GM product chief explains Chevy’s lack of powerful small cars

Article by Christian Andrei, on May 19, 2015

Affordable small performance entry cars are glaringly absent in Chevrolet showrooms. Meanwhile, the U.S. market has been getting plenty of this sort of cars, which include the Ford Fiesta ST, Hyundai Veloster, Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ. While potential Chevrolet customers get to choose from an array of highly luxurious, incredibly expensive models like the Corvette Stingray, the SS large sedan, and the upcoming redesigned Camaro muscle car, more pocket cars are coming to the market.

Soon, the Volkswagen Golf R, Ford Focus RS and Honda Civic Type R will be making their arrival. General Motors product chief Mark Reuss was asked about this seeming oversight last month in an interview and he replied, "I love those things. We know how to do them really well." At the 2012 Detroit auto show, it was rumoured that Chevrolet is working on one such small car when it unveiled the Code 130R concept coupe. People were quick to name this rear-wheel-drive car as a possible baby Camaro.

However, it never entered production. Currently, the Sonic RS is the sportiest small car in Chevy's lineup. It has an output of 138hp and is basically just a cosmetic package with a more finely tuned suspension – very similar to a base Sonic.

In the meantime, rivals have been churning out models with more power. For example, a 2.0-liter turbo capable of producing 292 hp is what powers the Golf R. Reuss said that presently, Chevrolet doesn’t see a business case for a go-fast small car.

He said that the sales volumes of these cars typically fall off after they’re launched. He explained that there’s a limit to capitalization. He also said that since the price point of these cars start to encroach on the next car’s segment, he doesn’t think it would be a wise use of money and resources.

One example is the 29% drop of the U.S. sales of the Scion FR-S coupe, which arrived in 2012. This year through April, only 3,471 units were sold. According to AutoPacific Inc. analyst Dave Sullivan, it is quite daunting to build a high-performance version of the Sonic subcompact or Cruze compact with a bigger engine and a manual transmission.

However, he believes that Chevy is in a better position now to build a pocket rocket than it was five years ago because it is now building reliable small cars. Sullivan said that if GM wanted to, it has the access to the resources to build it. He mentioned that GM's Opel division has the Astra OPC, a compact with a 2.0-liter engine with a rating of 276 hp.

Reuss has said that for now, Chevy is content to give fans more accessories to enhance their small car’s performance without it costing thousands.\ Recently, Chevy presented a $995 performance stage kit and exhaust package for the Sonic that allows for a significant improvement in its horsepower and torque. Reuss isn’t saying though that Chevy will never have a production pocket rocket; only that it isn’t a priority right now.

Topics: gm, chevrlet, small car

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