Created By: klausbaudelaire on November 12, 2017 Last Edited By: klausbaudelaire on November 17, 2017

Bland Theft Auto

Bland Name Product as applied to vehicles.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
trope
So you wanted an exotic supercar in that Wide Open Sandbox Murder Simulator you're developing, but there's this negative reaction from car manufacturers if you decide to acquire a licence for said vehicle. Ferrari is particularly notorious for that, disallowing companies or even owners themselves from putting their cars in a potentially negative or unflattering right. What are you going to do then? Simple, make a car that's similar to the real life vehicle in some way, but is still distinct from the car in question. In theory this can save developers the trouble of having to pay for either royalties or lawsuits over the use of a licenced vehicle, though it is understandable that some may be put off with the lack of vehicles from actual manufacturers.

This practice of debadging tends to be applied in works of fiction in general, especially if paying royalties to car companies for the vehicles to be used is a concern. Commercials or films may elect to debadge a car either to dodge royalties, to avoid implying that the producers are endorsing a particular automobile brand unless they are paid to do so, or to keep the car manufacturer from being portrayed in a negative light. This is largely avoided however, due to the de minimis rule in that depictions of trademarked objects like cars are considered to be incidental unless the particular car model is the subject of the work, e.g. it would be frivulous for Toyota to sue a production company merely for its use of a Corolla as an incidental object used by the characters in a show, but that would be a different story if the Corolla nameplate itself is the subject, e.g. a Transformers character in the form of a Corolla sedan or something along those lines.

Keep in mind that this applies to fictional vehicles bearing a heavy or at least significant resemblance to cars or trucks in the real world, and as such may not apply to ones that are completely made up.


Examples:

Video Games
  • Grand Theft Auto is made of this. Given the violent and hedonistic nature of the games, and the fact that cars are, suffice it to say, expendable, it's basically unlikely for any manufacturer, especially Ferrari as mentioned above, to hand over licences to Rockstar.
  • Averted with The Getaway as all of the cars are actual licenced vehicles, largely to add to the verisimilitude already present with the inclusion of a GPS-street accurate map of London.
    • British Telecommunications however took umbrage to a mission involving a van bearing their livery, where a driver has to be killed and the van used to assassinate a police officer; as the company was worried that the use of their vehicles in an organised crime game "might incite attacks on [its] engineers," this was later amended on subsequent pressings, though the initial release wasn't recalled.
  • Also averted with L.A. Noire, produced by the same Brendan McNamara who headed development of The Getaway. Which is excusable as the player assumes the role of a police detective, and the vehicles in question are already over seventy years old at the very least (and some of the marques featured are either defunct or merged with other manufacturers), though they are still subject to the same rigors a typical Wide Open Sandbox car is subjected to - you can pretty much wreck or disable almost any vehicle in the game, but since you play as a police officer you'd end up getting penalised for causing collateral damage.
  • The Mafia series tends to lean more on the Bland-Name Product approach, with vehicles heavily resembling their real life counterparts aside from a few details altered here and there, and a Punny Name alluding to what the car is supposed to be based on, e.g. "Jefferson Provincial" for the Lincoln Continental or "Potomac Indian" for the Pontiac Chieftain.
  • True Crime: Streets of L.A. and its sequel True Crime: New York City also had their vehicles modeled closely after brand-name cars and/or bikes, but are given generic names indicating their engine displacement and configuration and also their body style, e.g. "2.6 I6 Coupe" as a Nissan Skyline R34 stand-in. Though in some cars such as the latter, Punny Name decals like "Skylime" can be seen.

Anime and Manga
  • An interesting case would be Initial D where real-world cars are used, but the badges are obfuscated presumably for trademark reasons. The models are clearly shown and mentioned, yet any logos would be mangled up in some way.

Films — Animated
  • In Toy Story, the Pizza Planet delivery truck is modeled after a Toyota, though most of the letter decals on the tailgate had been removed, just leaving "YO". (At the time, it wasn't too uncommon for Real Life Toyota owners to do that deliberately.) The truck reappears in Toy Story 2, and the instruction manual reveals it's actually a Gyoza.

Films — Live Action
  • The producers behind Slumdog Millionaire had to remove the badges off the Mercedes-Benz cars used in the film, as Daimler AG, Mercedes-Benz's parent company, felt that putting their (luxury) vehicles in a slum setting would tarnish their image, effectively making the cars more or less generic if not for the familiar body design.
  • The movie Gung Ho has an American factory building cars for the fictional Assan Motors. The cars themselves are Fiat Ritmos.
Community Feedback Replies: 12
  • November 12, 2017
    BKelly95
    Ironically, this trope exists because the vehicles are likely to be harmed.
  • November 13, 2017
    klausbaudelaire
    Any more clever titles to consider?
  • November 13, 2017
    klausbaudelaire
    Would "Grand Trademark Auto" be a better name?
  • November 13, 2017
    klausbaudelaire
    Or "Bland Theft Auto" as a play on Bland Name Product?
  • November 14, 2017
    Basara-kun
    I think the debadging "example" is very general and should be in the description instead. Also, you should separate the examples by media. Oh, and in the same Bland Name Product there're various examples that can be exported here
  • November 14, 2017
    BKelly95
    Film - Live Action
    • Non-video game example: The movie Gung Ho has an American factory building cars for the fictional Assan Motors. The cars themselves are Fiat Ritmos.
  • November 14, 2017
    MetaFour
    • In Toy Story, the Pizza Planet delivery truck is modeled after a Toyota, though most of the letter decals on the tailgate had been removed, just leaving "YO". (At the time, it wasn't too uncommon for Real Life Toyota owners to do that deliberately.) The truck reappears in Toy Story 2, and the instruction manual reveals it's actually a Gyoza.
  • November 16, 2017
    klausbaudelaire
    There, added some examples from the True Crime games.
  • November 17, 2017
    TrueShadow1
    This looks like Bland Name Product but with cars. Can you expand on the reason why you think this has any merit of being separate from Bland Name Product?
  • November 17, 2017
    klausbaudelaire
    @TrueShadow1 For one, there's the subtrope AKA-47, which is basically Bland Name Product for firearms, and if I put a myriad of automotive examples on the main article, it could go on and on.
  • November 17, 2017
    Chabal2
    Bland Theft Auto sounds more like a trope about GTA clones.
  • November 17, 2017
    klausbaudelaire
    @Chabal2 There is that lol, but wouldn't those be a case of Follow The Leader instead?
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