The Truth About Cars » chevrolet sonic http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 03 Aug 2014 03:00:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » chevrolet sonic http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Exclusive: General Motors Working On Sonic EV With 200-Mile Range http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/exclusive-general-motors-working-on-sonic-ev-with-200-mile-range/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/exclusive-general-motors-working-on-sonic-ev-with-200-mile-range/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 14:26:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=872874 The upcoming pure electric vehicle being discussed in the wake of the Opel Ampera’s demise will also be sold in the United States, in the form of a Chevrolet Sonic. The Sonic-based EV will reportedly have a 200 mile range, which will presumably come from the new battery that LG Chem (battery supplier for the Volt) […]

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The upcoming pure electric vehicle being discussed in the wake of the Opel Ampera’s demise will also be sold in the United States, in the form of a Chevrolet Sonic.

The Sonic-based EV will reportedly have a 200 mile range, which will presumably come from the new battery that LG Chem (battery supplier for the Volt) is working on right now. That will arrive in 2016, which suggests that the Sonic EV won’t be introduced until at least that date.

The Sonic EV will also be built in Michigan, which will allow GM to gain regulatory credits for selling a pure EV that is also made in America. The Chevrolet Spark EV, which is built in Korea, is not eligible, and has a range of just 82 miles.

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Rental Car Review: My Wisconsin Week With a 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/rental-car-review-my-wisconsin-week-with-a-2012-chevrolet-sonic-lt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/rental-car-review-my-wisconsin-week-with-a-2012-chevrolet-sonic-lt/#comments Mon, 21 Oct 2013 13:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=628786 In my travels as Chief Justice of the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court, I spend a lot of time in bottom-end rental cars. Sometimes I get press cars and write about them on these trips, but that’s usually more of a hassle than it’s worth. For about 15 four-day race weekends a year (plus […]

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27 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIn my travels as Chief Justice of the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court, I spend a lot of time in bottom-end rental cars. Sometimes I get press cars and write about them on these trips, but that’s usually more of a hassle than it’s worth. For about 15 four-day race weekends a year (plus a few vacation trips here and there) I’m in a Dodge Avenger, Nissan Altima, Ford Focus, or other rental-fleet favorite. 2013 is a year of Wisconsin visits for me; first, I went to my wife’s Milwaukee high-school reunion with a ’13 Jaguar XJL Portfolio, then I spent nine days in Door County with a rental ’12 Sonic, and next month I’ll be at the Chubba Cheddar Enduro at Road America with a ’14 Mitubishi Evo. The Sonic made an unexpectedly strong impression on me in August, so let’s see what life with Chevy’s little Daewoo is like.
00 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWhen we arrived at the Milwaukee airport, the rental-car agency had just one car available in the class I’d reserved: a 2012 Chevy Sonic with more than 25,000 miles on the clock. Twenty-five thousand miles, on a rental car! Rental-car miles are like dog years, with one rental mile roughly equivalent to seven owned miles, and I had never before seen a rental car (in the United States) with more than 15,000 miles under its belt. I figured I’d be getting a sneak preview of what a Sonic with 175,000 hard miles would be like in the year 2025— an opportunity, not a disappointment, for the serious automotive journalist.
08 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMinutes after leaving the airport, I spotted a good-sized car show, complete with live music, so I figured I’d get right into Upper Midwest car culture.
31 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIn a way, trips to the Upper Midwest serve as reminders of my cultural roots; though I spent most of my childhood in California, I spent my first six years in Minneapolis. Here we see the Martin Family Motor Pool, circa 1970.
30 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYes, before the commissars of California turned me into the coastal-elitist Zaporozhets lover I am today, my family lived a proper Old Milwaukee-drinking, sauerkraut-eating, snow-shoveling, Custom 500-driving life in the heartland. In fact, every photo from my early childhood features Old Milwaukee (or Old Style, or Grain Belt) beer bottles and/or Old Dutch pretzels somewhere in the frame.
10 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinRight. So, a Milwaukee car show did a good job of getting me back in touch with my inner Midwesterner, plus there were a few interesting machines standing out from the usual background of first-gen GM F-bodies and pre-Pinto Mustangs. Say, this Stovebolt six with vintage Offenhauser intake.
09 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOr this more modern version of the custom-Chevy theme.
24 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWe were hungry, so we headed to the south side of Milwaukee to grab some dinner. Before leaving, however, I futzed around with the audio system of the Sonic long enough to get my MP3 player hooked up to the stereo’s AUX jack…
22 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin… at which point I discovered that this no-frills econobox has functioning Bluetooth integration. How long ago was it that only luxury cars had this stuff? Ten years?
13 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Sonic felt a bit loose and rattly, as you’d expect with a high-mileage rental, but everything worked fine and the 1.8 liter Ecotec still made decent, if buzzy, power. In fact, I can say without reservation that this is by far the best overseas-designed badge-engineered subcompact in General Motors history; the mildly unpleasant Aveo was better than the punitive Metro, which was better than the miserable Sprint, which was far superior to the wretched LeMans, which beat the hell out of the excremental Chevette, which seemed like a fine automobile next to the unspeakably terrible Kadett. With those comparisons in mind, we rolled into the south Milwaukee neighborhood in which my wife’s grandparents spent their entire lives.
11 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinDinner was at Three Brothers, a little Serbian joint located in the building that once housed one of Joseph Schlitz’s first breweries.
12 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s always a good sign when you’re eating dinner at a restaurant with one of these things on the roof.
14 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinReally getting into the Upper Midwest thing at this point, I tried to imagine rolling up to this restaurant in 1964, driving the rental-car equivalent of a Sonic. A Chevy II sedan with four-cylinder engine and 10,000 miles on the odometer?
15 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinFor dinner, I had the stuffed zucchini with dumplings. Highly recommended. No, I didn’t drink Schlitz with it; there is such a thing as carrying local authenticity too far.
18 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAfter spending the night at my mother-in-law’s place just north of Milwaukee, we hit the road for the 140-drive to Sturgeon Bay, a Lake Michigan town about midway up the Door County peninsula.
23 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Sonic’s suspension was a bit rattly and the body was pockmarked by old hail damage, but the unapologetically plasticky interior had held up to all those miles of rental-car punishment pretty well. I continued to be impressed by the number of once-luxurious features that are now standard on even the stripper rental version of the lowest-end car of a car company’s entry-level marque. Cruise control!
21 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinTilt steering wheel! No power seats, but we may see them go the way of manual-crank windows in the next few years.
07 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI had to supply my own GPS device for the Sonic, but once backup cameras become mandatory in all new cars we can expect all those little screens to enable GPS in even the cheap Daewoos of the US car marketplace.
02 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinPassing through Belgium, Wisconsin, not far out of Milwaukee’s sphere of influence, I spotted a highway sign for the Luxembourg American Cultural Society Museum. As my legal surname should make clear to any lifelong resident of southern Wisconsin or Minnesota, I am a proud Luxembourg-American— just like Chris Evert and Dennis Hastert.
17 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe museum wasn’t open at the time, but it seemed like a pleasant place. No, I don’t understand why the Luxembourg American Cultural Center is located in Belgium when the town of Luxembourg, Wisconsin is nearby.
16 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHere we are in traditional Luxembourger outfits, which gave me a powerful hunger for some traditional Lëtzebuerger Grillwurscht. So, we climbed back into the Sonic and resumed our journey.
03 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinRural Wisconsin is one of my favorite road-trip states, not least because you can stop in just about small town and snarf up an excellent meal based on the principles of the Upper Midwest Food Pyramid (more of a Food Holy Trinity, really): cured meat, cheese, and beer. The Port O’Call in Kewaunee didn’t have Lëtzebuerger Grillwurscht, but they did offer the full spectrum of New Glarus beers and a good selection of meaty, cheesy fare.
25 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinArriving in Sturgeon Bay, which is sort of a weird mashup of corn-fed Midwestern town, salty port city, and upscale resort community, I wanted to pose the Sonic by all the old-school taverns with nicely weathered Malaise Era beer signs.
26 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI suspect that the Red Room’s Blatz sign predates the Malaise Era by a decade or two.

