This was a long time coming. In fact, Wednesday’s announcement of the discontinuation of the Chevrolet Sonic subcompact was expected to arrive by the end of last year, not halfway through the present one.
Regardless, the small hatchback and sedan that greeted buyers near the outset of the 2010s will not last more than a year into the 2020s. It’s dead come October.
General Motors has tapped its no-longer-slated-for-mothballs Detroit-Hamtramck facility to spawn the automaker’s looming EV tsunami, but it isn’t the only Southeast Michigan plant with a forward-thinking mandate.
Orion Assembly, home to a sparse Chevrolet product lineup, is already building electric and autonomous vehicles. While it’s a much less glamorous operation than what GM has in store for Detroit-Hamtramck, it’s still a significant part of the General’s EV and AV offensive, with growth on the horizon.
General Motors has already announced it will build a new electric Chevrolet to serve as a sibling to the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt. This makes sense, as the technology and underpinnings of that car – not to mention all the R&D investment – should be shared with other GM machines. In today’s market, that likely means some sort of electric crossover or SUV.
All signs definitely point in that direction now, with the discovery of a new patent filing. Earlier this month, GM sought to trademark the term “Bolt EUV” — our best hint yet that the next electron-powered Chevy will be a market-pleasing crossover.
That didn’t take long, did it? In a Friday morning announcement, General Motors said it plans to bring a second electric product to the Orion Assembly plant in suburban Detroit, home to the Chevrolet Bolt.
Forget Buick and Cadillac, too. This Bolt-based product is destined to carry the bowtie badge.
In the same week Ford Motor Company announced a battery-electric product surge bound for a Michigan assembly plant, General Motors looks ready to announce the same. Coincidence?
Media reports suggest we’ll have an announcement from GM on its Orion Assembly facility by the end of the day.
As promised by General Motors CEO Mary Barra in March, GM plans to crank out additional Chevrolet Bolts at its Orion Assembly Plant in Michigan later this year. The need for extra output isn’t because of rising sales in the United States, however.
In GM’s second-quarter 2018 sales report, the Bolt’s U.S. tally fell to 3,483 vehicles, down from Q1’s 4,375 deliveries, as well as Q2 2017’s 4,500 units. Last year’s Q2 sales came when the Bolt hadn’t even reached all U.S. markets. No, GM needs more Bolts because other countries want them.
Here today, gone tomorrow, back the next day. That’s basically the recent history of the Chevrolet Sonic, which formed the basis of a Wall Street Journal report earlier this spring. Chevrolet’s subcompact hatch and sedan could end production by the end of the year, the report stated, and the model’s subsequent disappearance from a 2019 model year California Air Resources Board certification document only added fuel to the rumor fire.
We reached out to GM about the Sonic’s CARB vanishing act, but never heard back. Now, the Michigan-built model has reappeared, promising a 2019 model year model for subcompact buyers.
If a report by the Wall Street Journal ends up being true, General Motors will soon have an awfully lonely assembly plant on the edge of the Detroit suburbs. Sources familiar with GM’s product plans tell the publication the subcompact Chevrolet Sonic hatchback and sedan might be killed off as early as this year.
Small in size and powered by a brace of gas-sipping four-cylinders, the Sonic hit the market in late 2011. The model, produced at Orion Assembly in Michigan, came to be in the wake of the recession, offering buyers affordability and frugality with a “Made in America” stamp. In the ensuing years, however, buyers began moving on — and up — from small economy cars.
General Motors has announced it will begin manufacturing autonomous vehicles by 2019. Since purchasing Cruise Automation in 2016, GM has invested heavily into self-driving cars. However, its Chevrolet Bolt-based Cruise AV has only served as a testbed for the technology. That will change next year when the Orion Township assembly plant in Michigan starts building examples for commercial use.
If so, that would make General Motors the first company to sell an autonomous vehicle. However, it’s not entirely clear if that’s the ultimate goal. Thus far, GM has only said the autos will enter into a “ride-sharing environment” where the vehicles can be managed in a fleet — perhaps something akin to Uber.
Obviously, the analogy is as accurate as it is unfortunate. Uber recently suspended autonomous testing after one of its vehicles fatally struck a pedestrian earlier this week. While GM’s product planning can hardly be faulted for the goings-on at another company, the collision could see the general public wonder if production Cruise AVs are ready to take over the road.
American car buyers are increasingly turning their backs on subcompact cars.
During the first six months of 2017, the subcompact car losing the greatest number of sales is the Nissan Versa, which is suffering as Nissan realigns its dealer strategy to emphasize certified pre-owned cars.
But the subcompact car losing the second-highest number of sales is the Chevrolet Sonic, which has declined 37 percent this year (for a 10,334-unit decrease). In a continued attempt to dramatically reduce Sonic inventory — GM had a 159-day supply at the beginning of June; a 43-day supply at the beginning of July — GM is extending the scheduled plant shutdown at the Chevrolet Sonic’s Orion Township assembly plant north of Detroit, Michigan.
There are side effects from such a shutdown, an aftertaste following the swallowing of a bitter pill, spin-offs from a show nobody was watching to begin with.
Something electric could be brewing at General Motors, and we’re not talking about just the Chevrolet Bolt.
John Rosevear at the Motley Fool has an interesting take on what the future holds for Orion Assembly (the Michigan facility tapped to produce the Bolt this fall), and why GM seems to be keeping other models away from the plant.
A small Cadillac is coming in about three years, but it won’t be built in Michigan.
General Motors is scrapping a $245 million investment in its Detroit-area Orion Assembly plant in favor of moving a future Cadillac’s production to its Fairfax plant in Kansas City, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Orion’s plant communications manager Chris Bonelli, confirmed the move, but stated, “We’re not confirming the brand or type of product yet.”
General Motors will lay off around 500 workers and eliminate one shift at its Orion Assembly due to sagging demand for small cars, the automaker announced Friday. Those workers may be sent to a nearby plant.
According to a statement from a GM spokesman, the automaker will “adjust plant production capacity to align with market demand” and eliminate one shift that builds the Sonic. Demand for the Sonic has largely remained flat since the subcompact’s introduction in 2011.
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