Abandoned History: General Motors' Passport and Asna, Total Brand Confusion (Part II)

We started our coverage of GM’s Eighties and Nineties branding adventures last week, with the short-lived experiment that was Passport. The dealership network was an amalgamation of GM-owned or influenced brands from Japan, Sweden, and in the case of the Passport Optima, South Korea. Passport lasted from 1987 through 1991 before GM changed directions. In addition to axing an unsuccessful sales channel, Geo and Saturn cars had arrived during Passport’s tenure and made things more complicated. Let’s learn some more about GM’s Canadian dealership networks.

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Abandoned History: General Motors' Passport and Asna, Total Brand Confusion (Part I)

In the Eighties and Nineties, General Motors of Canada decided to try new distribution strategies for its imported cars. Like in the recent Dodge Colt series, General Motors had its own captive import cars and trucks that were manufactured by other brands. But because of dealership arrangements in Canada, GM took things a step further than Chrysler and established a separate distribution network for its imported wares. The efforts lead to the thrilling Passport and Asüna brands for the Canadian market. First up, Passport.

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Junkyard Find: 1988 Pontiac LeMans Sedan

Since starting doing this goofy car-writing-online gig 13 years ago last month, I have documented the demise of 2,073 discarded vehicles in excruciating detail. During that time, I have walked right past thousands and thousands of allegedly interesting cars and trucks (sorry, BMW 3 Series fans, but I’ve been trying to make it up to you in recent years) in order to obsess over my very favorite kind of junkyard machines: littleknown examples of puzzling badge engineering. That means that when I see the South Korean Pontiac LeMans in a junkyard, I photograph it.

Here’s a low-mile, first-model-year LeMans sedan, found in a Denver car graveyard last spring.

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Junkyard Find: 1992 Pontiac LeMans Sedan

General Motors brought Opel Kadetts into the United States via several routes over the years. They came from Germany and were badged as Opels at first, Isuzu built “Buick Opels” a bit later, then Isuzu dealers sold them as I-Marks (the Chevette was also a Kadett sibling, but at least it was American-built). By the late 1980s, the Kadett’s American cousin was the Daewoo LeMans, a crappily-built Korean front-wheel-drive miserybox based on the Kadett E. Few were sold, and nearly all of those were three-door hatchback versions.

Here’s an exceptionally rare LeMans sedan, from the next-to-last year of American-market sales, that I spotted last week in a Denver self-service wrecking yard.

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Junkyard Find: 1988 Pontiac LeMans

Back when I saw this red ’88 LeMans at a California wrecking yard last year, I figured that would be the last Pontiac-badged Daewoo LeMans I’d ever see in a self-service wrecking yard. After all, these things sold poorly, were built like crap, and mostly lasted about five years before being stuffed into the nearest car shredder. But no, here’s another example that I saw in Denver a couple of weeks ago.

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Junkyard Find: 1988 Pontiac LeMans

We haven’t seen many Daewoo products in this series— in fact, just this ’00 Nubira wagon has made the cut, out of all the expired Lanos es and Leganza s I see— but there was a time when The General saw fit to sell a Pontiac-badged, Opel-based Daewoo LeMans next to its Chevrolet-badged Suzuki Cultus and Geo-badged Toyota Sprinter and Isuzu Gemini. The 1988-93 Pontiac LeMans never was a common sight on American roads, and its iffy reliability and plummeting resale value sent most of them onward via the Great Steel Factory In the Sky by the late 1990s. Still, someone has to win the lottery, and some Daewoontiacs have to survive on the street for as long as Grandpa’s Plymouth Valiant hung on to life. Here’s a miracle LeMans I found at a California self-serve wrecking yard a few weeks back.

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Junkyard Find: 1976 Pontiac Grand LeMans

Personal luxury” became one of the few showroom bright spots for Detroit during the darkest days of the Malaise Era. The definition is a bit fuzzy around the edges, but the basic formula always involved a midsize-or-bigger two-door with a generous helping of disco-grade bling, maybe with some heraldic crests and pleather upholstery. Chrysler had the Cordoba, Ford had the Cougar, and GM had the Grand Prix, to name just a few of many examples of the genre. Why, even dowdy AMC got into the act with their Matador Barcelona. So many of these cars were built that you’ll still find examples now and then at self-serve wrecking yards. By 1976, personal luxury was being applied across whole lines, with broad strokes. Today’s find is one of the last of the big A-body LeMans family, built before the LeMans became a cruel Daewoo joke.

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Junkyard Find: 1973 Pontiac Luxury LeMans

We’ll follow up yesterday’s ’73 VW Super Beetle Junkyard Find with another car from the same year. The Super Beetle listed at $2,499 and the Luxury LeMans four-door hardtop at $3,344… but now they are just so many tons of scrap metal.

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  • Kcflyer Gummed up intake valves in under 60,000 miles. Pass.
  • SCE to AUX By the time they're done thinking about it, others will beat them to market by 5 years.Nissan has been thinking about water cooling its EV batteries for a decade, and now that the Ariya has it, they've only now begun to ship it.By the way, "lightweight pickup" will be an oxymoron if it's electric. It won't be 3 -5 tons, but it will easily be 2 if it's to have 250+ miles' range.
  • Mark This is what it cost to drive a Tesla Model S Plaid for 11k+ miles in one year. You would pay more to drive a Yaris that far, never the less a performance car on the Plaid level. I don’t know where they got their math, but mine is actual real world results. We live in a cold climate and have removed our wheel covers, both of which hurt range, so your mileage may vary.
  • Jack Bummer, his successor sounds like just another electric car shill :(
  • IH_Fever Nissan should call for a real pickup before they call for electrification...