Beer at local prices! I gave up on the Sonic-with-vintage-beer-signs idea once I realized that such a project would take about a week to finish.
32 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinActually, I lost focus on beer signs when I spotted this Nissan Figaro parked in downtown Sturgeon Bay. I couldn’t find the owner, so I can’t tell you what no-doubt-innovative paperwork magic was performed to make this car legal for US roads.
33 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNor can I tell you how a Citroën 2CV can survive in Wisconsin without vaporizing in a cloud of red dust within hours of arrival.
19 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOne feature that really struck me about the Sonic was the cheap-and-cheerful instrument cluster, a discrete standalone unit that can be mounted on left or right side of the dash without too much trouble. No doubt using the same Korean-design/Taiwanese-capital/Chinese-labor system that brought us $25 boomboxes that can be tumbled down several flights of concrete steps and still crank out the Tang Dynasty, Daewoo has produced a tough, easy-to-replace analog/digital instrument cluster that provides all the needed driver information, looks vaguely science-fictiony, and probably cost less than the fuel gauge on a Maepsy.

In fact, this cluster is the first thing you see in the add for the Japan-market Chevy Sonic. Wild compact!

Now that we’re watching Sonic commercials, let’s take a look at a few more examples of the way this Daewoo is conquering the world. Here’s how they pitch it in Brazil.

In Australia, the Sonic gets badge-engineered into the Holden Barina.

In Argentina, this Sonic ad gives the econo-futuristic instrument cluster heavy billing.

The Thai-market Sonic is So You. Note the instrument cluster on the right side.

This US-market ad features Theophilus London and the sort of hoonage that would have been illegal under Malaise Era car-ad restrictions.

Speaking of hoonage, marketers of the Korean Sonic (still called the Aveo in 2012) encourage “Fun Riding” in Italy.

In Mexico, all night party people use the Sonic sedan to escape oppressive techno-state control.

Former Warsaw Pact countries got local-language versions of this ad.

