By on April 9, 2018

Image: General Motors

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.

chevy spark 2018 mint green

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]

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9 Comments on “Going Sparkless? Korea Thinking of Discontinuing America’s Smallest GM Car...”


  • avatar
    Hummer

    Let’s be honest how many people would ever notice the spark and sonic being gone? Two miserable little cars, just make the Malibu the smallest offering. It’s small as it is, and the rental LT trim I had could make anyone that remembers the Malaise era remember those cars fondly. I’m quite sure the Malibu is miserable enough to take the spot for terrible small loss leader in the line up.

    • 0 avatar

      I would miss them both. I own a ‘15 Sonic hatch and love the little critter. Compared to most other subcompacts, the Sonic is very likeable and easy to live with. It’s quieter and more refined than the Fit, roomier than a Fiesta, and gets great fuel economy, has a hushed quiet ride, lots of practicality, and has a quirky, unique style. GM really tried on this one and IMO succeeded on building an appealing small car. Being built in America is a claim that only the Sonic can make amongst subcompacts.

      I’ve rented a few Sparks and enjoy them. It’s a little cramped to be a primary car, but the latest one has great handling, decent pickup, and offers good value.

      Neither of them are miserable. They’re just victims of American’s short term memories with fuel prices and mysterious thirst for crossovers

      • 0 avatar
        Johnster

        You’re right about the Sonic. I’ve rented a few and found them to be competent, if a bit bland and with disappointing gas mileage. That said, they were much better (and reportedly more reliable) than the Ford Fiesta. I thought that the Spark and the Trax were tin cans, though. The Encore was O.K. (but lousy gas mileage for its size).

        Maybe the redesigned Spark is better than the current model.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        As would I. The Sonic (RS) is on my radar as a replacement DD for my 2013 Cruze that my son is likely to keep. The Sonic appeals to me as a fun hatchback and is (importantly to me) still made in America. When I get back from deployment, it’ll be something I look at seriously…with a manual trans, naturally.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      The Malibu is on fire sale:

      “Through April 16, the Malibu LT is eligible for a 20% discount off MSRP. That’s worth at least $5,219 in savings, an impressive amount for a midsize car.”
      https://www.carsdirect.com/deals-articles/best-new-car-deals

      And the Cruze is also fire saled:

      ” If you’re looking to buy a 2018 Cruze sooner rather than later, there’s an early-month deal worth knowing about. Through April 16, Chevy is offering a flat 20% discount on LT models.

      On well-equipped cars, that can equate to over $5,000 in savings off MSRP. ”

      The Fusion also seems to have @$5000 markdown.

    • 0 avatar
      darex

      Wait. You think the Malibu is a car that’s as small as anyone should want? That thing is frigging huge! No thanks! You must live in a little house on the prairie.

  • avatar
    bd2

    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.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

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

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