General Motors’ Passport and Asüna, Total Brand Confusion (Part I)


In the Eighties and Nineties, Basic Motors of Canada made a decision to try new distribution techniques for its imported automobiles. Like in the the latest Dodge Colt series, Typical Motors experienced its have captive import vehicles and vans that have been made by other manufacturers. But because of dealership arrangements in Canada, GM took items a phase further more than Chrysler and founded a different distribution community for its imported wares. The efforts lead to the thrilling Passport and Asüna brands for the Canadian current market. First up, Passport.

Standard Motors of Canada Confined used for a trademark on the Passport title on June 2nd, 1987. The company’s full title was Passport Intercontinental Cars, and it was launched to an excited Canadian general public that summer for the 1988 model calendar year. Passport was a form of precursor to a new brand name south of the border that arrived in 1989 – Geo. Originally, Geo was not marketed in Canada but we’ll speak additional about that later on.

The Passport lineup went a bit further than just some captive imports, nonetheless, and was even outside of the applications of Geo: It offered an amalgamation of cars from across GM’s portfolio. Passport served as an outlet for no matter what didn’t in good shape onto heaps at the mainstream GM dealerships in Canada. There was exactly a single automobile that gained Passport branding, and it was a doozy. Say hello there to the Optima.

You’d know it south of the border as the Pontiac LeMans, whilst the relaxation of the earth would get in touch with it a variety of various names: 1.5i, Pointer, Runner, Racer, and later, the Cielo. The LeMans was on GM’s front-generate T-physique, utilised typically for European choices like the Opel Kadett and Vauxhall Astra. The Kadett E served as the basis for the LeMans. Very long-lived, the T was underneath several reasonably priced cars and trucks from GM and remained in use right up until 2016. That yr was the remaining a person for the LeMans, as it at last went out of licensed generation in China.

Even though engineered by GM’s Opel arm, the LeMans and Optima for North American consumption were built in Incheon, South Korea. Compared with Optima, which was an unfamiliar title to customers, Pontiac’s LeMans had a lengthy record and the Korean hatchback was unquestionably an affront to the badge. GM repeated this folly with the Corolla-Nova. The new Optima was available with a few doors as a hatchback, four doors as a sedan, and as a 5-doorway hatch.

And so the Optima became the a person and only Passport motor vehicle obtainable at the “Canada-vast Passport network” GM set up, with sellers dotted across the country (although concentrated in Downtown, Canada). It was reworked from a Daewoo to a Passport through a little Passport badge up entrance, and some Optima badges in the grille and at the rear. Of class, the Optima by itself would not a dealership fill, so GM acquired a tiny wild with the cars it parked at Passport loads. The major objective (as there was no Geo nevertheless) was truly the distribution of Isuzu passenger automobiles.

There was no Isuzu dealership community in Canada exterior trucks, so the complete Isuzu line appeared at Passport. The lineup was designed up of the sporty i-Mark and Impulse, along with the Stylus hatchback, and SUVs in the variety of the Rodeo and Trooper/II. The Pickup truck was there far too. Retailed as Isuzu through your Passport dealer, none of the Isuzus had any exterior Passport badging. at?v=4a2eC-KZ_LY

A total lineup then, a single Korean and quite a few Japanese cars available at your neighborhood Passport vendor? No, not quite. Passport also dispersed Saab designs, given Saab had only the 900 and 9000 at the time. It is pretty much really hard to envision going for walks into a dealership and remaining introduced with an Isuzu Pickup upcoming to a Saab 9000. But that was the circumstance. Marketing appeared to emphasis on the Optima and Isuzu styles, your writer can’t discover any that present Saabs.

In any occasion, the dealership chain’s income were being sluggish. There was minor interest in the Optima. Regretably, there’s not a lot of info out there, but it’s instructed that in 1988 there were being just in excess of 2,000 full Optimas and i-Marks bought, and 2,150 trucks and SUVs. 1989 was a bit better, with 5,087 whole vehicles and 4,204 truck things.

There was much more promising solution coming as well, as Saturn was about to come online. Saturns had been to get there at Passport dealers midway through the 1992 product 12 months (Saturn’s Canadian debut), but it was not to be. In 1991 GM introduced the hammer down and killed off the Passport name. Passport sellers have been not shut down but have been rebranded into basically named Saturn-Saab-Isuzu retailers. Maybe GM imagined clients would cease in extra normally if the identify was extra directly on the tin.

The alter produced the Optima an orphan as the only accurate Passport car. So it was discontinued right after 1991, and the LeMans appeared at Pontiac sellers in 1992. South of the border, the unloved Pontiac LeMans ongoing on sale as a result of 1993. The LeMans would conclusion up a solitary-year featuring in Canada, as the little hatchback ongoing its identification crisis: The next year it was offered less than another all-new and Canada-only GM brand called Asüna.

Produced since of the interesting way GM Canada was organized, Asüna picked up the items of Isuzu and shaved off some Geos to keep the dealership strains fed. Which is in which we’ll pick up next time.

An intriguing aside: Despite the fact that GM was undoubtedly completed with the Passport trademark by 1991, it was renewed in August 2005 by means of August of 2020. GM Canada held the trademark by means of Oct of 2014 when it was inactivated mainly because of non-use.

[Images: GM]

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