This Indian-market ad is for the previous-generation Aveo, but I’m including it for general entertainment value (and to provide yet more evidence that GM has gone seriously global with its Sonic/Barina/Aveo/Zafira/whatever).
20 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin
OK, back to Wisconsin! After admiring the instrument cluster a while longer, I headed to the log cabin.
29 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMy wife’s grandparents bought this log cabin on the Lake Michigan shore back in the 1940s, and I parked the Sonic in the spot where generations of Buicks and Packards once parked.
05 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOver the course of the next week, I took the Sonic on many trips into town, to purchase crucial supplies (and to get internet access, so I could write about my Bonneville Salt Flats adventures of the previous week).
06 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSonic trips to fine Wisconsonian eating establishments such as the Nightingale Supper Club, took care of my recommended yearly allowance of perch and whitefish.
04 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin
Naturally, the Sonic went on a few shopping expeditions for treats to bring back to Denver.
28 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIn the end, I was a little sad to return the hail-battered, much-traveled Chevy to the rental-car lot at MKE. The current generation of Sonic turned out to be a decent transportation appliance. If it can survive 25,000 miles in a rental fleet, you have to figure it should be good for at least 200,000 miles on the street, right? My Rental Car Review Verdict™ of the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LT: Utterly bereft of Mack Daddy style, surprisingly pleasant to drive. If given a choice between this car and a Nissan Versa at the rental-car counter, take the Sonic (and if given a choice between the Dodge Journey and walking, take walking).

01 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 26 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 27 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 28 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 29 - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Rental Car Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Chevrolet Spark Misses The 40 MPG Mark http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/chevrolet-spark-misses-the-40-mpg-mark/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/chevrolet-spark-misses-the-40-mpg-mark/#comments Fri, 20 Jul 2012 17:56:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=453601 Glancing at its diminutive footprint and tiny engine specs, one would expect superlative fuel economy from the Chevrolet Spark, right? Wrong. According to GM Inside News, the Spark with manual transmission [is rated] at 32 mpg city and 38 mpg highway, while the four-speed automatic will wear ratings of 28 mpg city and 37 mpg […]

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Glancing at its diminutive footprint and tiny engine specs, one would expect superlative fuel economy from the Chevrolet Spark, right? Wrong.

According to GM Inside News,

the Spark with manual transmission [is rated] at 32 mpg city and 38 mpg highway, while the four-speed automatic will wear ratings of 28 mpg city and 37 mpg highway

This is in a 2,200 lb car with a 1.2L 4-cylinder engine. I’m not one to invoke bygone tin-cans like the Honda CRX HF in the name of fuel efficiency and the pox that modern cars are on our landscape, but GM must be able to do better than this, given what they’re working with. If not, then why bother at all with the Spark? The Cruze and Sonic make this car look like a farce.

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Generation Why: General Motors Pulls Facebook Ads, Social Media Fever Entering Remission http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/generation-why-general-motors-pulls-facebook-ads-social-media-fever-entering-remission/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/generation-why-general-motors-pulls-facebook-ads-social-media-fever-entering-remission/#comments Tue, 15 May 2012 21:30:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=444567 Happy 28th birthday, Mark Zuckerberg. Your baby is about to go public, but GM still had to rain on your parade by pulling their advertising from Facebook because GM ad men didn’t think it was effective. The Wall Street Journal explains the move “GM, started to re-evaluate its Facebook strategy earlier this year after its […]

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Happy 28th birthday, Mark Zuckerberg. Your baby is about to go public, but GM still had to rain on your parade by pulling their advertising from Facebook because GM ad men didn’t think it was effective.

The Wall Street Journal explains the move

GM, started to re-evaluate its Facebook strategy earlier this year after its marketing team began to question the effectiveness of the ads. GM marketing executives, including Mr. Ewanick, met with Facebook managers to address concerns about the site’s effectiveness and left unconvinced advertising on the website made sense, according to people familiar with GM’s thinking.

GM is said to spend (or, have spent) about $40 million per year on maintaining a Facebook presence, but only a quarter of that went to advertising. The remainder goes to creating content like fan pages and other social media initiatives, which will still continue. GM’s digital marketing guru Joel Ewanick told the WSJ that he still sees value in these programs, and a statement from GM obtained by Reuters re-affirmed their commitment to this side of the marketing equation.

As much as GM gets singled out in this column, GM may be doing something right in terms of both budgeting and strategy. One report claims that 57 percent of respondents have never clicked on a Facebook ad. For young people who have grown up next to online content and advertising, this number is undoubtedly much higher. This demographic sees these kinds of ads more as background noise than anything of value – or, as marketers would say, “a way to forge an authentic connection with the brand and enter into a conversation with the consumer.”

The bigger leap of faith for GM, and a number of OEMs, is to refine how they interact with consumers via social media. What do Facebook “likes” or Twitter followers really mean in concrete terms? The field of social media has impacted many of us in positive ways, but it’s also create a disproportionate number of charlatan “social gurus” who pitch their dubious knowledge to companies that are afraid of getting left in the dust if the let their Twitter or Facebook pages lie dormant. Ford likes to cite how many millions of “impressions” the Fiesta Movement program got, but sales of the Fiesta have given Ford little reason to throw a party. In fact, GM’s apparently ineffective Facebook campaigns have helped the Cruze outsell the Focus in 2011 (though the Focus is ahead through April, 2012), while the Sonic (which only went on sale last fall) is outselling the Fiesta through April, 2012.

