GM has made many a baffling brand choices and is the General of badge-engineering, but I believe in Canada they have made some of the most baffling of all. Near the end of the eighties, the US got the Geo brand an attempt to battle the imports. They easy and logical thing to do if GM had really felt the need for another brand would be to bring Geo to Canada as well, but instead we got: Passport. And if that wasn’t confusing enough, yet another brand was created, with the most asinine name ever: Asüna. By the time this article is finished, I guarantee you that you will be confused. Actually, it might not take that long.
Passport was a brand as well as a dealer network, and also it sold Saab and Isuzu vehicles. The one Passport branded vehicle was a re-badged Daewoo developed from the Opel Kadett E. It was named Optima and was also more commonly available as a Pontiac LeMans.
I haven’t seen a Passport branded car in a couple of decades so we’ll have to make do with these promotion photos which come from Hugo90’s photostream. There are almost literally no other photos around for these so he has the market cornered. This might just be the one brand that has no enthusiasts or fans. The Passport make died in 1991 with the introduction of Saturn 1992. Belatedly Geo as well came to the Canadian market in the same year but not with the Prizm oddly. Go figure.
So now we have Saab and Isuzu lumped into a Saturn-Saab-Isuzu division and Geos being sold at Chevrolet-Oldsmobile-Cadillac dealers where they’d previously been badged as Chevrolets. In 1993 Pontiac-Buick-GMC dealers now asked to have an import fighter brand of their own so GM Canada creates yet another brand called Asüna. Asüna gets its own version of the Pontiac LeMans. Technically two versions as each was considered a separate model instead of a trim line. The SE is the base car and the GT is the more highly optioned “sporty looking” car.
I could only find a GT in the junkyard so this is the best photo I could get of the ever-elusive Asüna GT.
In addition there is a re-badged Isuzu Impulse called the Sunfire which must have been interesting in Pontiac dealers with the unrelated Pontiac Sunfire in the same showroom. The Sunfire was never offered with the turbo engine or all wheel drive. There were two grill variants on the Sunfire: one with the Asüna name and the other with a stylized A logo.
Rounding out the lineup is a version of the Suzuki Sidekick called the Sunrunner. Canadian Pontiac-Buick-GMC dealers had previously sold a GMC Tracker but this was dropped when the Sunrunner was introduced. The Sunrunner was only sold in the higher trim level.
There are very few Asüna vehicles left these days with the Sunrunner making up the bulk of the survivors. It was probably easier for most owners to scrap them than to keep having to explain what the two dots over the u are. I bet they also had a great time explaining that Asüna is indeed a brand to the vehicle registry folks as well. I know the rare for sale ads I see for the Sunrunner usually have “Like a Chevrolet Tracker” before the actual name in the title.
Asüna lasted only two years and for 1995 the Sunrunner became the Pontiac Sunrunner until 1998 when it was dropped. The Pontiac was available in both base and GT trim thus giving up what was unique about the Asüna.
The SE/GT and Sunfire were dropped. For those keeping count the poor Suzuki Sidekick had been sold in the following variations in Canada -GMC Tracker, Chevrolet Tracker, Geo Tracker, Asüna Sunrunner, Pontiac Sunrunner and of course the Suzuki Sidekick. Six variants of the same vehicle with hardly a difference beyond the badges – madness! Internationally it wore the following badges and names:
Suzuki Escudo (Japan)
Suzuki Sidekick (North America)
Suzuki Vitara (Australia)
Chevrolet Tracker (North America)
Geo Tracker (North America)
GMC Tracker (Canada)
Asüna Sunrunner (Canada)
Pontiac Sunrunner (Canada)
Santana 300/350 (Spain)
Chevrolet Vitara (Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela)
Suzuki Nomade (Chile)
Wow, that is eleven variants on the same vehicle. So can anyone think of a more badge engineered vehicle?