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, case in point deadmau5 whom Ferrrari sent a cease-and-desist letter for violating their trademarks with the "Purrari" badges. 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.
Another benefit as far as royalties and licensing are concerned is the fact that video game developers or film studios are free to distribute their work for as long as they see fit without worrying over paying an automotive manufacturer the rights to use the vehicles. This is why some racing games end up getting discontinued or do not see a re-release, which can be avoided with faux cars.
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.
A subtrope of Bland-Name Product, in this case specific to automobiles and other forms of transport. Compare with Shoddy Knockoff Product, for vehicles in Real Life that look suspiciously like a well-known car, e.g. the Chery QQ being an analogue of Chevrolet's Spark down to its dimensions.note Also compare with Product Displacement. Contrast with Product Placement, if real vehicles are used in a work. See also A.K.A.-47 and iPhony for firearms and Apple hardware lookalikes, respectively.
- 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. For example, the trademark Sprinter Trueno AE-86 had "Toreno" badges in many scenes of the first season.
- In Ai Yori Aoshi Miyabi's car is a BMW Z3, only the BMW logo is red instead of blue.
- Digimon has a family car being a Volkswagen New Beetle with a different badge.
- Durarara!!: The second episode has a billboard for "Yahaha" motorcycles.
- Excel Saga has Nabeshin driving a "Mitsubibi Lancer."
- 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.
- 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.
- The movie It Takes Two involves the road trip of a man to Denver in order to purchase a Lamborghini Diablo copycat called a "Trovare". The situation goes From Bad to Worse for him when it turns out the brand is a Honest John's Dealership and he was swindled into buying a nice-looking lemon (that falls apart after driving it a couple of miles).
- The Wagon Queen Family Truckster from National Lampoon's Vacation. Built from a Ford LTD Country Squire wagon and given a butt-ugly makeover with way too many headlights and faux-wood panels, it was a parody of every awful trend in American car design in The '70s. The 2015 sequel/reboot updates it with the Tartan Prancer, an Albanian minivan loaded with nonsensical features that don't work as advertised, one of which is a self-destruct mechanism.
- The 6000 SUX in RoboCop (1987).
- In the novella Black Trip there's a whole city full of cars that look like any regular car of the '60ies or '70ies, but on closer inspection they aren't. In some cases it's details, like a vehicle that in Real Life had rectangular headlights has round headlights, some two door only models have an extra set of doors and so on. In more pronounced cases cars will just look faintly similar to something, like the Dodge/Buick thing that Mack takes for his own for a time.
- Crossing over with Real Life, brands that either rebadge or manufacture designs based on Porsche platforms were this until recent years - The most common stand-in for Porsche cars in non-Electronic Arts racing titles were RUFs.note This is because EA signed a licence exclusivity deal with Porsche in 2000 when they made Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed. This meant that Porsche vehicles could only appear in EA's racing games, although some non-EA franchises, like Forza, were lucky enough to acquire Porsche sub-licences for their games. The contract ended in 2016.
- Wangan Midnight, following a similar principle as with RUF, made the Blackbird a Gemballa; like RUF, Gemballa's cars use Porsche bodies but the machinery and interior is all made by Gemballa, which is why they are considered a separate manufaturer.
- Beam NG.drive is built around crashing incredibly familiar-looking vehicles with minor design differences from their real counterparts. As an example, the German brand "ETK" produces cars with a very distinctive grill.
- Burnout is made of this. It's very much doubtful for a car manufacturer to hand over licenses to Criterion when vehicles in the series are subjected to so much (deliberate) abuse.
- The Arcade Game series Cruis'n initially started off with lookalikes of brand-name vehicles coupled with nameplates that are either gaudy or playing on national stereotypes, like for example the Toyota Supra Expy "Kamikaze AWD". It wasn't until the original arcade version of Cruis'n Exotica and the rebadged Wii port of the Fast and the Furious arcade game, simply titled Cruis'n, that actual licenced cars were used as opposed to lookalikes.