Tout them all you want, but “likes”, “retweets” and “impressions” (perhaps the most ill-defined of them all) are empty metrics that sound great when trying to justify one’s absurd consulting fees, but don’t translate into good products or good profits, the two things that make the automotive world go ’round. Then again, cognitive dissonance is a powerful force.

This story really has bigger implications for Facebook than GM. GM is the third biggest spender on ad dollars in the USA. Their exit may not harm Facebook in the short term, but if big institutional clients keep dropping out, then Zuckerberg’s baby may see some compromised revenue streams. I’m going to take this as a sign of positive changes for GM. Maybe they’re starting to take a closer look at the social media mania that’ stricken other OEMs and realize that it has to be done right, or you will lose them forever. And by them, I mean the people you are trying to bring in, and targeting with marketing initiatives that really need to be axed right this second.

 

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Generation Why: They Can Tell You Don’t Get It http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/generation-why-they-can-tell-you-dont-get-it/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/generation-why-they-can-tell-you-dont-get-it/#comments Fri, 23 Mar 2012 13:13:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=436160 “We tried to teach dealers how to calibrate conversations,” Mr. Martin said. “Stop trying to be cool and give them the fist pump. They can tell you don’t get it. Journalism profs would admonish us for “burying the lede”, or hiding the most important information way down in the story, rather than putting it at […]

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“We tried to teach dealers how to calibrate conversations,” Mr. Martin said. “Stop trying to be cool and give them the fist pump. They can tell you don’t get it.

Journalism profs would admonish us for “burying the lede”, or hiding the most important information way down in the story, rather than putting it at the front where it’s easily accessible. Amy Chozick of the New York Times put that gem at the very end of her article on how General Motors is hiring consultants from MTV, including Ross Martin, quoted above, to help their brand connect with young people. Mr. Martin, take your own advice.

Instead, the article opens like this

Ross Martin, 37, is a published poet and a former drummer in an alternative rock band. Wearing Nike high tops and loose-fitting jeans, he is the kind of figure who wouldn’t attract a second glance on the streets of Brooklyn, where he lives.

37 years old is hardly over the hill, but is a 37 year-old really in touch with what people born in 1996 really like? Do they even know what a cassette tape is. Martin, meanwhile, was a “drummer in an alternative rock band”. Nirvana is now played on my classic rock station, and GM wants him to sell cars to a generation that thinks “cooking” is a hip-hop dance, not a reason to go to the Williamsburg Farmer’s Market.

He and his team are trying to help General Motors solve one of the most vexing problems facing the car industry: many young consumers today just do not care that much about cars.

False. The article’s commenters cite everything from expense, to the environment, to social media as reasons why youth have abandoned the automobile. The truth is, they never have.Young people care about cars. Yes, we are broke, gas is more expensive, we care about the environment even though we consume, consume, consume like never before. We still need cars. We still don’t like taking transit, if we can at all. If one of our friends has a car, we will ask them for a lift home, no matter how much pro-cycling-and-walkable-cities gospel we preach. If we’re going to buy a car, it better be worth it. Worth the expense of and hassle. A Sonic is a nice car. It’s not worth it.

Young people are buying used S2000s. Young people are awaiting the launch of the Scion FR-S like it’s The Second Coming. Young people would do terrible things for an Audi R8. Young people do terrible things, financially speaking, to lease a BMW 328i or Infiniti G37 or Mercedes C-Class. But, here’s the kicker. Young people do not want any part of what’s being sold to them as affordable transportation

Last summer, Mr. Martin and his team temporarily transformed part of the G.M. lobby into a loftlike space reminiscent of a coffee shop in Austin or Seattle, with graffiti on the walls and skateboards and throw pillows scattered around. As part of its “Millennial-Con,” Scratch brought in viral video stars like Sergio Flores, known as the Sexy Sax Man, a musician with a mullet and a denim jacket.

Do they know that a lot of young people like the Cruze precisely because it doesn’t look like it starts at $16,800? Don’t believe me? Look at the Cruze sales numbers. Even better than the Focus. Luxury goods have trickled so far down the social ladder that even a girl who works retail for minimum wage can buy a $900 Louis Vuitton purse. I said “can buy” not “afford” so don’t worry about a $12,000 Spark. Make something that looks like an Audi S5, base it on the Cruze platform (go ahead, it’s ok, most of them won’t know, and the ones that do will be go back to playing Gran Turismo anyways) and you’re half way there. The Code and Tru concepts were a step in the right direction. Don’t listen to the critics. They’re old men. They just want a Cruze diesel wagon with a 6-speed sitck.

They studied a collage loaded with images of hip products like headphones created by Dr. Dre, a tablet computer and a chunky watch. The board inspired new Chevrolet colors, like “techno pink,” “lemonade” and “denim,” aimed at “a 23-year-old who shops at H&M and Target and listens to Wale with Beats headphones,” said Rebecca Waldmeir, a color and trim designer for Chevrolet. This rainbow of youthful hues will be available on the Spark this summer.

Young people would rather get herpes than go to the “Sonic Lounge” at the SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas. Ask Ford how their “Fiesta Movement” worked out, without Ford mentioning how many “social media impressions” the car got. Car companies that indulge in these silly campaigns are like an obese person trying to lose weight by switching from Coke to fruit juice when what’s really needed is hard physical exercise and most importantly, self-discipline.

