Chevrolet Sonic's U.S. Subcompact Market Share Is Plunging – Started Near The Top Now It's Here

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

GM’s share of America’s subcompact segment fell below 10% in the first-quarter of 2015 as Chevrolet Sonic volume tumbled 53%, year-over-year.

As a whole, the subcompact category is in decline in early 2015, but a large part of the category’s 9% drop can be attributed to the Sonic. Sales of the Sonic decreased by nearly 13,000 units over the last three months.

The Sonic ranked as the second-best-selling subcompact in the United States through the first three months of 2014, a position it held at this stage of 2013 and in each of the last three calendar years.

But through the first three months of 2015, the Sonic is America’s fifth-best-selling subcompact, 25,683 sales back of the top-selling Nissan Versa, a vehicle it trailed by fewer than 11,000 units at this stage in 2014.

In 2014’s first-quarter, the Sonic’s market share climbed to 19% thanks to a 4124-unit improvement year-over-year. A market share drop of nearly ten percentage points just one year later is a shock to GM’s small car system.

Chevrolet Spark sales are down 5% this year. Chevrolet Cruze volume is off by 7%. Overall Chevrolet car sales are down 17%. Likewise, General Motors car volume in the U.S. is down 17%, a 45,487-unit deficit (year-over-year) that’s been erased by a 21% surge in light trucks, including a 48,046-unit increase among pickup trucks.

GM has known for quite some time that demand for the Sonic was way below previous expectations. Automotive News reported three months ago that Sonic production at the Orion plant in Michigan would be suspended to clear out a Sonic glut.

But it’s taking a while. At the beginning of this month, GM had a 160-day supply of Sonics. That’s well down from the 258-day supply one month earlier, but still well in excess of the 59-day average across the industry.

Meanwhile, the Sonic isn’t the only subcompact suffering from a downturn. The aging Ford Fiesta is down 22% this year. Kia Rio volume has plunged 37%. The Mazda 2, in a replacement phase, is down 94%. But none of those holes are as large as the one left by the dramatically less popular Sonic, without which the subcompact category would be up 1% in early 2015.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

Timothy Cain
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  • Shaker Shaker on Apr 25, 2015

    The problem with the Sonic is that you have to drive it to appreciate it. But, they need to make it more attractive and get the price more in line with others in the segment. To me, the Sonic has "a face only a mother can love..."

    • Scwmcan Scwmcan on Apr 25, 2015

      If you implying that the sonic would look better with a different front clip, I would agree, I think the major problem with its looks is the front, I like the rest of it ( especially the hatch, but I like hatches in general).

  • APaGttH APaGttH on Apr 25, 2015

    So sales plunged about the same time the Trax showed up on the showroom floor. My theory, Trax is canibalizing Sonic, and Sonic is aged so Fit is pulling on the high end, Versa is pulling budget shoppers on the low,end.

  • V8fairy Absolutely no, for the same reasons I would not have bought a German car in the late 1930's, and I am glad to see a number of other posters here share my moral scruples. Like EBFlex I try to avoid Chinese made goods as much as possible. The quality may also be iffy, but that is not my primary concern
  • Tsarcasm No, Japan only. Life costs by Rank:#1 - House (150k+)#2 - Education (30k+)#3 - Automobile (30k+) why waste hard earned money in inferior crap => Korean, Chinese, and American cars are trash. a toyota or honda will last twice as long.
  • Tassos In the 90s we hired a former PhD student and friend of mine, who 'worked' at GM "Research" labs, to come work for us as a 'temp' lecturer and get paid extra. He had no objection from GM, came during the day (around 2 PM), two hours drive round trip, plus the 1.5 hour lecture, twice weekly. (basically he goofed off two entire afternoons out of the five) He told me they gave him a different model new car every month, everything (even gas) paid. Instead of him paying parking, I told him to give me the cars and I drove them for those 90 mins, did my shopping etc. Almost ALL sucked, except the Eldo coupe with the Northstar. That was a nice engine with plenty of power (by 90s standards). One time they gave him the accursed Caddy Catera, which was as fun driving as having sex with a fish, AND to make it worse, the driver's door handle broke and my friend told me GM had to pay an arm and a leg to fix it, needed to replace almost the whole damned door!
  • 3-On-The-Tree I only buy Toyota cars. But if the Chinese cars are cheap people will buy them. They don’t care about the above issues that were stated in this forum.
  • Tassos Ford models are like dumb Hollywood movies. The original is far better than their god damned sequels. This was true of the Mustang vs the II, AND the Capri vs its second gen, and their BEV PORKER atrocities many decades later
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