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GM discontinues Chevrolet Sonic amid dismal sales and push toward EVs

2017 Chevrolet Sonic

Source: General Motors

General Motors confirmed plans Tuesday to discontinue the Chevrolet Sonic, a subcompact car once synonymous with a new era of U.S. small car production for the post-bankrupt automaker.

Production of the Sonic at GM’s Orion Assembly plant in suburban Detroit will end in October to make way for a new all-electric vehicle called the Bolt EUV in 2021, according to company spokeswoman Megan Soule. The new car is a larger version of the Chevrolet Bolt EV, which the plant currently produces alongside the Sonic.

GM decided to axe the Sonic “due to declining demand,” according to Soule. Since selling nearly 100,000 Sonics in 2014, sales have declined every year by between 15% to more than %. GM sold less than 14,000 of the cars last year.

Production of the Sonic lasted longer than many expected amid low gas prices, consumer preference moving to crossovers and GM’s plans to pivot to all-electric vehicles.

General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra announces a $300 million investment in the GM Orion Assembly Plant plant for electric and self-driving vehicles at the Orion Assembly Plant on March 22, 2019 in Lake Orion, Michigan.

Bill Pugliano | Getty Images

As the automaker emerged from its government-backed bankruptcy in 2009, the Sonic was a symbol of a new era of U.S. small car production for the automaker as the Obama administration pushed for more fuel-efficient vehicles.  

In 2011, then-U.S. President Barack Obama toured the facility with South Korea President Lee Myung-bak to promote the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. Auto parts for the Sonic were being imported from South Korea. A previous version of the car had been exported from the Asian country to the U.S.

The plant’s roughly 1,125 employees will not be impacted by the production change,  Soule said.

The discontinuation of the Sonic will leave Chevrolet with the Spark and Malibu as its only remaining passenger sedans.

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