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

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
still not officially discontinued the chevrolet sonics days are numbered

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]

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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.

  • Chuck Norton For those worried about a complex power train-What vehicle doesn't have one? I drive a twin turbo F-150 (3.5) Talk about complexity.. It seems reliability based on the number of F-150s sold is a non-issue. As with many other makes/models. I mean how many operations are handle by micro today's vehicles?
  • Ravenuer The Long Island Expressway.
  • Kwik_Shift A nice stretch of fairly remote road that would be great for test driving a car's potential, rally style, is Flinton Road off of Highway 41 in Ontario. Twists/turns/dips/rises. Just hope a deer doesn't jump out at you. Also Highway 60 through Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario. Great scenery with lots of hills.
  • Saeed Hello, I need a series of other accessories from Lincoln. Do you have front window, front and rear lights, etc. from the 1972 and 1976 models
  • Probert Wow - so many digital renders - Ford, Stellantis. - whose next!!! They're really bringing it on....