News Column

Chevy's Spark Minicar to Reach Showrooms During August

June 28, 2012

Nathan Bomey

General Motors plans to start selling its Chevrolet Spark minicar this summer even as gasoline prices start to slide.

Chevrolet Vice President of Global Marketing Chris Perry said in an interview that the vehicle would reach showrooms in August.

GM is targeting the four-seat Spark, which is also offered as a hatchback, at major urban markets. With a four-cylinder, 1.2-liter Ecotec engine and five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission, the Spark will enter the market as analysts expect gasoline prices to continue to fall -- possibly below $3 per gallon this fall.

The Spark, revealed at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November, is made in South Korea and is already sold in Europe, Asia, Australia, Mexico and South America. GM hasn't released details on fuel economy for the Spark, which has 83 horsepower.

"It's been very successful for us around the globe, so the decision was can we get some incremental sales out of this, can we bring some people into the franchise that we haven't seen in the past? Let's see how it goes," Perry said.

The Spark marks GM's first entry into the minicar segment, which includes vehicles such as the Mini Cooper and Fiat 500. Perry said the Spark would appeal to young, entry-level buyers. Production has already started.

"That's going to be a fun product," he said. "The mini segment has never been really strong here in the U.S. What has been playing in the market is the premium mini."

In the interview from his office at GM's Renaissance Center headquarters, Perry also said:

-- GM is striking a balance between profitability and the pursuit of market share, which has slipped in the first five months of the year.

"We're looking at each model individually. Each model's at a different stage in their life cycle," he said. "We're kind of constrained in terms of the capacity we can bring to the marketplace. We're not going to go in and incentivize a product that has a low day's supply just to chase something we can't fulfill."

-- He's encouraged by progress in the U.S. economy, but trouble in Europe and questions about U.S. consumer confidence are concerning. "We feel we're in a good place from a product standpoint and an inventory standpoint, but I couldn't say we're on stable ground yet," he said.

-- The Chevrolet Cruze recall, which affected all vehicles made through May, was "unfortunate," but "I don't think it's going to have that big of an impact" on sales.

Source: (c)2012 the Detroit Free Press

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