GM Mulls Production Site for Chevy Spark

General Motors says it will make a decision by the end of the month on the production site for a forthcoming small car expected to hit the US market by early 2012. Idled GM plants in Michigan, Wisconsin and Tennessee are competing for chance to produce the Chevy Spark, with a planned production capacity of as many as 160,000 vehicles per year. GM had planned to build the cars overseas, but pressure from the United Auto Workers—and reportedly from Washington—seems to have led to a change of heart.

The Spark, which GM has marketed under the same name in several international markets since 2007, is based on a design by Italdesign Giugiaro that was originally released in South Korea in the late-1990s as the Daewoo Matiz. A more powerful, two-door version of the Matiz premiered at the 2007 New York International Auto Show as a concept vehicle called the Chevy Beat—one of a trio of small cars.

Detroit automakers are moving in unison toward smaller cars. In May, Ford announced that it would retool its Wayne, Mich. assembly plant to produce fuel-efficient compact cars and electric-drive vehicles. The plant formerly made Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigators SUVs. Chrysler’s turnaround plans are pinned on hopes that its new relationship with FIAT will allow the company to more easily introduce smaller vehicles like the FIAT 500 to the United States. FIAT said it plans to introduce the 500, only slightly larger than a Smart ForTwo, in the US by 2011.

Last fall, Fritz Henderson—then chief operating officer and now chief executive officer at GM—said that marketing the Spark/Beat in the US wouldsm be unsuccessful. But that position apparently has been reconsidered. The American incarnation of the Spark, due in 2011, would be a five-door, four-seater, coming in 1.0 liter and 1.2 liter varieties, with 66 and 78 horsepower respectively. Both models are said to have fuel economy exceeding 47 mpg, with emissions of less than 120 g/km. Prices have not been announced.

“This vehicle segment, while important today and expected to be more so in the future, is extremely challenging,” said General Motors CEO Fritz Henderson last month. “It takes a special effort by everyone to bring a domestically produced small car to market in a cost-competitive and profitable way.” But Chevy expects that special effort to pay dividends over the long run, with the United States becoming increasingly urban and fuel costs expected to rise significantly once the global economic downturn subsides. It remains to be seen if US consumers are ready to make the transition from supersized vehicles to minicars.

The Spark will be marketed particularly towards trendy, younger, urbanites—putting it in direct competition diminutive yet hip offerings such as Smart ForTwo, Kia Soul and Scion, which may release a small car based on the Toyota iQ in the US.

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  • ace

    Who cares? Fake bankruptcy, fake car company, fake bank gmac. We gonna lose billions and then the REAL bankruptcies start.

  • 9691

    Giugiaro? That’s why it looks so good.

  • Samie

    I have to check out how this lines up with a Toyota Yaris. The Spark needs to be engineered to compete in that market not the urban Scion market. I wonder if specs right now will hold up, if so I’m skeptical that this will not have enough power for some Americans. Also is this car going to be thrown out there to try to meet CAFE regulations? I always say that GM needs to have a complete line-up but this may get into too narrow of a niche market in the short-term. Maybe I’m wrong and again need to look up the Scion types market share. I love that it gets 47mpgs but doubt without added room or a more powerful engine that this will be a big seller, depends on gas prices and full details b/t now/ production. Price is also key in selling this type of car. I would love to see it built more like a Yaris with a standard turbo engine @ 13k-15 but what do I know.

    I’m a bit alarmed at how the company is deciding to produce this car. Made in America is great but why in the world would you have shutdown plants competing to produce this vehicle? GM and the UAW need to get their heads straight. You restart your most productive plants and the ones that allow you to quickly adjust to consumer demands. You don’t build a car at a factory that is ill-equipped to meet your production needs. I don’t think GM has the luxury of wasting money if they want to stay alive. Also politicians need to stay out of it and let GM decide where best to make their vehicles. The Union got a large share of the New GM and a seat on the board, will that lead to bad production practices???? Lets hope not…

  • Austintatious

    Just drove the Toyota Yaris. Should be able to purchase, well equipped, for under $15,000. Gets 29 city and 35 hwy (auto) /36(stand). A surprisingly satisfactory auto for the price, with a descent ride. The hatchback is too cramped but the 4/5 place sedan is good, for size and money. Ample leg room in back although short on back seat head room for a 6 footer. In my opinion, lots better looking than the Spark or, perhaps more accurately said, not nearly as ugly as the Spark. Would be a good starter car for young business type just starting career, or anyone interested in basic, fuel friendly transportation.

    Re the GM thing, it appears that they still do not “get it”.

  • Max Reid

    Good decision.

    As gas prices increase, more people will start buying these vehicles.
    Now a days, I see a lot of Prius, Scion-xb, in Chicago Taxi fleet.

    Hope these vehicles also join in.

    For a family with 1 or 2 kids, this can be a ideal 2nd vehicle.

  • Need2Change

    The Spark looks good to me. MPG similar to a Prius at a much lower MSRP.

    I’m still waiting for a premium small car from Detroit. Something about the size of a Ford Focus or 3-series BMW, that has a quality interior, exterior, and performance with a price slightly under $30K.

    Unfortunately, us Americans think small is cheap, and Detroit meets that expectation.

  • Anonymous

    I’m surprised that this article did not mention the Nissan Cube as direct competition. It’s a kinda a mini version of the of the Scion xB except the styling and oddness are straight out of Japan with few alterations. Many of the old school car people would call it ugly, but the design is brutally practical, plenty of room and cargo capacity. One option even includes electric motor 4WD on the back wheels for snowy days. Way more hip in than any of the competition listed here. They are marketing it as a “mobile device” with all the gadgets and personalization you could expect from a mobile electronic device like the iphone. You will call it ugly, but the hipsters won’t care, and they will buy it anyway.

  • Anonymous

    “It remains to be seen if US consumers are ready to make the transition from supersized vehicles to minicars.”

    The Change has begun already. I just got rid of my suv and picked up a civic 36 mpg couldn’t pass up – lol. Everyone on my block who once had SUV’s or pick-ups now has fuel efficient cars – lol. Gas is out rageous.

  • Logan5

    This ‘spark’ is a beautiful car. The toyota iQ is stunning and innovative (not to mention SAFE).

  • Святослав Соколов

    Интересно, хотя не мешало бы чуть подетальней написать, а то есть несколько непонятных моментов 🙂

  • raybesto

    Really…GM doesn’t get it?? How is producing a car that competes with the Toyota Gayis “not getting it”? With almost a third better fuel economy, that is what these little shitboxes are for.