If I had the secret to marketing to youth, I’d probably flying into Mustique right now. But I do. Ready for it? We want to buy cars marketed to older, more succesful people. We always have, we always will. Ask a young person,full of ambition and promise, trying to get ahead in the world with a crappy job that doesn’t pay much, what car they prefer – as in, what car suits their self-image better; a Hyundai Veloster, or a Hyundai Elantra. One looks like a child’s toy. The other looks like a Mercedes-Benz if you squint just a little. And yes, I’ve done this field test many times before. I know a few people with Elantras, Sonatas and even Rios. Nobody I know has bought a Veloster.

GM, it’s a good thing that young people don’t read newspapers and this article appeared in the New York Times. Your target demo is already making fun of this article, your marketing people and your lame efforts on Facebook. Vehicle lead times and social trends move at such different paces that they will never intersect and you will never be able to catch them. Stop this silly endeavor. Fire the marketers. Let the engineers and product types do their thing. We can tell you don’t get it.

 

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Chevrolet Spark Pricing Will Undercut Sonic http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/chevrolet-spark-pricing-will-undercut-sonic/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/chevrolet-spark-pricing-will-undercut-sonic/#comments Tue, 20 Mar 2012 12:30:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=435592 Chevrolet’s Spark minicar will go on sale in July starting at  a price point below the Sonic’s $14,600 (destination included). The Korean-built minicar competes in the “A-segment”, alongside the Fiat 500, Smart Fortwo and Scion iQ. While the Spark is about 5 inches longer than a Fiat 500, it is over a foot shorter than […]

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Chevrolet’s Spark minicar will go on sale in July starting at  a price point below the Sonic’s $14,600 (destination included). The Korean-built minicar competes in the “A-segment”, alongside the Fiat 500, Smart Fortwo and Scion iQ.

While the Spark is about 5 inches longer than a Fiat 500, it is over a foot shorter than the Sonic hatchback. Distinctive styling and an uprated 1.2L 4-cylinder engine will be hallmarks of the North American Spark, as will a 7-inch touch screen that can be integrated with the driver’s smartphone. Rather than offering expensive options like navigation, the screen will allow for phone-based navigation to be used.

The real question is how many Chevrolet can sell, and the company is non-committal with regards to sales prospects. One Chevrolet rep told Automotive News that the company hasn’t set a hard target, and one can easily read between the lines to get a real sense of how apprehensive Chevrolet is regarding the Spark. Oh ya – it comes in pink, too.

 

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2012 Toyota Yaris SE http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/2012-toyota-yaris-se/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/2012-toyota-yaris-se/#comments Sat, 18 Feb 2012 15:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=431266 Remember the legendary Toyota Tercel? Sorry, trick question—there was no legendary Toyota Tercel. Between 1980 and 2000 five generations of tiny Toyotas came and went, leaving nary a trace in car guy lore. Toyota followed up the Tercel with the Echo. The new car was memorable…for ridiculous Gen Y marketing, an ugly exterior, a cheap […]

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Remember the legendary Toyota Tercel? Sorry, trick question—there was no legendary Toyota Tercel. Between 1980 and 2000 five generations of tiny Toyotas came and went, leaving nary a trace in car guy lore. Toyota followed up the Tercel with the Echo. The new car was memorable…for ridiculous Gen Y marketing, an ugly exterior, a cheap interior, bobbly handling, and a harsh ride. All but admitting failure, Toyota not only let the Echo die on the vine as a “special order only” car but, taking a page from the GM playbook, euthanized the nameplate as well. A Yaris successor succeeded in that it continued the Tercel tradition of utter unmemorability. Emboldened by this success, Toyota has not only retained the Yaris nameplate for a second generation, but is pitching an SE variant at people who actually like to drive. Will we remember this one, and for the right reasons?

Drooling over this photo? Then your medication has at least one unpleasant side effect. Still, I must admit a fondness for the car’s exterior. The look is current, with the wheels pushed all the way out to aero-friendly crisp corners. Seeking swoopy insectoid styling? Look elsewhere. The SE tweaks (aggressive front facia, gunmetal gray eight-spoke 16-inch rims) work well, effectively communicating the car’s sporting ambitions. Prefer the three-door body style? Then no SE for you. It’s only available with the five-door. (The sedan was dropped with the redesign.)

Interior design high points include intriguingly patterned blue cloth and some squishy surfaces (the light gray bits). But the instrument panel suffers from the odd design details and clumsy attempts at coherence that have afflicted too many Toyota interiors over the past decade. Round vents, or rectangular ones? Why not both! Then mirror both shapes with an open storage cubby northwest of the instruments (for easy viewing by passers by) and a prominent circular surround overlapping the left side of the audio system’s thick bezel. The latter houses an unhappily cohabiting hazard button and passenger airbag indicator light—because you might have trouble finding them otherwise. Then there’s the audio system, with a tiny power button tucked away in the top right corner (and so beyond easy reach due to the system’s rightward displacement by the hazard button surround) and sound quality adjustments so buried even my kids failed to locate them.