- MS-DOS racer Death Rally features the Vagabond, which is clearly a Volkswagen Beetle; the Shrieker, which looks like the Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am (as made famous by Smokey and the Bandit); and the Wraith, which looks like a Porsche 911. There's also the Deliverator, which is not based off a real car, but instead the Mach 5 from Speed Racer, The two remaining cars, the Dervish and Sentinel, are a generic pickup truck and sedan respectively.
- The arcade game Drift Out minced the names of its car models: Masda Familio (Mazda Familia), Lancha Deleta (Lancia Delta), Toyata Celca (Toyota Celica), Fard Siara (Ford Sierra), Mitsuboshi Galent (Mitsubishi Galant), BWM AW3 (BMW AWD) and Subaro Legagy (Subaru Legacy). These and other ill-disguised brand names such as Michlin and Shall can also be glimpsed on in-game billboards. The sequels avert this.
- The Driver series had none of its cars named, although in Driver: San Francisco it averted with the use of real cars, but car bombs or cars being shot during several plot points use the fictional "ASYM Desanne" cars instead.
- Fallout: Red Racer (Radio Flyer) tricycles and Chryslus (after Chrysler) Corvega (portmanteau of Corvair and Vega, two of Chevrolet's worst cars). Unlike other example, this was used mainly for lore building an Alternate History.
- Final Fantasy VII: Cloud is forced to hijack a motorcycle in order to escape from Shinra HQ. It's a Hardy Daytona (Harley Davidson).
- Most of the car roster in the Vehicular Combat game Full Auto is based on real vehicles with the serial numbers filled off. For instance, the Guardian is blatantly a Chrysler 300.
- Grand Theft Auto, for the same reason as Burnout. Most especially given the (controversially) violent and hedonistic nature of GTA, the likes of Ferrari would be in for a shock if they see their cars being treated as expendable props than luxury sports cars.
- Starting with Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City, in-universe car designs started to be recycled in games with the same engine, or redesigned to match the era where a game takes place: the Infernus in III and Liberty City Stories looks like a Jaguar XJ220, in Vice City and Vice City Stories it looks like a Lamborghini Countach, in San Andreas it looks like a Honda NSX, and in IV and V it looks like a hybrid between a Lamborghini Murciélago and a Pagani Zonda.
- Starting from Grand Theft Auto IV, car makers besides Grotti (a pastiche of Ferrari first seen on a neon sign in GTA San Andreas) and Maibatsu (which often radio advertises their car) are introduced, introducing makers that correspond with real life makers. For instance, Karin is Toyota, Dewbauchee is Aston Martin, Vapid is Ford, Coil is Tesla and Pfister is Porsche, among many others, though said companies aren't necessarily depicted to be direct parodies of real-world marques they were largely based on—Karin for one had the Kuruma, which is odd as it is based on Mitsubishi's Lancer Evolution X. With that in mind, fans wondered why R* simply didn't use the Maibatsu brand on it considering that the Penumbra is heavily based on the 2012 Mitsubishi Eclipse.
- 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 (considering how console games at the time had no facilities for game and fimware patches and any glaring bugs or issues would cause the game to be recalled).
- Interstate76, also featuring fictional makes that correspond with real life ones. For example, Courcheval is Chevrolet, Dover is Dodge, and Phaedra is Ford. More specific examples include the ABX Leprechaun (AMC Gremlin), Dover Lightning (Dodge Challenger), and Jefferson Sovereign (Lincoln Continental).
- 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.
- Motor Storm is another franchise that makes heavy use of this, being an off-road racing game with a heavy emphasis on destruction, though they tend to group all vehicles of a certain category into one manufacturer, with examples including "Patriot" representing American cars and trucks, the big three in particular, "Italia" having a lot of European sports cars, "Castro" being older American vehicles and "Atlas" being a counterpart to makers of diesel trucks, as well as Hummer.
- The OutRun franchise is an interesting case. The original arcade game and its various home console and computer releases has the player drive what appears to be a Ferrari Testarossa, complete with the iconic "prancing horse" emblem displayed prominently at the back. Sega didn't have the Ferrari licence at the time, and as such the car was changed to a similar yet generic Ferrari expy in re-releases, notably on the Dreamcast version which came as a minigame in Shenmue II. Later games in the series are now Ferrari licenced products in Out Run 2 and its derivatives.
