At General Motors, there’s a death march for small passenger cars. The automaker will reportedly kill off the Sonic hatchback and sedan, and the Lordstown, Ohio, plant that builds the Chevrolet Cruze will move to just a single shift.
Though the passenger car segment continues to decline, many automakers, including GM, believe it’s an important segment to conquest first-time buyers. According to a report from The Detroit News on Thursday, GM said small cars aren’t just about sales and volume, but they act as “ambassadors” for the brand.
“Vehicles like Trax have been a great success story for us because a lot of Trax sales come from people who are currently in passenger cars but are migrating through the portfolio,” Steve Majoros, Chevrolet’s marketing director for cars and crossovers, said.
“[Small cars] certainly help us with loyalty and conquest,” he added.
Many automakers see the slump in small car sales as a return to normal. For decades, small cars hardly pushed volume and sales. Only when the Great Recession took hold did automakers introduce more compact and sub-compact cars to cater to consumers. Then, high fuel prices and thrifty MSRPs moved compact cars from dealerships to driveways.
Alan Batey, GM’s executive vice president and president of North America, told the publication, “The Cruze eight and a half years ago was the hottest product in our portfolio,” and GM was air-freighting engines to keep up with demand for the car.
Whenever a downturn does occur, GM and other automakers don’t see a return to late 2000s and early 2010 practices. Since crossovers have become more fuel efficient, cars like the Sonic are a tougher business case in the U.S.