Just drive the car at night, and everything is good. The steering wheel isn’t too thickly padded and is invitingly shaped. The seats are both comfortable and supportive. The side windows are generously sized, especially by current standards. The windshield, not so much. Like many lately, the instrument panel is tall, perhaps to lend the impression that the Yaris is larger and more substantial than it actually is. Or to avoid the minivanish driving position of the Honda Fit. It succeeds on both counts. The rear seat is roomier than the segment average. Adults of average size will fit with perhaps an entire inch to spare. Cargo volume is at best average, meaning the Honda Fit is the clear winner.

SE notwithstanding, the horsepower war hasn’t yet made it to the Yaris. A 1.5-liter four-cylinder good for a mere 106 horses at 6,000 rpm remains the only available engine. But the Yaris also hasn’t packed on pounds the way most competitors have, and still checks in south of 2,300 (about 300 fewer than a Fiesta or Sonic). Hitched to a five-speed manual, the engine feels peppy. Unlike the Mazda2, each shift doesn’t sink the engine into a torque-free zone from which it struggles to emerge. More of an issue than power: when revved the four produces a soft wheezy buzz. If it weren’t a brand new Toyota, I’d have hunted for a small exhaust leak. Shift feel is okay, neither as good as the Honda Fit’s nor as craptastic as the Hyundai Accent’s.

With a small engine and low curb weight, the Yaris SE’s fuel economy ought to be stellar. Unfortunately, it bumps against the same invisible ceiling as every other car in the segment, and so rates “only” 30 city and 38 highway from the EPA—about the same as the larger, heavier, and more powerful cars from the next class up. In suburban driving, the trip computer usually reported numbers in the low to mid 30s. Despite its higher curb weight and much more powerful engine, the Chevrolet Sonic 1.4T (29/40, reviewed last week) tends to do a little better, especially at higher speeds where its sixth gear comes into play.

Toyota’s recent efforts at sport variants of its small cars have been nothing more than appearance packages. Thankfully, it went further with the Yaris SE, tweaking the steering and suspension. Aided by the thinly-padded wheel and a modest level of power assist, the steering is more communicative than most. The SE’s chassis, far more poised than that of the misbegotten Echo, compares well to those of competitors. Add in the low curb weight and compact dimensions even by segment standards (a Hyundai Accent is 8.5 inches longer), and the Yaris SE vies with the Mazda2 for the class title of “most tossable.” Unlike the systems in the three Koreans, the stability control doesn’t kill the joy by cutting in too early. The car’s handling is so safe that it doesn’t need to cut in at all. The price for this agile handling: a slightly harsh (but still livable) ride and traditional levels of wind and road noise.

Contrary to conventional wisdom (well, at least that before the UA scare), all Toyotas are not equally reliable. In general, as with most other manufacturers, the smaller and simpler they are the fewer problems they have. And the Yaris is the smallest, simplest car in the line. It’s too soon to have any reliability stats on the 2012 car, but the first-generation Yaris has consistently been among the most reliable models in TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey.

This justified reputation for reliability has long enabled Toyota to charge more. With floormats, the Yaris SE lists for $17,310. An Accent SE stickers for $16,650. In the past people would gladly pay $660 more for a smaller, less powerful, less stylish Toyota.

By conventional measures, the Toyota Yaris isn’t very competitive. It’s smaller, less powerful, and less lavishly equipped than most competitors, but doesn’t cost less or go farther on a gallon of gas. The redesigned exterior is attractive, at least in SE spec, but others are arguably more stylish. About the interior enough has been said already. Yet I think I’ll remember my time with this small Toyota, as it offers something most competitors no longer do. Imposing instrument panel aside, the Yaris is a small car that’s okay with being a small car. Though unlikely to curry favor with the typical non-SE buyer, this isn’t entirely a bad thing for car guys. There’s a directness to the controls and an agility to the chassis you won’t find in subcompact hatches with loftier aspirations.Unlike its predecessors, the Yaris is a fun car to drive, minimally competent powertrain notwithstanding. And if Toyota did manage to field a powertrain fully competitive with that in the Hyundai? I’d definitely remember that car.

Toyota provided the car with insurance and a tank of gas.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

Yaris SE front, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Yaris SE front quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Yaris SE side, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Yaris Fit, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Yaris SE rear quarter low, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Yaris SE rear quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Yaris SE interior, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Yaris SE instrument panel, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Yaris SE seats, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Yaris SE controls, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Yaris SE rear seat, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Yaris SE cargo, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Yaris SE engine, photo courtesy Michael Karesh

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Review: 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ Turbo Take Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/review-2012-chevrolet-sonic-ltz-turbo-take-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/review-2012-chevrolet-sonic-ltz-turbo-take-two/#comments Sun, 12 Feb 2012 18:54:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=430573 My intial review of the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic was less than stellar. Considerably less. But, as noted, that reviewed covered the LT trim level with the normally-aspirated 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission. Everyone else (aside from our own Steve Lang) has been reviewing the LTZ trim level with the 1.4-liter turbocharged four and […]

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My intial review of the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic was less than stellar. Considerably less. But, as noted, that reviewed covered the LT trim level with the normally-aspirated 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission. Everyone else (aside from our own Steve Lang) has been reviewing the LTZ trim level with the 1.4-liter turbocharged four and six-speed manual transmission. They’ve been much more positive about the car. How much difference can an engine, transmission, and tires make?

