Badge engineering isn’t anything new for America’s big three carmakers. While they have seen sales spikes with some of their badge-engineered cars, some others were total failures. In the Seventies, after it bought shares of Mitsubishi Motors, Chrysler tasted huge success with the Dodge Colt, which was a rebadged Galant. However, around the same time, the Pentastar tried sneaking another captive import into the North American market by slapping a new badge on it, but it turned out to be a sales disaster.
It was a time when American carmakers were struggling to fend off the onslaught of German and Japanese small cars. Not used to making city runabouts until then, whatever they could come up with wasn’t good enough to stand up to brilliant imports like the Volkswagen Beetle.
While Ford and Chevrolet tried with the Pinto and the Vega, respectively, and failed, Chrysler took the easy way out. It decided to rebadge a compact car built by Rootes, its UK division that also owned the Hillman brand. But unfortunately for Chrysler, the Seventies wasn’t exactly the best time for the British car industry either, with quality standards in the automobile industry there being at an all-time low.
So the Hillman Avenger was one of the worst cars Chrysler could have chosen, and to make thing even worse, someone came up with the bright idea to call it the Cricket when it was rebadged as a Plymouth. If you didn’t see the connection yet, this was apparently prompted by the success of the VW Beetle. Pitting one insect against another, you see! But with a horrible name, terribly bad build quality, and an asthmatic engine, it was summarily rejected by American car buyers. It was such a catastrophe that it even prompted Chrysler to sell off its European division to Peugeot.