Still Not Officially Discontinued, the Chevrolet Sonic's Days Are Numbered

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

One of the more vibrant paint choices for the 2020 Chevrolet Sonic is “Red Hot” — a name that most certainly does not accurately describe the Sonic’s U.S. sales.

Chevy’s Michigan-built subcompact remains in the Chevy lineup for the coming model year, joined by an Impala that sees its production end in January, and accompanied by the ghosts of the remaining unsold Cruzes littering lots after that model’s cancellation. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Chevy’s 2021 lineup contain just the Malibu, Spark, and Bolt in the non-sporty passenger car stable.

Why? Because, while General Motors chose to deep-six the Sonic in Mexico and Canada earlier this year, buyers apparently didn’t get the message that it remains on sale in the U.S.

It was a good third quarter for GM, with sales rising 6.3 percent in Q3; Chevrolet eked out a 4.6-percent gain compared to the same period last year. And, while some Chevy passenger cars saw their fortunes rise last quarter (Malibu up 4.5 percent, Bolt up 22.3 percent), the subcompact Sonic saw its sales fall 70.5 percent. Through the end of September, Sonic volume has decreased more than 40 percent.

To put it another way, more than twice as many Americans bought a Chevy Cruze in Q3 — a vehicle killed off this past spring — than they did a Sonic. And that’s after GM offered $2,000 off the already affordable Sonic in September (and nearly the same amount off the month before). Currently, there’s $1,000 in discounts to be had on a 2020 model, with the base LS sedan ringing in at $16,595 after destination.

Did we mention it has a standard turbocharged engine now? Well, it does.

Overlooked in the presence of the Ford Fiesta and Honda Fit almost since its introduction, the Sonic remains a fun little car to drive. I’ve taken a liking to one in the past, and so has Bark. It’s just the American new car buyer who’s apparently not impressed.

Hailing from GM’s Orion Assembly, the Sonic’s fate has been in question for some time. Orion, you see, builds the Bolt and Cruise AV autonomous test vehicle, and the automaker recently tapped the locale for production of a future Chevy-badged electric crossover. As Sonic sales dwindled (2014 saw 93,518 Sonics sold; 2018 brought only 20,613), the low-profit vehicle’s presence in a valuable domestic assembly space became ever more conspicuous, leading to rumors of its cancellation.

However, those rumors have not yet panned out. 2018 passed with no word on the model’s fate, and 2019 has thus far given us a 2020 Sonic. We’ve reached out to GM for comment about the Sonic’s Alfa Romeo-like sales performance last quarter and what it means for the model, and will report anything we hear back from them.

[Image: General Motors]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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2 of 19 comments
  • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on Oct 05, 2019

    Looks about as exciting as a wet fart, which I suppose could be exciting in its own way. I kind of found the original endearing in that way where I would never own one, but didn't actively dislike it. I suppose the best that could be said about this one is that ambivalence is a thing. To my mind this suffers the same issue that the Fiesta did; for not much more money (in a monthly payment) you could get the larger Focus and not take a huge hit on fueling costs. The styling on the original Sonic was never as incoherent as the Fiesta, though the proportions suffered in the same ways: too tall and narrow for the length.

  • Guitar man Guitar man on Oct 07, 2019

    Orion is basically a sheltered workshop. They don't even make these things in South Korea or China anymore.

  • MaintenanceCosts Absolutely. Most old classics are not Boss 429s or Busso Alfas. Most of them have powertrains that are just crap by modern standards. I'd love to have a classic without the pre-emissions stinky exhaust or the need to futz around constantly with points and jets to maintain drivability.
  • Ravenuer No, I wouldn't be interested in doing this at all. Seems like it would be quite expensive.
  • Tassos Why buy either when you have two matching 2007 diesel e-classes with combined over 950k km. NO ONE SHOULD WANT MORE THAN I HAVE SETTLED FOR.
  • FreedMike Depends on the used car. If we're talking a numbers-matching GTO or something like that, then hell no. But if we're talking about something like a six-banger '67 Mustang, it'd be cool to make it into an EV with modern suspension, brakes and electronics. Call it an electro-restomod.
  • Billccm I think history is repeating itself. In the late 1980s the French acquired AMC. They discovered no easy money in that deal, Chrysler took AMC and Jeep is all that remained.Present day the French acquired FCA, discovered no easy money in the deal, and some Asian manufacturer will take what remains of Chrysler, and Jeep and RAM will be all that survived.To understand the future study the past.