Going Sparkless? Korea Thinking of Discontinuing America's Smallest GM Car

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Last week it was the subcompact Chevrolet Sonic and a report that the little four- or five-door could bite the dust by the end of this year. Now we hear the Spark — General Motors’ smallest U.S. offering — could also be on its way to the nameplate graveyard.

Oddly, the Reuters report, which cites a GM Korea spokesman, comes just a few days after the unveiling of the refreshed 2019 Spark. Like other Gamma II platform small vehicles, the Spark comes to us by way of Korea. As you know, that embattled division is currently struggling for survival, and it doesn’t much like the look of America’s falling Spark sales.

So, what would replace the Spark and give GM Korea’s threatened factories a safer product bet? You already know the answer to this. A crossover.

We detailed the Spark’s sales history after looking at the changes coming for 2019. Sales of the little city car fell consistently in the U.S. after 2014, with 2018 volume down 2.7 percent at the end of March. At the same time, Canadian buyers are taking to the model in ever greater numbers, though not enough to offset the American loss.

An unspecified crossover, surely built on the automaker’s small car architecture, could offer the division a reprieve. GM Korea needs to present the country’s government with a business plan before the end of April in order to secure Seoul’s support. That means first crafting a product plan, freeing up operating funds, and reaching a deal with its militant labor union. Already, GM Korea has threatened bankruptcy in the hopes of strong-arming concessions. Unionized workers responded by trashing executive offices.

If GM Korea pulls itself out of this mess, the Spark won’t disappear overnight. The spokesman said production of the Spark-replacing crossover wouldn’t begin until 2022. In the meantime, Opel owner PSA Group plans to bring production of the Opel Karl (a rebadged Spark) to Europe by 2020, further decreasing output at GM’s Korean factories.

America’s still hot-selling subcompact Chevrolet Trax and Buick Encore crossovers ride atop the same Gamma II architecture as the Spark and Sonic, which means any new vehicle would have to avoid stepping on those models’ toes. Is American interested in a sub-subcompact Chevy utility vehicle?

Interestingly, the Spark already available in soft-roader Activ configuration. This mighty beast boasts 0.4 inches of additional ground clearance and a modest dose of body cladding, but its scarcity on dealer lots and roadways shows that buyers demand a little more capability to go with their off-road pretentions.

[Images: General Motors]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Bd2 Bd2 on Apr 09, 2018

    Not really surprising as GM has 20+ hybrids, PHEVs, EVs and fuel cells in development - of which some (which will include the CUV form-factor) will be GM's small car replacements. We're basically seeing small lifted hatches replace small 4-door sedans and non-lifted hatches.

  • Big Al from Oz Big Al from Oz on Apr 10, 2018

    Colorado's from Korea would give GM Korea some better profits in the US than tiny cars.

  • DS No for 2 reasons. 1-Every new car pipelines data back to the manufacturer; I don't like it with domestic, Japanese and Euro companies and won't put up with it going to Chinese companies that are part financed by their government. 2-People have already mentioned Vinfast, but there's also the case of Hyundai. Their cars were absolutely miserable for years before they learned enough about the US market
  • Theflyersfan Well, if you're on a Samsung phone, (noticing all of the shipping boxes are half Vietnamese), you're using a Vietnam-built phone. Apple? Most of ours in the warehouse say China, but they are trying to spread out to other countries because putting all eggs in the Chinese basket right now is not wise. I'm asking Apple users here (the point of above) - if you're OK using an expensive iPhone, where is your Made in China line in the sand? Can't stress this enough - not being confrontational. I am curious, that's all. Is it because Apple is California-based that manufacturing location doesn't matter, vs a company in a Beijing skyscraper? We have all weekend to hopefully have a civil discussion about how much is too much when it comes to supporting companies being HQ-ed in adversarial countries. I, for one, can't pull the trigger on a Chinese car. All kinds of reasons - political, human rights, war mongering and land grabbing - my morality is ruling my decisions with them.
  • Jbltg Ford AND VAG. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Leonard Ostrander We own a 2017 Buick Envision built in China. It has been very reliable and meets our needs perfectly. Of course Henry Ford was a fervent anti-semite and staunch nazi sympathizer so that rules out Ford products.
  • Ravenuer I would not.