Vehicles parked inside elevated parking lot
Charlotte Birchall

Charlotte Birchall

Charlotte is a marketing specialist and a writing genius. She has a distinct and hilarious way with words and a fine eye for the best topics to cover. In Charlotte's hands we know you'll be both entertained and informed.

Read time of 5 minutes.

Revamping a brand is hard work, especially within the automotive industry but these four have nailed it.

We’ve trawled the archives to find the most impactful rebrands in the auto industry.

Ahhh the comeback. No matter what context it’s executed in, it’s a tricky one to get right. Over the years several ‘down on their luck’ vehicle brands have tried to breathe some life into their ailing offerings with varying success. 

But those who have got it right have gone on to reap the rewards of revitalising their image...

1.     Skoda

Skoda stering wheel

It’s hard to imagine a world in which the sleek, reliable Skoda was ridiculed but way back in the dark recesses of the 1980s, that’s exactly what happened. In fact, at the time, the Czech brand was quite literally the butt of many, many jokes owing to its perceived poor-quality build.

Back then, in an age of rising consumerism, so-called Eastern Bloc cars were affordable, basic, and therefore utterly detested. Skoda and other famous doozy brand Lada became synonymous with dodgy dealers and anyone who owned one could kiss goodbye to any street cred they had.

That’s a far cry from the beloved image we have today of models like the Octavia and Fabia, which begs the question: what on earth changed?

The answer is a mixture of new owners, a bold marketing campaign and the launch of the Skoda Felicia. In 1990, iconic German behemoth Volkswagen bought Skoda Auto and set about the mammoth task of changing its brand image.

Skoda had an excellent reputation in the industry for design and innovation, so VW knew they were onto a good thing.

Inspired by the 1987 Favorit – Skoda’s early foray into small hatchback territory, which was a pretty great car – VW developed the Felicia. It was launched in 1994 and of course, was a solid vehicle.

Arguably the biggest challenge for Volkswagen though was how to change public opinion because no matter how good a car it was, in the eyes of the great unwashed, it was still a Skoda. Step forward the VW marketing team and one of the most genius campaigns ever.

Their slogan was simple: ‘It’s a Skoda. Honest’. But in acknowledging the public opinion, they gave the impression that they were in on the joke and added an air of exclusivity to the Skoda owner’s club.

2.     The Fiat 500

Fiat steering wheel

First introduced to the market in 1957, the Fiat 500 was an immensely popular car, selling a cool four million vehicles in its 18-year production run between 1957 and 1975.

So, the decision to revamp such an iconic, loved vehicle was always going to be a controversial one.

Taking inspiration from Dante Giacosa’s original and Roberto Giolito’s 2004 Fiat Trepiuno 3+1 concept, Fiat set about updating the classic, making use of Giolito’s skills in the process. It went into production under the watchful eyes of Frank Stephenson and Flavio Manzoni.

It was unveiled in 2007 to a mixed but ultimately favourable reception, which only improved in time. In fact, in the preceding years, the 2007 version proved to be even more popular than its predecessor, winning over 40 awards including ‘World’s Most Beautiful Automobile’ and Car Magazine’s ‘Car of the Year’ in 2007.

3. Mini

Mini steering wheel

The classic Mini Cooper is easily one of the most iconic vehicles around. Synonymous with the swinging 60s and forever etched in our hearts as THE car of the Italian Job, its status is cemented in history. The 2-door compact city car pioneered the space-saving traverse engine and front-wheel drive layout, leaving ample room for passengers and luggage.

It was designed in 1959 by Sir Alec Issigonis and manufactured at the infamous Longbridge plant. Originally marketed under the BMC-owned Austin and Morris names as the Austin Seven and Morris Mini-Minor, the car became known as the Austin Mini in 1962. By 1969, it became the Mini in its own right and a star was born.

Fast forward to 1994 and German giant BMW announce that they have acquired the Rover Group (formerly BMC). By the millennium, they had sold off most of its assets but retained the rights to build cars using the mini name.

So began one of the most newsworthy rebrands of recent years! BMW released the Mini Cooper series in 2000, opting for 3 or 5-door hatchback body styles. The second generation was released in 2006, followed by a third in 2014.

The brand expanded, producing convertible versions in 2004 and 2008, with the much-anticipated mini electric unveiled in 2020.

The new Mini is well known for its quirky design features that appear to choose style over substance, resulting in the brand being labelled ‘most problematic’ in 2009. However, it is precisely these features which have also gained the Mini a loyal following.

4. Jaguar 

Jaguar steering wheel

Another vehicle brand which enjoyed the pinnacle of its popularity in the 1960s was the Jaguar. If the Mini represented the mods, the E-type stood for everything cool, classy and typically British upper class. The XJ adorned the streets and Jaguar were happy.

Unfortunately, while they enjoyed the successes of those particular models, they neglected to develop any new blood, so by the late 1970s, they were left with tired designs that lacked innovation. The brand’s reputation wasn’t so much downtrodden as non-existent with discerning punters opting for the more reliable and showy Mercedes and BMW models available at the time.

When 1980 dawned, Jaguar found themselves with a new head honcho in the form of Sir John Egan who took a somewhat unorthodox approach to revive the brand’s identity. Rather than investing a fortune in developing new models, Egan focussed on improving the quality of and refining the existing models.

With slightly more up-to-date and reliable versions of the XJ and XJS, Jaguar packaged them up as ‘heritage’ models, playing on the theme of the cars being a quintessentially British phenomenon.

The move came in at a comparatively cheap £20 million and the result was, of course, a surge in sales and popularity. Throughout the following decade, Jaguar’s revenue soared and they were able to produce a convertible version of the XJS, alongside a brand new XJ40 model.

As the 80s drew to a close, their revival was established. So much so that Ford began to show an interest and eventually bought them out for a not-too-shabby £1 billion.