08 November 2017

The Curious Case Of GM's Geo Sub-Brand

Geo was a GM brand that operated under the umbrella of Chevrolet, hence the term sub-brand. Geo was introduced as a brand in the US from 1989 to 1997 and it seems to have been used in Canada between 1995-97 (can anyone confirm that?). How did Geo start and why?

GM started Geo to compete with small car imports from Japan. It used three suppliers, Toyota, Suzuki and Isuzu to source its vehicles. Most of the cars were already sold within GM but in 1989 then were moved to the Geo brand. So let's look at the model range.

Prizm: It was a Toyota Sprinter model made in the NUUMI GM-Toyota plant in Freemont California. It was either a 4 or 5 door small car. It was only sold in the U.S.

Spectrum: This was based on a small Isuzu I-Mark model and only lasted one year as a Geo branded car. It was made by Isuzu in Japan.

Metro: A super mini model that was a Suzuki Swift (Cultus), it was built at the CAMI 50/50 joint venture plant owned by GM and Suzuki. The factory is in Ontario, Canada.

Storm: It was a 3 door Isuzu sports car known as the Isuzu Impulse or Piazza sourced from Japan. It arrived in 1990 and Isuzu stopped making them in 1993.

Tracker: Otherwise known as the Suzuki Vitara among other names, this small SUV started as a 2 door car but in 1996 became a 4 door. It was made in Canada at the CAMI plant.

Summary: Geo seemed unusual from the start and it didn't really work out. When Geo was withdrawn as a brand in 1997 and the vehicles went under the Chevrolet name, it didn't help sell any more cars. The models themselves were gradually phased out. The whole idea was a curious case indeed.

The NUMMI GM/Toyota plant ceased in 2010 and is now owned by Tesla. The CAMI plant in Canada is now fully owned by GM (since 2009).

The figures below are U.S. sales only. Canada's part was short in time and limited in volume, adding about 20,000 or so in total, if the 95-97 time frame is correct. The 1989 Tracker sales number is an estimate.

Yr Prizm Metro Tracker Storm Spectrum Total

89 89,700 53,300 30,000 - 62,200 235,200

90 109,600 94,900 34,600 86,300 - 325,400

91 98,400 90,400 30,700 77,200 - 296,700

92 74,300 95,000 32,700 68,700 - 270,700

93 74,100 95,700 42,300 42,900 - 255,000

94 117,500 79,600 46,500 4,900 - 248,500

95 87,300 75,700 41,700 - - 204,700

96 79,300 88,800 47,200 - - 215,300

97 63,000 55,600 33,400 - - 152,000

Tot 793,200 729,000 339,100 280,000 62,200 2,203,500

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