. The grill looked more Asian than German but I definitely wouldn’t have fingered Hyundai or Kia at first glance.

    • Matt says:

      It’s an attractive car. Hyundai seems to be convinced that the presence of their badge on the hood will “drag down” the car, without having considered the possibility that the car may “pull up” the badge.

      Or they could have just, you know, created a separate nameplate…

  5. Phillip says:

    With the introduction of the Genesis and Equus, Hyundai did set out to create a totally different line of vehicles. Except… they didn’t know what to call it. I work for a Hyundai dealer in the internet department and we cant sell a Genesis or Equus in the same showroom as a Sonata, Accent or Elantra. We have to have a totally separate showroom to show the two vehicles. That is how much Hyundai has stressed the difference or break up in the brand. They just don’t have a name like Toyota has Lexus and Honda as Acura. It is interesting as one has noted, Hyundai simply didn’t want their name to pull down these two cars. Still today when people hear Hyundai they think back to door handles falling off, radios leaking water and window regulators not going down equally… just to name a few.

    It is marketing strategy though… many people have pulled up to me on a test drive with another customer and ask “hey what is that???” it forces you to say Hyundai.

    • Matt says:

      Good insights. It really does make you wonder what they’re thinking… Toyota rightly concluded, back in the day, that the average luxury car buyer wouldn’t be caught dead in a Toyota showroom, so they rolled out Lexus. That idea is so obvious you have to wonder about Hyundai, like do they really think a Mercedes or Lexus buyer will say, “Hmm, maybe I should stop in that Hyundai dealership and see if they have anything that would be fit my needs…” It’s absurd.

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