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Recall: The 2012 Chevy Sonic Was Produced Without Brake Pads

Chevrolet is one of the largest and most iconic automakers in the world. Its lineup is full of vehicles from every end of the spectrum, from extra-large pickups to super-small compacts. One of its smallest vehicles, the Chevy Sonic, met the world with a warm reception but also proved how one of the biggest companies in the world can make one of the biggest mistakes.

Why the 2012 Chevy Sonic should have been a success

When Chevy took its small compact Aveo out of its lineup, it needed a replacement. With people focused on efficiency and fuel economy in the 2000s, the subcompact vehicle market had a strong following. The Chevy Sonic debuted in 2011 for the 2012 model year, with an astonishingly low starting price of around $12,000, according to Car and Driver.

Buyers could choose between a 1.8-liter four-cylinder or a 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder engine in sedan or hatchback body styles. That low price tag landed buyers a variety of available options and packages.

With its super-low price, things looked promising for the 2012 Chevy Sonic when it hit dealerships in late 2011. According to GoodCarBadCar, nearly 16,000 Chevy Sonics were sold in just the last few months it was available in 2011 and more than 89,000 in its first full year, 2012. But Chevy was about to prove not all 2012 models were created equally.

How a production oversight became a huge problem for the 2012 Chevy Sonic

Auto giant Chevy was attempting to bring an affordable option to subcompact car buyers, but quickly after it started selling, the company realized a costly error had been made. According to Auto Trader, only months after people starting buying the 2012 Sonic, Chevy announced that some models made at its Orion Township, Michigan assembly plant may have left the plant without “inner or outer front brake pads.” 

Although no crashes or injuries were reported as a result of Chevy’s error, the company admitted that it “may have inadvertently shipped as many as 4,296 Sonics” to dealerships. Without the brake pads, affected models would be at an increased likelihood of an accident.

The defect was initially discovered through a warranty service of a 2012 Chevy Sonic and officially announced to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on December 28th, 2011. According to the NHTSA’s recall, the defect applied to 2012 Chevy Sonics produced at the Michigan plant between June 2nd and November 21st of 2011.

Unlike other issued recalls, Chevy immediately began sending out notifications to owners that may have been affected. If owners’ models were among those missing brake pads, dealers would fix the problem for free. But it made many loyal Chevy fans wonder how the company could miss such a large and dangerous oversight. 

The 2020 Sonic: will it restore buyers’ confidence?

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Sales have been dwindling dramatically for the Chevy Sonic in recent years, but it has more to do with a shift in market interest than the almost-fatal oversight in 2011. According to CarSalesBase, Chevy reached its peak in Sonic sales in 2014, selling nearly 94,000 units for the year. But staggering decreases occurred every year following, selling an unimpressive 20,613 units in 2018 and 13,971 in 2019.

But Chevy isn’t ready to give up yet, updating the 2020 Chevy Sonic – but only slightly. Trying to conserve its finances for better-selling vehicles in the lineup, it still serves as an affordable compact. The newest Sonic’s biggest draw to buyers is its price, which starts impressively at around $16,000. And not much else has changed.

The 2020 Sonic shares the same fun, exterior design, with updated color choices, as well as the same overall interior design. Chevy did away with the optional manual transmission for the 2020 model year, and all trim levels use the same 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes just under 140 hp. But rest assured, the 2020 Chevy Sonic is sure to come with brake pads.