Pontiac fans may think they know their cars but there is a whole mirror universe of Pontiacs out there, like in that original “Star Trek” episode with a slightly different Mr. Spock wearing a Trotsky goatee. That mirror universe is called Canada, and over the years GM engaged in some breathtaking branding exercises that saw Chevy and Pontiac parts mixed and matched to produce cars that were never sold anywhere else.
1. Pontiac Firefly
What started out as the Suzuki Cultus in 1983 grew into a bewildering array of cars for dozens of different markets, as GM desperately tried to plug this small hatch into empty spots in its lineups. The U.S. received the Cultus as the Chevrolet Metro and later the Geo Metro; Canada got it as the Pontiac Firefly, a nameplate that lived well into the 1990s.
2. Pontiac Laurentian
GM of Canada sought to differentiate its Pontiac lineup starting in the 1950s, perhaps in response to a similar effort from Ford. But it didn’t create a standalone brand. Instead, Pontiac offered what can best be described as a remix of Chevrolet and Pontiac parts, with models like the Strato Chief, Parisienne, Laurentian and even Grande Parisienne.
3. Pontiac G2
The Pontiac brand was stretched downmarket in Mexico, too, when the Daewoo Matiz was lightly reworked into the Pontiac G2. Small details were all that differentiated it from other versions of the second-generation Matiz, which was also sold as a Chevy. The resulting Pontiac G2 was sold in Mexico starting in 2003 under the Matiz G2 and G2 nameplates, while in other markets it was sold as the Chevy Spark.
4. Pontiac Sunburst
The second-generation Isuzu I-Mark was one of GM’s biggest world-car efforts in the 1980s. The U.S. received it as the Chevrolet Spectrum and the Geo Spectrum, in addition to the Isuzu I-Mark nameplate (that previewed Apple naming conventions), Canada also received this fine vehicle as the Pontiac Sunburst starting in the 1985 model year. Four years later, GM evidently decided that there was nothing Pontiac about it, replacing it with the Isuzu Stylus.
5. Pontiac Sunrunner
The pocket-SUV market exploded in the late 1980s, and GM was quick to pollinate the lineup of its myriad brands with slightly different versions of the same thing. While the U.S. received this vehicle as the Geo Tracker and the Suzuki Sidekick, Canada got it as the Chevrolet Tracker and the GMC Tracker. GM Canada then took a slight detour, offering it for about a year as the Asuna Sunrunner before that brand was dumped and the car became the Pontiac Sunrunner. The Pontiac version was sold in Canada starting in 1994 and continued all the way through 1998, managing to outlive the Geo brand itself. What a trooper.