Geo Through The Years
The Geo brand was initially very popular with American drivers when it was first launched. The company’s “Get to Know Geo” slogan was seemingly embraced by drivers and models like the Prizm even garnered significant auto industry awards.
Despite basing its product line largely on rebranded Japanese models, Geo did produce cars in the U.S. through its joint venture with Toyota that involved the use of an assembly plant in California. Geos continued to sell reasonably well in the states throughout the late-1980s and mid-1990s. However, as the 1990 SUV craze swept in, American drivers began to turn away from economical compacts and the brand’s fortunes began to wane.
While Geo managed to sell vehicles, by 1997, it failed to step out from under the shadow of some brands like Toyota and Suzuki. Additionally, GM and Chevrolet realized that in its efforts to take back market share. It also inadvertently directed drivers who’d been loyal to the GM brand to import models produced by foreign competitors. These circumstances led to Geo’s demise in 1998. When the brand dissolved, the remaining Geo models were rebranded as Chevrolets.
Geo introduced a number of economical and affordable models that sold respectively well. Although in truth, all of the cars Geo produced were repackaged versions of existing vehicles.
One such model was the Geo Storm. The Storm was a sporty compact that was based on the Isuzu Impulse. It was unveiled in 1990 and made available as a two-door fastback or three-door hatchback. Designed to be the most performance-oriented vehicle produced by Geo, the Storm came to be powered by a 1.8-liter engine and came with a three-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission. It was discontinued in 1993.
The compact Geo Tracker SUV was introduced in 1989 alongside the popular Suzuki Sidekick on which it was based. The Tracker was available as a two-door hardtop or convertible. Even after the demise of Geo, Chevrolet continued to produce various versions of the Tracker until it was replaced by the Equinox in 2005.
The Prizm was arguably the most popular car produced by Geo during its brief life span. As a compact four-door sedan, the Prizm was based on the Toyota Corolla. Early Prizms, which were produced at Geo’s Fremont, California plant, were made available as four-door sedans and five-door hatchbacks. Both models offered versatility, fuel economy and were available at prices usually lower than their Toyota counterparts. The hatchback models were discontinued after 1993, but the four-door version of the Prizm sold well enough that even after Geo’s demise, Chevrolet continued to produce versions of it until 2002.
The Geo Metro was the smallest and most economical vehicle produced by under the Geo brand. Based on the Suzuki Swift, the Metro was introduced in 1989 as a replacement for the Chevrolet Sprinter. Geo produced the car throughout its existence, making it available as a two-door convertible, a three-door hatchback, a four-door sedan, and a five-door hatchback. After Geo’s demise, Chevrolet continued to produce the Metro until 2001 when it was phased out to make way for the Chevrolet Aveo.
The Spectrum, which was based on the Isuzu I-Mark, was actually first sold as a Chevrolet between 1985 and 1988. Under the Geo brand name, the Spectrum had a short lifespan, as it was produced for only one year in 1989 before the Geo Storm hatchback replaced it.
Geo Products and Technologies
While Geo ran from 1989 until 1998, it became one of the most successful attempts by a major American auto manufacturer to create an import-style brand—because its products were mostly licensed imports. The company’s Geo Prizm and Metro was fairly popular with drivers. Even today, Geos remain a reasonably reliable used car option.