I’ll admit, I’m sort of amazed we haven’t covered this at the HMS Jalopiesnick before, because this is precisely the kind of automotive idiocy that gets all of my delight glands nice and excorpulated. The car I want to tell you about isn’t a particularly interesting car, but it was closely related to a good, honest general-use car, the 2002 to 2004 Toyota Matrix. You may also recall that the Toyota Corolla-platform’d Matrix was also sold by GM, who built (at the joint Toyota-GM NUMMI plant) a Pontiac-branded version called the Vibe. But did you know these twins were actually triplets?
The often-forgotten sibling is called the Toyota Voltz, and it needs some explanation.
Despite the confusing name, the Voltz was not electric, well, no more so than any other car that has spark plugs and a radio. The Voltz was just like the Pontiac Vibe, a slightly re-styled and very re-badged Toyota Matrix.
Now I bet you’re already starting to notice something weird going on here. The re-badged Toyota was...badged as a...Toyota?
Yes, yes it was. And, even better, this re-badged Toyota was actually a re-badge of the Pontiac, which was a re-badge of a Toyota. I’ll give you a moment to mop up the brain-splatter from your shirt and immediate area.
For some deeply confusing reasons, Toyota didn’t want to sell the Toyota Matrix in Japan, but they were fine selling the mechanically-identical but re-styled Pontiac Vibe there, only they couldn’t really sell it under the Pontiac name there, since, you know, Toyota isn’t Pontiac, so they re-badged the Vibe as the Toyota Voltz.
They didn’t change anything about the Vibe’s styling at all, so all of the GM-designed body panels, even the Pontiac’s signature split grille, remained. Hell, even the shape of the Pontiac logo remained, just replaced with a similar Isosceles-triangle-shaped badge, but this time a “V” for “Voltz” and definitely not “Vibe.”
Weirdly, this is the second time I can think of the Pontiac logo shaped being replaced with another badge on an imported car sold as a Pontiac.
The Voltz was sold at Toyota’s Netz dealerships/stores, part of Toyota’s kind of baffling differentiation of models into different types of dealership outlets that I think target different market segments, with Netz seeming to skew younger.
You can see the Netz branding in this bonkers Voltz commercial that features weird, scary CG mannequins instead of actual humans:
Huh, it seems those mannequins were the work of an artist named Eric So, so maybe that’s more of A Thing than I realize.
The RHD interior seemed to pull more parts from the Matrix than the Vibe, just to keep things nice and confusing.
It’s all so strange, and reveals so much about the inherent madness of badge engineering. Because this strange ouroboros of a car is a Toyota re-badged as a Pontiac re-badged as a Toyota.
Has there ever been another car to be badge-engineered back to its origin company before? I don’t think so.
So, everyone, take in the majestic madness of the Toyota Voltz, and take some sort of lesson from its example, somehow.