The Chevy Sonic Was Once the Only Subcompact Car Both Built and Sold in North America
The Chevy Sonic was an underrated vehicle during its run as the company’s signature affordable compact car. The story of the Chevy Sonic begins in the 1970s. In 1973, America had its first fuel crisis. Before 1973, fuel in America was exceedingly affordable, with many vehicle manufacturers hardly spending time or money on fuel efficiency when designing vehicles. However, by 1974, the price of oil quadrupled from the beginning of 1973, and Americans were unable to afford the fuel needed for their massive V8 cruisers.
With no relief in sight from American manufacturers, consumers turned to imports like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla to satisfy their fuel-efficient needs. American companies didn’t have time to design a new car, so they borrowed vehicles from overseas to brand them as their own. Initially, GM partnered with Isuzu to build the Chevette, but then came the Suzuki Swift, rebranded as a Chevy Sprint, Geo Metro, and Chevy Metro. After the Metro, Chevrolet needed a new small affordable car to act as the entry-level vehicle in their lineup.
Daewoo and GM strike a deal
In the early 2000s, Daewoo was a struggling automotive company looking to break its way into the US market with flashy advertising and cheap prices. By 2002, Daewoo was finished, as they were bought out by GM for $1.2 billion.
Around this time, GM needed a replacement for their aging Metro sedan, which had run its course and was now more of a punchline than anything else. GM decided to take the 2002 Daewoo Kalos compact car and bring it to America as the Chevy Aveo.
Aveo is an old Latin word that roughly translates to “desire.” Unfortunately, this small compact was hardly desired by anyone. The 2004 Aveo was the first model year for the US market, but it was quickly written off as a cheap, poorly-built vehicle. Initially, the Aveo was the cheapest vehicle you could buy in the US, with an MSRP of $11,245.
Fuel economy was a highlight for the Aveo, rated at 27 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. Sadly, Americans were too accustomed to the wild fuel economy of the Geo Metro, which could achieve 37 mpg in the city and 45 mpg on the highway. The Aveo was a slow vehicle with worse fuel economy and shoddier build quality when compared to its predecessor. Luckily, Aveo’s legacy turned around during its second generation.
The Chevy Sonic is born
For the second-generation Chevy Aveo, GM knew they had to revitalize the Aveo, and they did so by completely breaking ties with the Aveo name. The Chevy Sonic started production in 2011, according to The News Wheel, and immediately tried to get the attention of young drivers. In advertising, Sonic was skydiving out of airplanes and competing in barrel roll competitions. By 2015, the Sonic came standard with OnStar compatibility and wifi along with Apple CarPlay and Andriod Auto.
During this time, the Chevy Sonic was built at the Orion Assembly plant in Orion Township Michigan, making it one of the only American compact cars built in the US at the time. With a rise in imported compact vehicles, GM might have had better luck selling the Sonic with an advertising campaign surrounding its American-built roots as Saturn did in the 1990s. But sadly, the Chevy Sonic was discontinued in 2020 to make way for the production of the Chevy Bolt and Bolt EUV, which are still being produced at the Orion Assembly to this day.
Is the Chevy Sonic still being produced today?
The Chevy Sonic was discontinued after the 2020 model year, but its legacy lives on today in its old Aveo name. CarScoops reports a brand-new Chevy Aveo in production for the Mexican market. This 2024 Chevy Aveo is being produced in China at a SAIC-GM-Wuling plant, where it will be sold in China, South America, Mexico, and Africa.
This subcompact Aveo will come standard with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 98 horsepower and will be sold with automatic and manual transmission options. While this Aveo isn’t sold in the US, it will be held to somewhat-American safety standards with a slew of airbags in the interior and disc brakes as standard equipment. While the Aveo was not successful in the US, it is living elsewhere in the world with a brand new 2024 model.