The differences begin with exterior appearance. Car companies frequently fit cars with a smaller wheel than they were designed for, but how they expect this to help sell cars escapes me. Even if some people buy the aesthetically afflicted car, others will see it on the road and form their initial impressions accordingly. Though not a beauty in any configuration, the Sonic looks much better with the LTZ’s 17-inch alloys than the LT’s 15s. The aggressively styled front end and chunky fenders were clearly penned with the larger wheels (or perhaps even larger ones) in mind. Especially when the car is painted orange, as both tested cars were, the 17s should be mandatory. Both of the tested cars were also hatchbacks, but unlike with other B-segment cars the Sonic sedan is equally attractive.

The interior plastics didn’t seem any nicer after a week than they did during my earlier test drive. Even in the LTZ they’re competitive with other cars in the segment but a clear step down from the fabric trim (on the instrument panel!) and soft-touch polymers of the C-segment Chevrolet Cruze. My fondness for the motorcycle-inspired gauge cluster did grow with familiarity. Unlike the oddball digital instruments of decades past, those in the Sonic actually work well, clearly and entertainingly presenting essential information.

The driving position and interior dimensions are of course unchanged from the LT to the LTZ. In either trim the Sonic feels larger than its direct competitors, and more like cars from a size class up, thanks to a high beltline and distant windshield. Whether this is a plus or a minus depends on whether you prefer your small cars to actually seem small. Chevrolet’s bet, is no doubt a sound one: most people buying a B-segment car would get something larger if they could afford it. Actual interior room is among the best in the segment, so the average adult will just fit without scrunching. The front seats are comfortable, but those seeking much lateral support will be much happier in the upcoming 2013 Sonic RS. Oddly, the heated seats only have one level of adjustment.

The 1.4-liter engine might be turbocharged, but with the same peak horsepower rating as the normally-aspirated 1.8 it’s not a screamer. In fact, it’s the opposite. Where the 1.8 lugs, gargles, buzzes, and roars in the process of motivating the Sonic’s 2,600 pounds (which shouldn’t actually be a tall order for a 138-horsepower 1.8), the 1.4T effectively accomplishes this task. The difference: a much plumper midrange (indicated by 148 pound-feet of torque vs. 125) and much more refinement from idle to redline. In fact, the 1.4T isn’t only smoother and stronger than the Sonic’s other engine, but better than the segment’s other powerplants. If you’re seeking a B-segment car that provides effortless acceleration in typical suburban driving, the Sonic with the 1.4T engine is your only option in North America.

Given the engine’s plump midrange and less stout top end—it was clearly optimized for the former—there’s little joy in and even less justification for making runs to the redline. But the six-speed manual transmission is still the way to go. The stick feels slicker and more solid than past GM efforts—and than Hyundai’s current effort in the Accent. Aside from the more direct connection with the car a manual transmission always provides, this one provides the additional benefit of avoiding the unrefined, poorly programmed six-speed automatic. Then again, the automatic isn’t yet available with the 1.4T (though this combo has been offered since launch in the Cruze.) The EPA ratings: 29 city, 40 highway. In suburban driving with a light foot the trip computer reported from 34.5 to 37.5. With a heavier foot it reported 27 to 30.

Already noted: the Sonic feels like a larger car from the driver seat. Aside from this, it handles quite well in LTZ trim, where the 205/50HR17 Hankook Optimo H428 tires actually provide enough grip to exercise the suspension (if still much less than the suspension could handle). There’s even some communication from the steering, though a smaller diameter wheel than the GM standard unit would be welcome. Likely tuned with young, inexperienced drivers in mind, the Sonic feels very stable and controllable even as the front tires begin their progressive slide into moderate understeer. For all but the least skilled drivers the Sonic LTZ 1.4T should be an easy and enjoyable (if not quite engaging) car to drive quickly along a curvy road.

Given this safe, predictable handling, a stability control system that cuts in much earlier and more aggressively than the typical GM system is overkill. Holding down the button to turn the system off doesn’t actually turn it off, only bumps the intervention threshold. And even then the system cuts in a little early. If you can’t safely exercise the Sonic even without the aid of a stability control system, you probably shouldn’t be driving.

Though the Sonic’s handling borders on crisp and its body motions are better controlled than those of more softly-sprung Cruze, its ride is about as smooth and quiet as it gets in this class. The Ford Fiesta feels more Euro taut and solid, but the Chevrolet feels larger and steadier.

The big disadvantage of the 1.4T engine: it adds $700 to the Sonic’s price, a significant sum in this most price-sensitive segment. Go with the LTZ to get suitably-sized rims, and the sticker comes to $18,695. A Hyundai Accent SE with an equally powerful but not nearly as torquey 1.6-liter four is $2,000 less. The Sonic does include quite a few additional features, among them four additional airbags, a telescoping steering wheel, automatic headlights, heated seats, and OnStar. (But if you want rear disc brakes like those standard on the Hyundai, you’ll need to wait for the even pricier 2013 Sonic RS.) Adjust for these feature differences using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool, and the Accent retains a $600 advantage. Which is essentially how much the 1.4T engine costs. Consider this the price of midrange torque and, once feature differences are adjusted for, the two cars are close in price. And the Ford Fiesta? Topping $19,000 when similarly equipped, it’s clearly the priciest of the three.