- Unfortunately, SEGA's financial difficulties make them lose the Ferrari license, and remove Outrun Online Arcade (the remake port of Outrun 2), also not making Outrun 2 and 2006 available for re-release. The most recent Outrun game for 3DS features a redesigned car that looks like a Honda NSX.
- A Rare Formula One derived example is in classic Sega Racer Super Monaco GP. Mclaren would be Madonna, and Williams would be Millions, etc.
- Ridge Racer, used fictional makes and models presumably to avoid paying royalties to car manufacturers, with further games in the series set in a Constructed World (the fourth game did mention real life countries and features ads for other Namco games, however everything else is all fictional; the fifth game is implied to be on Strangereal, with Neucom and General Resources's logos figuring on the in-game scenery) and Fictional Counterpart of real life cars that may or may not being tied to Ace Combat in terms of universe (although Ace Combat primarily features real life airplanes except for the third game, and most fictional planes outside of the third game are Super Prototypes).
- While real-world aftermarket auto parts manufacturers do appear in RPM Tuning, the cars themselves are fictitious if not for the body design being heavily based off actual vehicles. The "Sport 322 Csi" for one is by and large a BMW M3 E46 clone, save for badges and a few minor details.
- San Francisco Rush: Most of the cars in the series are knockoffs of real ones, although a few are completely made up. Compact=Acura Integra R, Muscle Car=Corvette Sting Ray, Bruiser=Plymouth Hemi Cuda, Exotic & Super GT=Vector M12, Mobster=Chevy Fleetline, Sportster=Dodge Viper (RT-10 roof, but with GTS competition stripes), 4x4=Ford Explorer, Protoype=Ford GT90 concept car, Euro LX=BMW Z9, Venom=Lamborghini Diablo, Concept=BMW Nazca C2?, Panther=Mc Laren F1. The gas stations are also generic imitations of Shell, with the word "Fuel" and a smiley face in place of the shell logo.
- Split Second: The car manufacturers are pastiches of real companies. Ryback cars look like modern versions of classic American muscle cars such as the Camaro, Mustang, and Dodge Challenger. Cobretti look like Italian speedsters and the name sounds like Ferrari or Lamborghini. Hanzo has cars that resemble the Impreza and Lancer, and the name sounds like Mazda or Honda.
- Thrash Rally, a top-down Neo Geo rally racing game, had -among others- Toyot GT-Four/Land Crusher (Toyota Celica GT-Four), Parsche 911/OD 6000X (Porsche 911), or Mitsuboshi/Thunderjet (Mitsubishi Pajero).
- Early installments of Shutokou Battle lacked licensed cars, instead using replicas of them, each named "TYPE-_____." If you get up close to a car and look at its emblem, you'll notice that it looks almost like a real brand name, but altered slightly; for example, Isuzu-like trucks have the emblem spelling out "USUZU." During Shutokou Battle Online and Kaido Battle: Nikko, Haruna, Rokko, Hakone, the developers got the licenses for their real-world counterparts, although due to Honda not wanting to have their vehicles associated with illegal street racing, their cars are absent in most of the games that use licensed vehicles.
- 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.
- Nintendo 64 racing game World Driver Championship had, among others: Ellipse Stallion=Ford Mustang Cobra R, Rage 512 EVO=Porsche 911 GT 1 EVO, Reeds R12 Manta=Chevy Corvette C5R, Elan Swift TT=Lotus Esprit GT1, Ram Venom GTR = Dodge Viper GTSR, EXR Mystic=TVR Speed 12.
- My Summer Car: Almost every vehicle is based on a real life counterpart. Being a game set in Finland in 1995, most of the vehicles are limited to what was common over there at that time. The titular car is based on a '70s Datsun.
- NPC cars in Euro and American Truck Simulator are very obviously real life cars with a slightly modified logo to make them legally not an IRL car according to European law. The German squad car, for example, is obviously a 2012 Volkswagen Passat, but the logo is two inverted V's, and the Renault Clio AI car has instead of the diamond a large capital O — despite having actual Renault trucks in the lineup, possibly because the license didn't cover personal vehicles. American Truck Simulator also features what is very obviously a Ford F-150 Raptor, but with the large "Ford" badge replaced with "Frog".