Chevy Sees Different Buyers for Spark, Sonic

The bowtie brand's new minicar has a younger, more urban slant than the year-old, slightly bigger and more-expensive Sonic.

August 3, 2012

2 Min Read
Chevy Spark minicar on sale in 18 US metro markets
Chevy Spark minicar on sale in 18 U.S. metro markets.

DETROIT – The Chevrolet Spark and Sonic should not cannibalize one another’s sale because the two cars, while similar, are targeting two different demographics, General Motors officials say.

The A-segment Spark, designed to easily maneuver in congested cities, is oriented toward a younger, more-urban buyer than the larger B-segment Sonic, says Chris Perry, vice president-Chevrolet marketing.

"(The) Sonic has an older buyer," Perry says at a Spark media backgrounder here. Spark sales initially are relegated to 18 metropolitan markets, including Detroit, while the Sonic is sold nationwide.

GM began retailing the Sonic subcompact last September in the U.S. and last month quietly debuted the Spark, which will go head-to-head with the Scion iQ, Smart Fortwo and Fiat 500.

While GM isn’t divulging a sales goal for the Spark, it is confident it has a winner in the segment largely due to the price advantage the Chevy model enjoys over its competitors.

The Spark starts at $12,245, while the Scion and Fiat have base prices above $15,000. The Spark also has more passenger and cargo volume than those models, due to its 5-door configuration and longer wheelbase.

“Our (minicar) is much more-roomy, accessible with four doors, and lower priced,” notes Perry of what he and GM see as the car's competitive advantages.

The Spark sold 1,460 units in its U.S. July debut, WardsAuto data shows. However, in the three years since its original launch overseas, the car has delivered a combined 600,000 units in Korea, Australia, Columbia, Vietnam and South Africa, among other regions.

The Scion iQ racked up 557 sales in the U.S. last month and 5,641 year-to-date, while the Fiat 500 delivered 3,710 units in July and 24,416 in the year’s first seven months.

The Spark's marketing plan does not call for TV commercials, but digital and event advertising is on tap, Perry says, with an emphasis on the car’s global presence. Online videos, including commercials from other countries, are a part of the ad blitz.

Perry reiterates Chevy's goal to achieve 5 million sales worldwide in 2012, up from last year's record 4.76 million.

And despite Cruze sales tumbling 39.3% in the U.S. last month, compared with year-ago, the C-segment compact sedan continues to be Chevy's best-selling nameplate globally, with 350,000 units delivered year-to-date, he says.

Perry touts the Cruze's better demographic profile compared with the Cobalt model it replaces, noting U.S. Cruze owners are younger and more affluent.

The Sonic also is drawing a better demographic than the Aveo it replaces, he says. Some 50% of Sonic buyers are turning in a non-GM vehicle, and 30% of buyers are under 35 years of age.

The Sonic sold 6,278 units in July, pushing ahead of the Ford Fiesta and most other subcompacts except the segment-leading Nissan Versa, which delivered 7,451.

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