In 2017, it was reported that General Motors had plans to discontinue the Chevrolet Sonic along with several other models in a massive restructuring for the Detroit automaker, which manifested itself in the form layoffs and plant closure announcements late last year. Yet the Chevrolet Sonic and the Orion Assembly plant remained absent from the turmoil.
From there, it was discovered that the American-built Sonic would discontinue in the Canadian market. However, earlier this month, Chevrolet communicated with us that the brand will “remain committed to the Chevrolet Sonic in the U.S.”
It seems that things have shifted between then and now, as a new report from The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) says The Chevrolet Sonic is on the way out. The Sonic is the smallest vehicle built in the United States, and utilizes UAW labor.
“It [GM] also plans to end U.S. sales of its Chevy Sonic subcompact, people familiar with the matter say,” the WSJ wrote. An exact timeline was not given.
A retraction of the American passenger car is the current trend. Years of relentless marketing to U.S. consumers about the joys and benefits of SUVs, crossover, and trucks, bolstered by cheap credit and lengthy loan terms, has led Americans to fall in love again with such vehicles. However, even as the U.S. automotive market has enjoyed a sales bonanza, the rising tide of record profits are not lifting all boats. Sedans of all sizes and hatchbacks have suffered at the hand of these larger people movers. General Motors is no different.
Chevrolet Sonic sales peaked in 2014 at 93,518. They have fallen ever since, dropping by nearly 30,000 units the following year, selling just 64,775 Sonic compacts. In 2017, sales dropped to 30,290 units. Last year, Chevy sold 20,613 Sonic vehicles to customers. That’s nearly a fifth of the Chevy Sonics sold four years prior. Last year, overall subcompact car sales fell 22 percent over 2018.
GM isn’t the only U.S. automaker facing similar sales declines for sedans. In fact, it’s the last to do so.
Ford is similarly phasing out sedans, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles did the same, eliminating the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 several years ago, before the industry really understood what was going on, to focus its efforts on Jeep and its crossovers and SUVs.
The demise of the American sedan gives consumers looking for sub-$20,000 vehicles fewer choices at the dealership. Asian competitors like Honda, Toyota, Mazda, and Nissan are still offering sedans and hatches of all sizes in the U.S., but these brands have also been the popular choices in these low margin segments where copious amounts of volume are needed for programs to be viable. The move to eliminate low-profit models is all about future sustainability; however, if gas prices spike or credit becomes difficult to secure, automakers without affordable, efficient offerings could be in trouble.