Longish story short, the Sonic is a much better car with the 1.4T engine and the LTZ’s larger wheels. Unfortunately, these features also bump the price considerably. For price-sensitive folk GM needs a more refined base engine and a 17-inch wheel option for the LT. For enthusiasts, an RS is on the way with sport buckets and sport suspension. What the RS won’t have: a stronger engine. This is a shame. While the 1.4T is the best engine in the segment for the typical driver, it’s strength—a strong midrange—makes it less suitable for enthusiasts seeking a payoff north of 4,000 rpm. The Opel Corsa is available with a 189-horsepower 1.6-liter engine. If GM were truly swinging for the fences, this would be the engine in the Sonic RS.

Chevrolet provided the car with insurance and a full tank of gas.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Sonic LTZ front, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Sonic LTZ front quarter high, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Sonic LTZ front quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Sonic LTZ side, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Sonic LTZ rear quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Sonic LTZ interior, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Sonic LTZ interior right, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Sonic LTZ instrument panel, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Sonic LTZ rear seat, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Sonic LTZ cargo, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Sonic LTZ instruments, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Sonic LTZ engine, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Sonic LT front quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Sonic LT side view, photo courtesy Michael Karesh

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Generation Why: The CD Player Is Dead, Long Live Smartphones http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/generation-why-the-cd-player-is-dead-long-live-smartphones/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/generation-why-the-cd-player-is-dead-long-live-smartphones/#comments Mon, 16 Jan 2012 16:39:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=426540 Are in-car CD players the mark of a vehicle aimed at geezers? According to an Automotive News report, the CD may be going the way of the cassette or 8-track player in certain cars – namely those aimed at younger, “Gen Y” buyers, who use smart phones as music devices. An Automotive News article on […]

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Are in-car CD players the mark of a vehicle aimed at geezers? According to an Automotive News report, the CD may be going the way of the cassette or 8-track player in certain cars – namely those aimed at younger, “Gen Y” buyers, who use smart phones as music devices.

An Automotive News article on the topic seems to suggest that “Sonic and Spark customers” [read: the coveted "Gen Y" types that Chevy is desperately hoping to attract] apparently don’t have much love for physical media any more.

“We asked potential Sonic and Spark customers what they were looking for in infotainment,” said Sara LeBlanc, MyLink’s global infotainment program manager. “They were very worried about cost. They said to us: ‘Get rid of the CD player. We don’t use it.’”

It’s true that Gen Y is concerned about vehicle costs, and that smart phones and MP3 players are the dominant forms of music players, but I don’t think anyone, regardless of age, has ever thought about how much the cost of a CD player has added to the price of the car. True, I can’t remember the last time I bought a CD, but unlike in-car iPod systems, CDs tend to work every single time, unless the disc is heavily damaged.

These days, the number one question I get about a press car is usually “how do I plug in my iPod.” Horsepower, airbag count, sticker price, where it’s made, those are all secondary considerations for passengers. Anyone who has driven a new car in the past 18 months knows that these systems are imperfect at best.The Ford SYNC system is at the top of my shit list for failing to work as advertised in nearly every single press car. Just as consumers expect total reliability from their cars mechanical components, they expect the same from things like infotainment systems – a flaky iPod interface is a surefire way to piss off your customers, have them raise hell on social media platforms and lose spots in the all-important J.D. Power Initial Quality studies.

GM’s elimination of the CD player may have more to do with getting rid of “…optical drives — that is, CD or DVD players — because they are expensive and appeal mainly to older motorists.” Sales of CD-free infotainment units are expected to jump 36-fold over the next 6 years, but CD players will also likely stick around for a while due to Boomers and “older” generations favoring them. GM can also eliminate having to offer pricey options such as navigation systems, by shifting that responsibility to the user’s smartphone.

Chevrolet seems to have found a novel feature to keep costs down, by having the phone do most of the heavy lifting. But what if you’re among the 47 percent of Americans aged 18-24 without a smartphone? Are you completely shit out of luck for any hope of having a sound system, navigation or other similar features?

The increased proliferation of these sorts of systems  also raises big questions about the robustness of the current crop of cars. Will the infotainment systems still be supported by the various suppliers and vendors, or will they essentially “brick” the cars, or crippled a large part of their functionality? Not that the OEMs should care; after all, the warranty period will be up, and all that matters is getting buyers into cars right now and keeping them coming back when it’s time for another new car every few years. Given that the automakers business model is based on selling new vehicles, it’s not really a concern of theirs whether or not the system craps out and renders the car useless. Just buy a new Spark for $0 down, $199 a month for 60 months! The prospect of a whole field of useless cars, sitting dormant amid a tight supply of decent used cars seems like a far fetched prospect until you think about all the obsolete electronics cluttering the various nooks in your house. Tossing a Minidisc player in the trash is no big deal; an automobile isn’t quite the same thing.

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